Updated Nov 10, 2020 - Technology

Apple debuts first Macs with homegrown processors

Illustration of the Apple logo made out of a computer chip.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Apple on Tuesday debuted the first Macs with chips the company designed in-house, introducing updated versions of the MacBook Air, MacBook Pro and Mac mini that use its new M1 processor.

Why it matters: The move away from Intel processors could reduce costs for Apple and give the company more flexibility in design, but also adds short-term uncertainty as well as extra work for developers.

MacBook Air

The first Mac with Apple chips is a MacBook Air, which resembles past models, but is powered by Apple's M1 processor rather than an Intel chip.

  • Apple says the battery on the new MacBook Air can power 15 hours of Web browsing, 18 hours of video playback and last twice as long when doing video conferencing.
  • Apple also removed the fan used in previous models.
  • It still starts at $999 ($899 for education customers)
Mac mini

Apple put its newest chip in its smallest desktop computer, the Mac mini. (While not widely rumored, the move wasn't a huge shock since Apple used a modified Mac mini to offer developers a machine to test how their apps would run on Apple silicon.)

  • The Mac mini will start at $699 — $100 less than the prior Intel-powered model.
MacBook Pro

Apple is also bringing the M1 to the 13-inch Mac Book Pro.

  • The new MacBook Pro can deliver 17 hours of wireless web browsing and 20 hours of video playback, Apple said.
  • The starting price remains the same, at $1,299 (education customers will pay $1,199).

All the new models will be available for pre-order today and start shipping next week. Apple also said that it will release the latest version of its Mac operating system, Mac OS Big Sur, on Thursday.

The M1 processor

Apple's M1 processor has 16 billion transistors and an 8-core CPU (4 high-performance and 4 high-efficiency) as well as 8 graphics cores. Apple says the high-efficiency cores alone can deliver the same performance as current MacBook Airs at a quarter of the power consumption.

Between the lines: One of the key things to watch is how quickly developers design their apps to run natively on the new chips. Apple says all its apps have been updated for the new chips, as have key programs from others.

  • Adobe's Lightroom is coming next month while Photoshop will arrive next year.

For apps not built for the new chips, Apple has a translation engine dubbed Rosetta 2. Because the M1 processor is based on the same technology behind Apple's chipsets for the iPad and iPhone, most iOS apps should also now run on the Mac for the first time.

Go deeper: Why Apple's shift to homegrown chips matters

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