Apple in October 2021 introduced its second-generation Apple silicon chips, the M1 Pro and the M1 Max, which follow the M1 and are available in the 14 and 16-inch MacBook Pro models.
This guide focuses on the M1 Pro chip. The M1 Pro is an improvement the M1, but it is not quite as powerful as the M1 Max.
M1 Pro Explained
The M1 Pro is Apple’s second System on a Chip (SoC) developed for use in Macs, and it marks Apple’s continued transition away from the Intel chips that have been used in Macs since 2006.
As a “System on a Chip,” the M1 Pro integrates several different components, including the CPU, GPU, unified memory architecture (RAM), Neural Engine, Secure Enclave, SSD controller, image signal processor, encode/decode engines, Thunderbolt controller with USB 4 support, and more, all of which power the different features in the Mac.
Traditional Intel-based Macs used multiple chips for the CPU, GPU, I/O, and security, but integrating multiple components onto one chip allows Apple silicon chips to operate faster and more efficiently than Intel chips. Like the M1, the M1 Pro is built on a 5-nanometer process, but it has 33.7 billion transistors, twice as many transistors as the M1.
The M1 Pro officially has 10 CPU cores, including two efficiency cores and eight high performance cores, but there is a low-end variant that has just 8 cores that’s used in the base-level MacBook Pro. The 8-core CPU has six high performance cores and two high efficiency cores.
M1 Pro chips used in all other 14 and 16-inch MacBook Pro models have 10 cores. According to Apple, the M1 Pro’s 10-core CPU is up to 70 percent faster than the 8-core CPU in the original M1 chip.
Compared to the latest 8-core PC laptop chip from Intel, the M1 Pro offers 1.7x more CPU performance at the same power level and it reaches the PC’s performance using 70 percent less power.
The 10-core M1 Pro is equipped with a 16-core GPU, and the 8-core M1 Pro has a 14-core GPU. The 16-GPU variant is up to 2x faster than the M1 chip.
Apple is using a unified memory architecture that lets the CPU, GPU, and other processor components use the same data pool rather than wasting time copying data between one another and swapping between multiple pools of memory. It’s a technique that makes all of Apple’s M-series chips remarkably efficient.
With the M1, available memory maxed out at 16GB, but the M1 Pro supports up to 32GB. It also offers up to 200GB/s of memory bandwidth.
Apple added a Media Engine to the M1 Pro for accelerating video processing. There’s also dedicated acceleration for the ProRes video codec.
Other Chip Features
The M1 Pro has several other built-in technologies.
M1 Pro vs. M1 Max
The M1 Pro and the M1 Max share the same 10-core CPU (with the exception of the base 8-core Pro chip), but have different graphics capabilities.
The M1 Pro has up to a 16-core GPU, while the M1 Max has up to a 32-core GPU.
We have an in-depth comparison video and guide that walks through the differences between the M1 Max and the M1 Pro, and we also conducted a series of real-world tests to compare performance between the two chips.
Macs With an M1 Pro Chip
The 14-inch MacBook Pro and 16-inch MacBook Pro models released in October 2021 use the M1 Pro chips. The M1 Max chips are available as an upgrade option.
Battery Life Improvements
The M1 Pro chip is much more efficient than the Intel chip in prior-generation versions of the MacBook Pro, and battery life has significantly improved.
The 14-inch MacBook Pro with M1 Pro/Max chip offers up to 17 hours of movie playback with the Apple TV app and up to 11 hours of wireless web browsing. The prior 2020 Intel model offered 10 hours of movie playback and 10 hours of wireless web browsing.
M1 Pro Security Features
Intel Macs had a built-in T2 chip that handled security and other features on the Macs, but with the M-series chips, that functionality is built right in and a secondary chip isn’t required.
The M1 Pro has a built-in Secure Enclave that manages Touch ID and a storage controller with AES encryption hardware for SSD performance that’s faster and more secure.
Running Apps on M1 Pro
The M-series chips use different architecture than Intel chips, so Apple has designed tools that allow developers to create Universal app binaries that run on both Apple silicon and Intel chips, plus there is a Rosetta 2 translation layer that lets x86 apps operate on machines with Apple silicon.
With Rosetta 2, apps designed for Intel machines will continue to run on M1 Macs with some limited performance compromises. For the most part, apps run similarly on both Intel and Apple silicon because of the performance enhancements added by the M1 Pro and M1 Max chips.
Everything should function as normal when transitioning to Apple silicon Macs, and over the course of a few years, almost all popular Mac apps will be built to run on the M1 Macs natively.
As of now, there’s one significant compromise when choosing an Apple silicon Mac, and that’s Windows support.
There is no Boot Camp for Macs with Apple silicon chips, and the machines are not officially able to run Windows, although some users are figuring out ways to make it work. Official support could come in the future, but it largely depends on Microsoft licensing its Arm-based version of Windows to consumers, and so far, that hasn’t happened.
M1 Pro and M1 Max Macs can run iPhone and iPad apps as well as Mac apps, so long as app developers make them available to Mac users.
M1 Pro How Tos
Have questions about the M1 Pro chip, know of a feature we left out, or want to offer feedback on this guide? Send us an email here.
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