Near the end of the second quarter of 2020, Apple announced a special event for the Mac: within the next two years, Apple will abandon Intel chips and switch to using self-designed chips on ARM platforms. By November, the first Macs using the “Apple M1” chip officially launched. They come with prices that are not cheap and the claims can be “shocking” by Apple: MacBook Air using the new M1 chip 98% faster “PC laptop” sold on the market.
Not surprisingly, controversy in the technology world quickly broke out. ARM is primarily a design used for mobile devices that has a much lower (considered) computing power than traditional PCs. The price of each mobile chip sold to manufacturers will also be much lower than AMD or Intel chips. In the past and up to now, Apple computers have earned a reputation for being expensive compared to most Windows PCs with similar configurations, including self-built PCs or pre-assembled PCs.
The latest Macs use a chip architecture that is generally considered to be mobile-only.
So, does the Mac using the M1 chip demonstrate what the conventional antifan captures for Apple: selling badly at sky-high prices?
1. “Comparing Apples and Oranges”
Claiming faster “98% PC laptop” can be considered a sly marketing trick for the Apple family, but few people remember that, five years ago, someone had compared the benchmark score of the iPad Pro to the Mac Pro runs Intel chips. Consumers always like simple numbers, are always “afraid” to dig deep … Therefore, they do not realize that comparing the Mac ARM with a traditional PC is comparing Apples and oranges (compare Apples and oranges, English proverbs indicate absurd, unrealistic comparisons).
The simple reason is that the Apple M1 chip is not the same as the Intel Core chips found on regular MacBooks and PCs. Not simply a CPU with an integrated GPU, Apple M1 is a System-on-a-Chip that includes many components: the central processing core, the graphics processing core, machine learning engine, RAM, processor chip. video signal (ISP), storage controller (encrypted) and Thunderbolt connection controller. Intel and AMD chips usually consist only of the CPU and GPU, RAM as a separate component, the memory controller chip (SSD), Thunderbolt or USB usually on the motherboard, not on the central chip.
Using its own chip architecture, integrating many components is also key to helping PS5 and Xbox Series X achieve incredible performance. Photo: PS5 architecture with GPU, CPU and RAM = on-chip.
The integration of multiple components into the same chip is crucial to performance, especially the integration of the CPU, GPU and neural engine and RAM into a single chip circuit. Delays in data transmission between processing components. It should be noted that the way the CPU and GPU share RAM is not the same as the usage of RAM for integrated graphics on Intel / AMD chips: with iGPU, RAM is essentially SEPARED for CPU and iGPU, when integration is required. still need cross copy. On the M1 chip – as well as on the chip AMD “plots separately” for the PS5 and Xbox Series X, the CPU and GPU share the same memory area, there is no copy, thus optimizing the performance much better.
2. Compare iPhone with Android smartphone
By reading this, you will probably realize an important fact: The new Mac resembles the PS5 and Xbox Series X more than it resembles a traditional PC. These machines can produce better performance than PCs with the same specifications, because they are simply designed differently from the core, most important: the processor.
If this isn’t enough for you to stop comparing Apple M1 and Intel chips, remember that Mac and Windows PC use different operating systems too! You may have heard someone say that until you can not bring Android to iOS or bring iOS installed on Pixel, you cannot compare Apple A with Qualcomm Snapdragon. This is true, because the operating system (and drivers) is the only “software” that can directly control the hardware.
Comparing chip to different architectures is already ridiculous enough, comparing hardware for different operating systems is even more ridiculous.
Obviously, macOS and Windows won’t be the same. MacOS does not currently support AMD chips and will eventually abandon Intel as well. Windows 10 definitely won’t be able to run on the Apple M1. So, why compare Apples to Win?
3. Compare hardware, buy experience
The only thing that can compare between a Mac and a Windows PC will be the app experience. With the same application developed by a third party, will your Mac load faster and run more steadily than a Windows PC of the same price range? The answer will only be when the Mac ARM hits the shelves and is supported by many developers, but remember that the iPhone often wins “speed tests” (opening apps at the same time) when playing against Android and iPhone is also a smartphone game. Professional players choose. Apple’s absolute “closed” model has the potential to bring a lot of performance advantages.
Even in the case of a performance beat, the Mac ARM still has its own potential. Let’s look at the opposite side: last year, Microsoft also launched the Surface Pro X with a Snapdragon chip instead of an Intel chip. On paper, the Surface Pro X is truly a product for no one: it costs up to a thousand dollars and is more expensive than the Surface Pro 7, the Pro X has poor compatibility and much worse performance due to running. x86 emulator on ARM platform.
Users do not spend money to compare parameters but to buy the experience they need …
Yet this expensive Surface is still successful enough to be unveiled by Microsoft next generation with even more expensive prices, from 1500 USD! And this brings us back to the most important thing: what we’re arguing about, about architecture, about performance … can all be meaningless. For many people, performance and price are not the top concerns.
As wise as Tim Cook …
Probably, so are Mac users too. There are Mac users for web surfing and office work, Mac users for studio work (photo / video / music), and also software engineers who love the MacBook experience. The final team consists of engineers working at Google: try surfing the YouTube channel “Life at Google” and you will see the Apple laptop appear extremely dense.
In terms of price and performance, they probably didn’t choose Apple – Macs are almost always more expensive than Windows laptops in the same configuration. But these users don’t pay for hardware: they buy a separate experience that is only available on Apple-branded PCs. If that experience was maintained when Apple abandoned Intel and switched to ARM, today’s controversy would be meaningless. Microsoft, Adobe, and many other developers have all announced that they will support the new Mac experience. The new chip can make the Mac-based software experience slower or faster, no problem – as long as the final experience is quality enough to convince Mac users.
Any number would be meaningless …
… as long as the overall EXPERIENCE continues to be good enough to engage a competitor’s own employees.
Abandoning Intel chips and moving to self-designed chips will help the Mac business increase revenue, lower costs, and increase cohesion with the rest of the hardware. But if switching to ARM makes the Mac less attractive, Apple will manually ruin a business worth nearly $ 30 billion in the last fiscal year (ending September 2020).
Think about it carefully. Changing chip architecture is the most profound, riskiest, and most costly change of any kind of hardware. Will a smart guy like Tim Cook accept the risk of $ 30 billion in revenue without foreseeable potential benefits? If the Mac ARM fails, it will be Apple the biggest loser. And that is why we believe the future of chip-based Macs won’t be as short-lived as many people believe.