When Apple revealed its new M1 Apple SIliocn chip at its “One more thing” event on Tuesday, the company made several claims that the new chip, the first one it’s designed specifically for the Mac is “X times faster” at doing a specific task, but it never specified what it was comparing it too.
Obviously, this move for Apple into its own SOC for the Mac is a direct shot at the lack of innovation and progress that Intel has made with its chip in the past few years. The clams Apple is making are impressive, to say the least, but it’s important to add context to what it’s being compared to in order to truly understand how far of a leap forward the new chip is.
Typically, Apple’s claim that a new chip or device is X times faster is in comparison to the previous model. With the M1 chip, there is no prior model and no clear equivalent to it. And so, it turns out that Apple’s marketing with the new chip and the new 13-inch MacBook Air is a little bit misleading. Here’s why.
Apple’s webpage for M1 says that its CPU is 3.9 times faster at video processing, Apple says that is compared to an i7 MacBook Air with 16GB of RAM and 2TB of SSD storage. Right below that claim is another claim that the M1 is 7.1 times faster at image processing.
Now, logically, any claim that Apple makes about the M1 being faster should be in comparison to the same computer for different tasks (video/image processing, etc…), in this scenario, an i7 MacBook Air, but that isn’t the case.
In a matter of fact, Apple’s claim that the M1 is 7.1 times aster at image processing is compared to the lowest possible Mac mini config with a 3.6GHz quad-core i3 processor with 16GB of RAM, nothing close to the performance that an i7 MacBook Air that was previously used in the comparison could get.
In its defense, Apple does say that different tests were conducted on different Macs running Apple silicon. For example, it did compare an M1 Mac mini to an Intel Mac mini, and an M1 MacBook Air vs. an Intel MacBook Air.
But, not all the time. The MacBook Air’s page claims that the M1 chip in the new 13-inch MacBook Air is the “world‘s fastest integrated graphics in a personal computer,” that claim, however, does not come from an Intel MacBook Air, but instead a MacBook Pro that will clearly be faster due to the inclusion of fans.
Again, in its defense, Apple says that performance may vary, and indeed they will depend on a number of factors. But, in some cases as with the new MacBook Air, it’s making unrealistic comparison so an obviously faster MacBook Pro.
As for the M1 chip, it seems the bottom line and a fact that will become more apparent when these new Macs ship is that simply because both the MacBook Air and Mac mini (the two Macs without fans) share the same CPU and GPU, performance will still differ.