Should you buy an Intel-based Mac or expect new ARM-based Mac models?
Apple announced at this year’s WWDC event that it will start using its ARM-based processors in place of Intel processors on Mac computers from late 2020. The company promises that Macs that will use its own ARM-based processors will deliver higher performance as well as greater energy efficiency.
Apple’s announcement was already expected for WWDC 2020. But the timing of the transition has left many people hesitant between buying existing Mac computers or waiting for models that will use Apple processors.
ARM and Apple’s history
Apple is no stranger to ARM-based processor architectures. If you’re already using a product from the Apple ecosystem, you probably have a product that works with ARM-based chips. iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch and Apple TV devices use ARM (Advanced RISC Machine) – based processors instead of Intel processors that use the CISC instruction set.
In fact, the MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, iMac Pro, Mac Mini, and Mac Pro already had T1 and T2 ARM-based, Apple-designed chips that supported Touch Bar, Secure Enclave and other features.
Will ARM-based Macs be better than Intel-based Macs?
Apple says it is working on a family of SoC (System on Chip) processors, which will bring new features and “incredible performance” for desktop and laptop Mac models.
Apple likes superlatives. But the details are still more limited, so it’s hard at the moment to know what performance gains are there. Indeed, based on past and present architecture, there are some benefits that we can be sure of.
Thanks to Apple’s many years of experience developing power-efficient chips for the Apple Watch and iOS devices, it’s possible to say that we can expect a better balance between high performance and low power consumption.
It will also include Apple silicon chips, neural Motors and machine learning accelerators. This Will Make Mac computers an ideal platform for Machine Learning. Other featured technologies include high-quality camera processor, performance controller, high-performance DRAM, unified memory, and encryption acceleration.
In addition, Apple has added several special and new technologies that will complement the system and further enhance the Mac’s capabilities inside the Apple chip to ensure Macs stand out in competition. Consider the T2 security chip, image signal controller, SSD controller and “Secure Enclave” features that complement system management on existing Macs, not to mention Touch Bar and Touch ID.
Using its own silicon chips on each platform, Apple is boosting its ability to control both software and hardware, just as with iPhones and iPads, with the aim of providing a better user experience overall. Not only that, applications designed for iPhone and iPad will be available as standard when Apple-designed Mac computers with ARM processors are released.
How fast will ARM processor Macs be?
The truth is, we don’t know yet. Apple seems extremely committed to the future performance of ARM-based computers. Currently, Apple is providing developers with a developer transition Kit, a Mac mini with a12z iPad Pro chip. This computer is based on a 2019 ARM processor normally designed for the iPad. It is therefore very difficult to predict how the performance of ARM processor Macs will ultimately be.
Due to the change in processor architecture, existing Intel-based Mac software will be translated under Rosetta. This means that un-optimized applications or software will run slowly on ARM processors.
Initial benchmark results revealed that the ARM processor developer kit Mac Mini, with un – optimized software, performed similar to the MacBook Pro in the 2013-2015 period.
In addition, the 2019 ARM processor iPad Pro results in the ARM-based benchmark software compared to the 2019 MacBook Pro results in single and multi-core performance was seen to be ahead.
Overall, these results show that Apple’s ARM-based Macs look promising. It is worth noting that new ARM-based Macs will share the 5 nm A14 processor that Apple produces for the iPhone.
When Will the new Apple ARM processor Macs come out?
At WWDC in June, Apple said the first Mac using the company’s ARM processors would be introduced before the end of 2020. The company did not offer further details beyond that, but rumors suggest that Apple is developing at least three processors for the Mac. These processors are based on the A14 chip on the upcoming 2020 model iPhones.
Respected Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo believes the first Macs to include Apple’s custom chips will be a revamped 13.3-inch MacBook Pro and a redesigned 24-inch iMac. The updated machines will take their place in stores in the fourth quarter of 2020
Ming-Chi Kuo also said Apple plans to release the product, which includes at least six Mini-LEDs, including 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models, for this reason, it is possible that the new Macs with Mini-LEDs will be among the first devices that work with the Apple processor.
Apple also confirmed that its Macs with Apple ARM processors will continue to offer support for the Thunderbolt USB-C standard, so it will still remain an Intel element on new machines.
ARM processors and Intel applications
Apple has indicated that it will support its Intel processor computers for a long time after the transition to ARM-processor. So if you buy a Mac computer with an Intel processor today, you can expect to receive software updates throughout the life of the machine.
As noted in the developer migration Kit, Apple expects most developers to start building native applications for ARM processors immediately. However, thanks to Rosetta 2, a software-converter that runs in the background and cannot be seen by the user, users will be able to run Intel-compatible applications on ARM-based Macs.
Apple introduced Rosetta 2 with apps and games, showing that there is no obvious difference between running an Intel-compatible application on an Intel-processor computer and an ARM-processor computer. Everything works as you expect. But if performance is important to you, it seems to take some time for all your software and applications to run at full performance on ARM-based systems.
If Adobe applications are important to you, the good news is that Apple has given Adobe developers early access to ARM-based architecture. In addition, Photoshop and Lightroom applications have been shared to work perfectly on the systems that host the Apple processor.
What should I do if I want to use Windows on my Mac?
Unfortunately you will not be able to use Boot Camp on Mac computers with ARM processors. In addition, existing virtualization solutions will not work for Windows using Intel. Even if VMWare or Parallels offer this support, you will face lower performance due to different processor architectures.
Microsoft’s native ARM version of Windows, which it uses on the Surface Pro X, is available. However, this can only be used by manufacturers that sell Microsoft products under their own brands. As far as we know, for Mac-based computers, there are no current plans or studies to roll out an ARM-based version of Windows. Even if it is available for Mac, there will be many problems with traditional Intel-based applications of Windows.
Should I buy an Intel Mac or wait for new ARM processor Macs?
Apple is committed to supporting its Intel-based Macs for the future, even with ARM-processor Macs, Intel-processor models will be produced.
Moreover, Apple’s current Mac range has never been better. Especially the 16-inch MacBook Pro and the recently updated 13-inch MacBook Pro are versatile machines that deliver impressive performance.
If running Windows is an important factor for you, buying a Mac with an existing and up-to-date Intel processor makes more sense than waiting. Intel Macs will be supported for years along with new Intel Macs that are still on the production line.
In addition, for a particular software where performance is important to you, if you want to buy a higher-equipped Mac, it may not be worth the wait. The first Apple-processor Macs to be released may not be at the top for a while, and it may take some time for arm-supported local software to arrive.
If you don’t need to get a new Mac right away and new Apple-processor Mac computers sound interesting to you, it might be beneficial for you to wait a little longer to see how things will take shape. Apple is aiming to launch its first self-designed processor computers before the end of 2020.
Additionally, Apple stated that it would take two years to migrate the entire Mac series to Apple processors. So you may have to wait a long time, depending on what type of Mac you want.