Friday, January 21

A year after Apple introduced its own M1 processor, the ARM revolution is consolidated, but the best is yet to come


In Spain we had just said goodbye to the state of alarm and the period of confinement due to COVID-19. On June 22, 2020, Apple offered the inaugural talk of its WWDC, and Tim Cook spoke of a “truly historic day”.

The “Apple Silicon” was presented in society, which was taking its first steps with the Apple M1 SoC that would finally arrive in November on the MacBook Air, the Mac mini and the 13-inch MacBook Pro. It was only the beginning, and as we have seen a year later, that particular revolution brought up by those chips has only just begun.

A lot of noise and a lot of nuts

During those first months there were huge expectations about chips that wanted to leave behind traditional Intel proposals. They succeeded in many quarters, and in fact the first Macs based on the Apple M1s proved – both in our analyzes like those of reputed media como AnandTech– that were superior to previous Mac based on theoretically more ambitious processors.

There was great news in many areas, but it highlighted the efficiency of these teams, which clearly demonstrated that the ARM architecture made sense not only on mobile phones, but also on desktop and laptop PCs.

Those early kits were just the beginning, and there weren’t even any exterior redesigns. These came with the new iMac, also based on the M1. The last to be renewed have been the new 14 and 16-inch MacBook Pro, but in these Apple has given an important twist not only to their design, but also to the chips that govern them.

It is in those laptops that the M1 Pro and M1 Max made their debut, and with them it was clear that Apple has a great advantage in the scalability of these chips: those SoCs They were supervitamin versions of the M1, and its power and performance have made it clear that what is impressive is precisely what is not seen, and not only we said: en AnandTech they talked about how these SoCs reached “new levels of efficiency and performance”, and although most of us complained about the high price of these machines, if someone needs power and efficiency, without a doubt these teams will respond to those needs.

These latest chips and those devices are a wise step for Apple on a path that finally leaves behind the serious mistakes of the past in design decisions – butterfly keyboards, no ports – but that above all it allows Apple to regain control of its machines– They no longer have to wait for Intel to deliver the right processors for their computers, and they can plan that roadmap without relying on virtually anyone.

That suggests that there are still great things to come: there is already talk of the future MacBook Air or Mac mini, but also of a Mac Pro that could integrate SoCs with two and even four times as many cores process and graphics than the ones this company offers with the M1 Max.

The ARM revolution in PCs and laptops is only believed by Apple (for now)

The funny thing, at least in my opinion, is that the rest of the manufacturers have not changed their roadmaps when seeing how Apple’s strategy has worked. It is true that Intel has raised a striking bet with its Alder Lake, but the background remains the same and neither she nor AMD seem willing to switch bet and they will continue to focus fully on the x86-64 architecture.

Macbook

It doesn’t seem likely that we’re going to see anything similar in the Windows world, in fact. It will not be because there is no one who tries: Qualcomm has just presented its Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 chips, but interest and expectations are in Nuvia —Which will be expected — and manufacturers like MediaTek or even Samsung, who seem to be clear that the ARM architecture can reach desktop PCs and laptops.

Everyone wants their own ARM chip: Google, Apple, Huawei and Samsung already make their SoCs, but there are many more in the game

There are also promising proposals such as those proposed by the Open Source RISC-V architectureBut the solutions that have appeared to date are far from what Apple has achieved and are only the beginning of a long journey. The ARM chips that we find in Windows computers for ARM are also far, really.

There are many major obstacles here: Microsoft does great with Windows for x86-64 systems and there seems to be no need to make any changes, and the same happens with Intel or AMD, which even having to consume more to achieve the same performance as Apple’s SoCs are proposals that are still remarkable for many users.

Moving the industry into a hypothetical future with Windows for ARM therefore seems difficult in the short term, but if Apple’s SoCs continue to demonstrate their power and manage to convince more and more users to make the switch, the picture may change. Until it does, if it does, what is clear is that the change in direction that Apple took with its M1 chips it has been a success one year later.



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