Software

Could Apple's New Microchip Transform Computing?

Apple has been hailed as one of the leading tech companies in the world with a host of products.
Could Apple's New Microchip Transform Computing?

Products such as the iPhone series and iPad have had a huge following over the years for their robust performance and top-class security features. However, Apple's new microchip launch will definitely bring a whole new perspective to the chip-making industry. Here is what you should know about the new chip.

Apple's New Microchip


The story behind this new chip is an interesting one that dates back to 2008. About a year after the company released its first iPhone, it acquired a semiconductor startup specializing in phone chips. For several years, Intel had dominated the tech industry with the production of chips, most of which were specifically built for servers and personal computers. However, for Intel's chips to achieve top speeds, they consume a lot of energy and generate a lot of heat. On the other hand, Apple core products are battery powered, hence consuming a lot of power wasn't the best option. To solve this, the chip designers had to think outside the box. Instead of working on pure power, Apple focused more on designing chips that optimize power and efficiency.

Explaining the process of designing this chip may sound technical to common people, especially those without any knowledge of semiconductor theory. In simple terms, Apple has designed a system that uses multiple specialized processing units – optimized to execute several 'out of order' operations – meaning they can run more code at once. Investing in chip production is not a cheap affair. However, due to Apple's huge economies of scale, it raised enough revenue to invest in custom chip operations. The company later repurposed the iPhone chips to fit iPads, Apple TV, and more recently, the Mac.


Understanding Apple's M1 Chip


The new microchip is the first System on a Chip (SoC) designed by Apple. The M1 chip integrates components such as GPU, RAM, Neural Engine, CPU, Secure Enclave, Image signal processor, encode/decode engines, SSD controller, Thunderbolt controller with USB 4 support, and other components of the Mac. Before the launch of the M1 chips, Apple relied on several chips for security, I/O, and CPU. However, the need to integrate all these functions onto one chip led to the development of M1, which is efficient and faster compared to the previously used Intel chips.

Apple has also incorporated a unified memory architecture to the chip's design to enable devices to access data easily without switching between different memory pools. With this feature, the CPU, GPU, and other processing components can access data from the same pool instead of copying from each other. Adding the unified memory architecture to the chip has greatly increased efficiency and speed. However, this feature also limits a user's ability to upgrade the device's RAM. The M1 chip boasts 16 billion transistors, probably the highest number the company has ever put on a chip to achieve a faster CPU core and excellent CPU performance per watt. With this new chip, Apple is able to produce a faster and more power-efficient MacBook.

Apple M1 Speed


As stated before, the new chip is built to increase speeds to improve CPU, GPU, and other processor components' performances.  With the new chip, users can enjoy 3.5x performance on their CPU, 6x performance for the GPU, and 15x faster machine learning capabilities. Compared to the latest 8-core PC laptop, the M1 offers 2X faster CPU performance while consuming only 25% of the device's power.


Battery Life


One of the greatest selling points for this chip is its energy efficiency. M1 is more battery efficient compared to any chip ever made. According to statistics released by Apple, the chip can deliver a 2x longer battery life in the new Macs. The 13'' MacBook is said to deliver the longest battery life of 20 hours, which is double the battery life of previous models.

M1 Security Features


As stated before, Apple has made a name for itself for its robust performance and top-shelf security features. Previously, the Macs were fitted with built-in T2 chips that handled security. However, the new chip has this functionality; there is no need for a secondary chip. The new microchip features a built-in Secure Enclave that handles the storage controller and the Touch ID with AES encryption for a faster and secure SSD performance.


Running Apps on M1


Because of the unique nature of the M1 chip, Apple has developed a series of tools that developers can use to create Universal binaries that could run on both Intel Chips and Apple Silicon. The designers have also developed the Rosetta 2 translation layer to allow x86app to run on the M1 chip. By developing the Rosetta 2, Apple gives apps meant for Intel machines an opportunity to run - albeit under limited performance compromise. Nevertheless, most apps will be able to run similarly on both Intel and M1 macs due to the performance enhancements featured on the M1.

To answer the question on the new chip's ability to transform computing, the answer is yes. With this chip, users can get top-speed processing speeds without worrying about power consumption or overheating the device.

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