The new Apple M1 chip and my thoughts

Apple recently released their new Apple Silicon equipped devices, and I have a lot to say about them. For starters, the new chip, the Apple M1, has been blowing away reviewers left and right. I could get very VERY wordy here, but I’ll try and summarize how I think regarding the M1, and how I think it would fit into my digital toolkit.

I think a LOT about the “ultimate device combo”, which is my term for the perfect blend of devices to satisfy all of my digital needs. I need these devices to accomplish all the tasks I require a digital device to do, in the most optimal way possible. What is optimal will be directly related to what is required or “ideal” for each task. Gaming for example- high framerates, high graphical fidelity, and enough processing power to make it run. Of course, drive speeds make a difference also… There are lots of factors at play, but for Gaming, I have determined that a desktop PC is the ideal setup for my needs since you can get the beefiest parts to make gaming the best experience possible.

Other devices in my “ultimate device combo” include my phone (currently the Galaxy Z Fold 2) and a laptop (Macbook pro 16). These devices are fantastic at what they do, but they all have pros and cons.

If I’m at home, typically you will see me at my Gaming PC setup. It has the best parts, and is fully custom. I have a custom made Keyboard, excellent gaming mouse, and the best gaming display on the market. I have designed and built what I consider to be the “ultimate gaming setup” for PC gaming, and yet, sometimes it isn’t optimal. Specifically, anytime I don’t want to, or can’t be sitting at my computer desk.

For those times, other more portable devices come into play. Phones, Tablets, Laptops- those devices are needed. However, only one of those can offer feature parody to a PC, and that’s a laptop. If I’m on travel, a laptop allows me to get the full functionality of a desktop class PC, but have the portability to take it with me. This is where the M1 has a chance to enter my digital life.

The M1 equipped Macbook Air or Macbook Pro would be directly competing with the 16 inch Macbook Pro for my attention. Can it compete? Honestly, for most tasks, it completely beats the 16. The M1 equipped Macbooks have proven to be top tier performers in both power and battery life. Thermals? Yeah, they don’t get NEARLY as hot as the 16. I fired up World of Warcraft on my 16 inch Intel Macbook Pro, and while it runs extremely well with the dedicated graphics card, it also ramped up my fans. It was loud, and it was also HOT! Not only that, but anything using the dGPU on a Macbook drains battery much MUCH faster. It’s great the Macbook Pro 16 can game, but it does so at the expense of heat, noise, and battery life. Don’t bother firing up WoW in the bed. You’ll need some hard surface like a desk to keep this thing ventilated.

This is where I think that Apple are going in the right direction. For years, iPads and iPhones have industry leading Apple designed ARM chips, and have proven they can do mobile graphics well… The M1’s integrated graphics are on another level compared to the competition. You aren’t beating out a dedicated graphics card in terms of raw performance, but the performance you do get is much faster than ANY integrated graphics solution available, and at a MUCH lower power and thermal budget.

People are playing World of Warcraft, one of the few games to support the ARM M1 architecture, at respectable framerates and thermals. Sure, it won’t run at the higher settings like my 16 can, but it will run at respectable settings, all while staying completely silent and relatively cool. That’s amazing to me. The portable 13 inch Macbooks can run WoW, all while staying cool and quiet? Fantastic. Firing up WoW in bed? Possible. Not waking up the misses with fan noise? Possible.

I haven’t even mentioned Rosetta 2, which is honestly breathtaking. Apple has nailed what I considered to be the most critical thing- backwards compatibility. The Rosetta 2 translation layer can recompile x86 applications to run on their ARM chip… It runs amazingly well. Reviewers are honestly blown away, and so am I. The fact that we get to run out x86 applications which are not yet optimized is fantastic, but running them FASTER than previous macs at the SAME TIME??? Nobody expected that. Truly fantastic.

What this means for me is that I’m extremely interested in the M1 equipped devices. I knew they would be good, but to be this good, and to offer amazing support for x86 applications? Nobody expected the launch to be near this good, and frankly I’m blown away. This is a huge game changer.

However, most of my friends don’t follow Apple, or care at ALL about what they do. Most of them, based on the way they talk about Apple and Apple devices, are anti-Apple. That’s a shame, because they are missing out on the hype. It’s unlikely we will get this level of innovation on the PC side anytime soon, as PC manufacturers are happy with the status quo. Only time will tell if the moves Apple are making can cause some healthy competition in the PC space. The truth is, the PC Gamers out there should care about what the M1 is doing. Performance is performance, and the M1 offers performance characteristics not seen anywhere else. If the M1 is a sign of things to come, we should get excited.

So in summary, the M1 devices are very exciting. I personally would like to replace my 16 Macbook Pro with a M1 13 Macbook Pro, if for nothing else but the better thermals, no crazy fan noise, and for more portability. However, I did JUST purchase this MBP16 earlier this year, and I can’t justify the switch. I think the right play is for me to wait to see what the next generation of Apple Silicon has to offer. I’m looking forward to more performance, particularly on the graphics side. If the Apple Silicon 16 MBP can offer graphics to rival the current 16, than I’ll be on the lookout for it. Sure, I’m interested in the size of the 13, but I do like a larger screen… Maybe if the ARM MBP 16 offers improved graphics as well as improved thermals and noise, it’ll be a no-brainer upgrade for me. Only time will tell!

In the meantime, for me currently, I can’t justify the switch just yet. Apple are leading the pack regarding every mobile device. I very much enjoy that “Apple polish” that people talk about. iOS and MacOS both run fantastic for me, and I very much enjoy using them. Not only that, but I also very much enjoy their hardware. Sure, some things could be improved (looking at you Macbook webcams) but in almost every other category, I think they offer top tier hardware. Pricing? Their pricing is what I consider “fair”, and even competitive. Hell, the new M1 devices are sort of a deal even for what you get.

One negative that the new M1 devices DO have is they don’t support Bootcamp, which currently allows me to run Windows 10 on my 16 MBP. This can come in clutch whenever I want to play a PC game, but tbh, in the time I have owned it, I have only used ONCE outside of testing. That’s almost the entire year without using Bootcamp. It’s nice to have, but do I REALLY need it? Probably not. Especially since typically, I will save my gaming for when I get on my gaming PC. It is the most optimal way to game after all.

All things considered, 2020 may suck, but the tech coming out this year sure doesn’t. I’m super hyped for what comes next.