Apple Ditches Intel, New Silicon Macs & ARM Tech Explained

Apple Computer Standing on an Office Desk

Staying tuned to the latest news from the tech world is not always easy. Many Apple fans still have trouble wrapping their head around Apple’s idea to ditch Intel and depend solely on Apple Silicon. The future Macs are going to use ARM-based processors.

The new silicon Macs and ARM tech raised a lot of questions in the community. Is the transition going to result in improved performance or not? That’s just one of many questions people who’ve been using Intel-based Macs for years have on their minds right now.

We decided to take a deep dive into the recent developments to help you understand what’s going on here.

apple silicon
Source MaxTech

Current Intel-Based Apple Mac Setup

Intel-based Mac setup is not that much different than a standard PC setup people are running in terms of the architecture. Why? Because it is based on x86 processor technology. 

Aside from a T2 chip which acts as a coprocessor and storage controller modern Macs feature:

  • CPU
  • GPU
  • Memory
  • Motherboard

At first glance, there are no problems with this setup whatsoever, but experts have been pointing out for quite some time now that the current setup results in high latency. For the GPU to communicate with the CPU, it has to use the PCI express bus. 

That adds latency resulting in poor performance. In fact, the CPU spends a lot of the uptime idle waiting for the PCI express to bring in the data for processing. Apple started thinking: “How can we reduce this latency and improve system performance?”

System On Chip: ARM Tech Makes it Possible

Apple Silicon enables Apple to build one unified system on a chip. The ultimate goal is to create a system that can use the raw power of all its components with minimal idle times and great efficiency. It’s a tech solution that enables the iPhone to be the fastest smartphone in the world. We can also see the improvements on the 2020 iPad Pro, which runs approximately 20% faster on iPadOS 14 beta.

Apple’s plan is to use ARM chips made by TSMC in their new silicon Macs. TSMC is a leader in ARM chip manufacturing, and their A12Z chip based on 7nm tech is currently powering the 2020 iPad Pro.

The ARM chip in silicone Macs is going to be based on 5nm tech, and it should deliver performance improvements by a whooping 15% per watt. TSMS has plans on delivering 3nm chips in 2022, which will further boost performance by an additional 10% per watt. 

macs with silicon
Source MaxTech

The Size Doesn’t Matter

One of the most important things to consider here is the size of the chips. Apple can ditch Intel because it doesn’t need the super small chips for new Macs. We are not talking about super-thin devices such as the iPhone 11 Pro and even thinner iPad Pro here. 

Apple Silicon chips are going to be considerably larger. Apple has no restrictions here. The brand new family of Apple Silicone chips are for Macs, and Mac design allows the company to use bigger chips.

We also have to address the power issue. In thin devices, passive cooling was a must because there was no room nor power to fit in active cooling. Macs are considerably larger, and they can accommodate larger and better batteries and an active cooling system. 

Improved Battery Life

While there is plenty of room in Macs to use more optimized batteries, we should also consider the architecture of Apple Silicone chips. These chips feature asymmetric cores. Some of their cores are in charge of efficiency while others are in charge of performance. 

Thanks to these hardware improvements, new silicone Macs will have improved battery life. Add to this memory speed optimization and additional software improvements, and you’ll have a perfectly optimized device in terms of performance and battery usage. 

Apple Silicone Macs and GPU

It might hit you as a surprise, but Apple decided to stop using dedicated graphics chips. Consumer Apple Macs had these in the past, but new Silicone Macs will come with a brand new solution.

Don’t worry; the graphics chip is still going to be there. However, it will now be built into the main chip, so the communication between GPU and CPU will not go over the PCI express bus. 

New Macs will deliver outstanding performance while the new solution takes the raw GPU power out of the equation. The idea behind the “Computer on Chip” is to enable the CPU to efficiently communicate with other components. 

apple silicon
Source MaxTech

What About the System Memory Bandwidth

System memory is also an important resource we should tackle because ARM tech certainly does. New dedicated graphics chips feature ultra-fast GDDR6 memory. The question is, how will the new silicone Macs perform without a dedicated GPU. 

Apple tackled this problem with the new chips. In fact, Silicon Macs will have a dedicated on-chip tile memory. We will have to wait to see which memory this will be. In any case, having cheap graphic memory will enable developers to optimize the graphics to use the on-chip tile memory instead of using the system RAM.

As a result, we will have significantly reduced DRAM bandwidth, more system RAM available for relevant processes, fewer bottlenecks, and minimal latency. 

Compared to a system based on an x86 Intel processor, the new silicone Macs will be significantly better in terms of resource utilization, latency, and, ultimately, performance.

Other Security and Performance Issues 

Intel chips come with certain vulnerabilities such as Zombieload, Spectre, and Meltdown. With new chips in Macs, Apple’s devices will be more secure. There is also a problem with AMD graphics drivers. For instance, users have reported 16” MacBook Pro overheating when connected to a second display. With no dedicated GPU, the issues related to drivers will become a thing of the past. 

There are several reasons Apple decided to part ways with Intel. ARM-based tech will enable Apple to deliver new silicone Macs, which are better in all aspects ranging from resource utilization to performance. 

MaxTech Informative Video

MaxTech have created an incredible video walk-through with many great details. Please watch if you want to learn more.

About Author

The co-founder and CEO of Podroom Creative Writing, a content creation and digital marketing company, and this is where his main professional interests lie. Managing a team of outside-the-box thinkers, family life, and playing the piano keeps him busy, but he is always ready for new challenges.

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