If you liked the M1 Macs, you'll love the M1X

Fresh speculation suggests Apple's next wave of M-powered Macs will deliver screaming+ performance.

Apple, Mac, macOS, Apple Silicon, M1, M1X, chips

If you were blown away by the performance of Apple’s first generation M1 Macs, get ready to be completely stunned by what’s coming next, as information about what's coming inside the next iteration begins to leak.

All praise the M1X

Now remember, it is early days; the M1X chip may still be in pre-production phase, and the computer(s) Apple plans to make that use it may or may not already be in production. Which means the early data needs to be (a) taken with a pinch of salt and (b) may not reflect the performance we actually see. But the data does suggest the next wave of Apple Silicon Macs will be something to brag about.

What to expect

We’ve been expecting Apple to ramp up the number of cores inside M1 chips and the latest data shows this is indeed the case.

What’s a little unexpected is that these chips also seem to possess more dedicated graphics cores. That means these Macs should be significantly faster than the first-generation M1 machines, and will deliver even more impressive graphics performance, thanks to that dedicated GPU and use of Metal.

So, about the source: processor benchmarking site CPU Monkey claims Apple’s next big chip will be called the M1X, and looks like this:

  • 12 CPU cores
  • Up to 16 GPU cores.

In comparison to the record-setting M1 chip everyone is talking, Intel is fighting back (using a selection of statistics I’d like to challenge) with a processor that has 8 CPU and 8 GPU cores.

There are some additional stats in the CPU Monkey report, which warns the results are based on a “pre-sample," whatever that means — and it could quite easily consist of educated guesses concerning the chips — but they fit current expectation.

Take power consumption. The report claims power maxes out at 45 watts on these processors. That matches up well to suggest a faster performing version of the same basic processor with more active cores.

For comparison, the M1 Mac mini hits 39 watts, while the 2018 Intel Mac mini maxed at 122 watts. To gain an extra four active CPU cores for just 6 watts of power sounds like a pretty good design choice to me.

The 5-nanometer chip is also predicted to run at 3.2GHz (CPU/GPU) with 16GB max memory — and to run up to three displays. The Mac mini can run an Apple XDR and a 4K display together.

Apple’s M-powered Mac generation

The promise here certainly seems to be that when Apple does M-power the 14- and 16-in. MacBook Pro range and the iMac, these Macs will in turn empower pro users with more of what they need. All of this bodes well for the eventual migration to 3nm Apple Mac processors.

We’ve not seen any performance data yet, so it makes sense to recap the kind of performance we know to expect from the entry-level M1 machines. Consider the M1 Mac mini, which offers almost equal computational performance to the current iMac Pro, even when running apps using Rosetta 2. Then consider some of the performance claims Apple made when launching the M1 Macs:

  • 3D titles render 6.6x faster in Final Cut Pro.
  • Project building is 3.6x faster in Xcode.
  • Machine learning is 15x faster.

The results on the entry-level Macs are already impressive.

When it comes to Apple silicon, better may be better than best

“We overshot. You have these projects where, sometimes you have a goal and you’re like, ‘Well, we got close, that was fine,” Craig Federighi, senior vice president for software engineering, told The Independent subsequent to the M1 Mac launch.

"We started getting back our battery life numbers, and we’re like, ‘You’re kidding. I thought we had people that knew how to estimate these things,’” he said.

Now, as Apple preps the ground for its chips inside its pro Macs, expectations should be high — and these will only grow, given that Apple is almost certainly working on multiple future iterations of these processors right now.

“When we design our chips, which are like three or four years ahead of time, Craig and I are sitting in the same room defining what we want to deliver, and then we work hand in hand,” Johny Srouji, Apple’s senior vice president for hardware technologies, told Om Malik.

What’s ahead? We already know Mac sales spiked as businesses equipped staff worldwide with Macs to support more work from home. Apple now holds 23% share in US enterprises. These forthcoming new M1X machines seem certain to consolidate that status.

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Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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