Ok, I’ll admit my previous post about the release of Apple Silicon powered Macs gave the impression that there wasn’t much exciting about the CPU switch, but boy, was I wrong.
I’ve had my hands on the M1 powered MacBook Air (with 16GB RAM/512GB SSD) for just a few hours now, and after putting it thru it’s paces, I’m floored.
I’ve run two benchmarks – XcodeBenchmark and Bruce X. These are more akin to real world benchmarks. I’m not knocking Geekbench of Cinebench, but these benchmarks involve actual applications that people will use, and actual projects that simulate what real world performance will look like. And after running each of these, and comparing it against my $4400 MacBook Pro 16″ i9/64GB RAM/4TB SSD machine, I’m floored.
Bruce X Benchmark
- MacBook Pro i9 2.4ghz/64GB/4TB SSD: 16.03 seconds
- MacBook Air (M1) – 16GB/512GB SSD: 11.69 seconds
- MacBook Pro i9 2.4ghz/64GB/4TB SSD: 223.016 seconds
- MacBook Air (M1) – 16GB/512GB SSD: 127.713 seconds
Again, these are real world benchmarks using real projects for Xcode and Final Cut Pro. And the MacBook Air doesn’t even have a fan. During the Xcode benchmark, the MacBook Pro’s fans spun up and were quite loud. The MacBook Air was dead silent. Of course, during sustained CPU usage the fan will be a benefit, as it will keep the CPU cooler, whereas with the MacBook Air M1, the CPU will throttle down to prevent the computer from overheating.
Here’s another comparison: I have a Logic Pro X project I’m working on that contains about a twenty tracks – 16 of which are audio tracks, the other 4 are software instruments, and of course, there are various effects applied to all the tracks. This project couldn’t play smoothly without stuttering on my MacBook Air 2020 i5 16/512GB machine. On the M1 MacBook Air, it plays as smooth as butter.
App performance isn’t the whole story though. The entire OS feels much faster. Apps (those that are Apple Silicon enabled) open incredibly fast. I’ve only tried a few apps that weren’t optimized for Apple Silicon, and the results have been great. For example, the original Pixelmator, which I still use for day to day graphics tasks, isn’t optimized for Apple Silicon. It opens quickly, and using it feels just as fast and performant as it does on my i9 MacBook Pro. Every app is different, of course, but Rosetta 2 looks like another incredible feat of engineering from Apple.
On the software development front outside of Xcode, things are a different story. There isn’t much of my everyday work toolchain that is ready for Apple Silicon yet. Stuff like HomeBrew, NodeJS, Docker and other web technologies are not quite ready for Apple’s new chip, and anyone who works with these technologies would be advised to wait before upgrading to the new machines.
But for everyone else – come on in, the water is fine.
The short of this is: If you are using your Mac for Xcode, Final Cut Pro or Logic Pro X, you are going to be blown away at what these Macs with the M1 chip are capable of.
Amazon is currently dropping $50 off the price of the M1 powered MacBook Air and Pro.