The Apple Silicon discussion and experience thread

marcos_eirik

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Is this the giant revolution it's hyped up to be or will it be a dud, a glorified phone chip, failing to scale up beyond ultraportable fanless applications? Has anybody here had the chance to check it out?

I think the Apple M1 and what will come after it will be significant enough to warrant it's own thread, so I started one.

After much consideration and internal bureaucracy I have made up my mind, and I have ordered a new MacBook Air. It was not cheap, but this must surely be the first time you can say a MacBook is worth the extra cash for the performance. I went for a space gray MacBook Air with with the 8-core CPU, 8-core GPU, 16 GB of ram upgrade, and 1 TB of storage. I will most likely keep this for a very long while, though perhaps not as long as the last one.

This month my old MacBook Air turned 10 years, and is still usable, albeit a bit long in the tooth, so it will be good to replace it. It will also replace my desktop PC (With a 2011 6-core i7) as I have bought this HyperDrive docking station for it (needed something with a Display Port output as the single HDMI on my monitor is already occupied by my POS HP work laptop). I don't really do any gaming anymore so I don't need something with a GTX1080 in it.

My disinterest was due to the form factor, as I was hoping for something even smaller and more portable, like the 12" MacBook that they killed in 2019 or even the 11" MacBook Air that they discontinued in 2015. After thinking about it I figured that they'll probably likely will not make anything smaller than the current Air, as that would perhaps cannibalize iPad Pro sales, thus 13" Macbook Air it is.
 

killpanda

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I've ordered a new Mac mini a few days ago, delivery planned in mid-February.
I'm fed up with my 2018 13" MacBook Pro, it's a huge pile of shit. This should be a welcome change, and if all the feedback I've seen about it are true, should be about twice as fast for the things I do.
 

marcos_eirik

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I'm fed up with my 2018 13" MacBook Pro, it's a huge pile of shit. This should be a welcome change, and if all the feedback I've seen about it are true, should be about twice as fast for the things I do.

Yes, the Touch Bar MacBook Pros have not been Apples best act. The unreliable butterfly switch keyboard, the too tight thermal constraints, and the Touch Bar that only a very few seems to appreciate is testament to this.

I think all of these post 2015-MacBooks, which do struggle with thermal limitations do so because Intel did not deliver on their efficiency promises with the Skylake generation and up of Core-i CPUs. If you look at the 2018 revision of the MacBook Air, it is clear that they designed that to have a fanless CPU. Rumor has it that it was Skylake that was the "final straw" that made Apple go all in on the switch.

But yes, the M1 Mac mini seems to perform really well:
 

killpanda

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I’m actually super indifferent to the touchbar, I don’t even think about it (I use an external keyboard and it’s plugged to a 4K monitor), it’s the general instability of the computer that bothers me the most, it’s always running slow or crashing.
I know something’s wrong with it since one of the thunderbolt port stopped working a year ago, but I’ve needed it daily since then so I’ve had no choice but to soldier on using it. I’ll finally be able to have it fixed and give it to the wifey, her usage should be more in line with what the machine was designed for. The only Pro thing about this computer is the name.
 

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I just set up a new base model Air for dad the other day. His 7 year old 11" MBA has been serving him very well so replacing it with a younger model was a no-brainer. I tried to suggest a new iPad Air with a keyboard but he doesn't want change.

Setup was a breeze, until I headed to System Preferences to enable automatic login and noticed it was greyed out. 17 seconds on Google later I realized it was because I had enabled FileVault encryption when it asked me during initial setup. macOS doesn't (wisely) allow you to have automatic login enabled if your storage is encrypted. Time to repartition and reinstall then.

After trying, failing and googling, I realized internet recovery isn't cmd-R anymore. You just press and hold the power button which is a lot neater once you figure it out. I erased the partition, created a new one and started reinstalling... which is quite time-consuming over a 50Mbit connection when the image is 12 gigs or so. Especially when it fails at 50% or so because of a firmware bug. Apple has a guide to fix it.

TL;DR remember to uncheck filevault encryption at first setup if the user doesn't want to have to enter a password (or do a fingerprint) every time.


My current setup is a 2018 MBP13 Touch Bar that pretty much is permanently tied to a monitor, keyboard and mouse. The MBP will be replaced with a 16GB 512GB M1 Mini as soon as I can get my hands on one. My aging spare MBA will be my main laptop again for a while but I will certainly get a M1 MBA to replace it.
 
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marcos_eirik

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^How does the M1 MacBook Air compare size wise to the old 11" MacBook Air?

I'm reasonably sure I'm going to set up mine with Touch-ID, and have the Apple Watch proximity unlock available as well. According to testers that seems to be more reliable on the M1 laptops.
 

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The M1 air is, as far as I can tell, identical to its intel predecessor in every way. That is, slightly narrower than the older generation 13” Air because of its narrower side bezels.

Encryption and Touch ID (and watch login) is a no-brained for me personally, but my father would hate having to sign in to his laptop every time so I had to get auto login working.

Sadly, auto login also disables Touch ID.
 

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After getting macOS installed again and getting everything set up (which isn't a lot) the battery had reached 100%. I unplugged it. I visited them today and noticed the Air was at 79% charge. Asked dad if he had plugged it in. Apparently he hadn't, it was still on its first ever full charge.
 

marcos_eirik

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The M1 air is, as far as I can tell, identical to its intel predecessor in every way. That is, slightly narrower than the older generation 13” Air because of its narrower side bezels.
I was thinking more like the physical size of the M1 Air compared to the old 11" Air. I have an old 13" Air, so I'm a bit curious if it's noticeably smaller than what I currently have.

After getting macOS installed again and getting everything set up (which isn't a lot) the battery had reached 100%. I unplugged it. I visited them today and noticed the Air was at 79% charge. Asked dad if he had plugged it in. Apparently he hadn't, it was still on its first ever full charge.
Yes, that is an M1 advantage that has been lost in this whole "OMG extreme performance"-hype, the fact that it easily has something like twice the battery life and draws nothing when it's not in use. You can also probably charge it with the 18 or 20 W charge bricks that comes with the iPads, and are sold as fast chargers with iPhones.
 

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I was thinking more like the physical size of the M1 Air compared to the old 11" Air. I have an old 13" Air, so I'm a bit curious if it's noticeably smaller than what I currently have.

Yes, it’s smaller because it has narrower side bezels. The machine is probably 1.5 cm narrower in total.
 

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I'm cautiously looking forward to the next 16" MBP with a larger/more powerful M1 derivate, and more RAM. If they ship one with at least 32GB, better 64GB, I might consider it as my next work machine - it would be a nice successor to the 15" Dell Precision 5520 I've been using for about 3 years now. There are many factors in play here, not least of which is whether our company will be using M1 Macs at all (currently being evaluated)... and whether it'll support more than 1 external monitor properly, and whether Docker and other dev tools I need on a daily basis come out with stable compatible versions, and and and. But there's a chance :)
 

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Yes, that is an M1 advantage that has been lost in this whole "OMG extreme performance"-hype, the fact that it easily has something like twice the battery life and draws nothing when it's not in use. You can also probably charge it with the 18 or 20 W charge bricks that comes with the iPads, and are sold as fast chargers with iPhones.

The brick that ships with the Air is 30W so I'm guessing 20W should work but be a bit slower.
 

marcos_eirik

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I'm cautiously looking forward to the next 16" MBP with a larger/more powerful M1 derivate, and more RAM. If they ship one with at least 32GB, better 64GB, I might consider it as my next work machine - it would be a nice successor to the 15" Dell Precision 5520 I've been using for about 3 years now. There are many factors in play here, not least of which is whether our company will be using M1 Macs at all (currently being evaluated)... and whether it'll support more than 1 external monitor properly, and whether Docker and other dev tools I need on a daily basis come out with stable compatible versions, and and and. But there's a chance :)

There are lots of rumors floating around about the what will power the higher end 13" MacBook Pro and the 16" MacBook Pro. The most common one is that it will feature an "M1X" with a 12 core CPU (8 performance cores, 4 efficiency cores) and a 16 core GPU, it is also rumored that this will be packaged with up to 32 GB of ram.

Remember the M1 has so far only been given to the lower end Macs, which originally only had two T3-ports anyways. The higher end stuff will definitely support the use of more than one external display. However, you can get more than one eternal monitor to work with an M1 Mac, just use a Thunderbolt hub. That being said, you can run more than one display on the M1 Macs.


The brick that ships with the Air is 30W so I'm guessing 20W should work but be a bit slower.

Yes, and that means one less brick to pack when travelling, which is a good thing, when we can go back to doing that again. :)
 

marcos_eirik

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For those wondering why this low power chip is hyped so much, here is some (grossly) simplified explaination of the hype:

 

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That's a helpful break-down. It makes sense to break down a multi-core processor into sections with a more focused use cases, for performance and power efficiency. Hardly anything will use 8-16 or more cores, so if you can use a bunch of them to speed up the most common actual uses of its users, that all makes perfectly logical sense. A great design for content creators, clearly, even ignoring the architecture differences/benefits.

It does make me curious, though, about what sort of things Apple's ARM-based processors would be worse at compared to x86.

The lack of upgradeable memory, though, seems like an obvious challenge, even if apple's speed is 2x as fast, in theory anyway. The use of the SSD is concerning in terms of "wear and tear" on the SSD, though, as resilient as the marketing says they are. My newest Samsung, just 4 months old as a boot drive, is already indicating less-than-new "life" using Samsung's own testing software.
 

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As a counterpoint to the SSD wear and tear issue: my current system SSD (250 GB Samsung 830) is closing in on 9 years of age, with constant use and over 50 TB of lifetime write volume. Health indicators are still good, and there are zero issues with the thing. While write limit is still a thing, the reserves of mid- to high-end SSDs have exceeded any reasonable lifetime expectations on consumer hardware years ago, and modern ones probably exceed it by an order of magnitude.
 

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I've never had a single SSD issue, nor RAM issue for that matter. I'm pretty confident that my Mac Mini will serve me well for years. I don't go around worrying that my phone will have storage or RAM issues either, because I've never had that happen in any device I've owned.

Speaking of, it's not like issues with removable memory cards are unheard of.

My Mini will be accompanied by an M1 Air later in the spring, or thereabouts. The Intel train was fun, I was on it almost since the beginning.
 

marcos_eirik

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^Yes, my 2010 MacBook Air also has an SSD which seems to be very healthy, so I'm not worried about memory swap. That being said, I did chicken out and went for 16 GB of RAM on my M1 Air, but that is mostly because I see myself keeping it for a very long time, so the extra RAM is there mostly just to future proof it.
 

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Yes, it doesn't make sense not to put 16GB in your M1 mac while you're at it. The upgrade cost is steep when you're used to standard RAM, but it's nothing compared to how pissed off you'll be a year from now when you suddenly realize another 8 gigs would be nice to have.
 

marcos_eirik

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Yes, it doesn't make sense not to put 16GB in your M1 mac while you're at it. The upgrade cost is steep when you're used to standard RAM, but it's nothing compared to how pissed off you'll be a year from now when you suddenly realize another 8 gigs would be nice to have.

I was thinking more like five years down the line, I will be happy about making that choice. Looking at the 8 GB vs. 16 GB tests online, you have to get into very specific tasks for it to make a difference in daily use.

With my old MacBook Air (ten years ago), I did max out the spec with the more powerful CPU, 4 GB of RAM, and 256 GB SSD. This most likely saved it from being replaced earlier. If I had stayed with the base late 2010 spec, that would have been less bearable now. (I would have gone for the 11" Air if that was available with 256 GB SSD) The Core2Duo was already long in the tooth by the time I purchased the MBA, but 2 GB RAM and 128 GB SSD would have most likely made me upgrade years ago. Then I would have gone for the 12" MacBook, which by now would have felt extremely under powered and limited by it's thermals.
 
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