When the M1 came out, I wanted to understand how can they be so much faster, compared to 2019 Intel chips.
This is what I recall.
- RISC has the potential to be faster than CISC, we saw this back in the days of the PowerPC. The switch to Intel was because Intel become more efficient.
- Manufacturing size. All TSMC do is fabricate chips, this single track focus has allowed them to do much much better than Intel at shrinking die size. Not only does this alone make the chip faster, but also generates less heat. Rumor has it that since the M1, Intel have been working with TSMC to make Intel chips at smaller nano-meter than Intel could.
- On chip memory, reduces path distance and Apple have used faster memory.
- On chip GPU and unified memory reduces memory exchange, thus improving initial speed with pushing data to the GPU as it no longer needs to be “pushed”.
- Faster SSDs and no more T2 Chip. The T2 chip was problematic, it was the cause of many issues during the 2017 ~ 2018 era of MacBook Pros. I read somewhere that it was actually slower than a dedicated SSD controller, to which Apple never improved speed in the last 4 years.
- Improved read-ahead where the CPU looks at what it needs to do and makes better assumptions in shortcuts.
- Better background task management, background tasks do take longer on M1, but the way how Apple schedules them, leaves cores available for foreground tasks, so it feels smoother. Scheduling on Intel spreads out background tasks across all cores.
If Apple had wanted to do so, they could have upgraded their Intel machines by using faster SSDs, faster memory, improved controller chips, AMD x86_64 processors (which are more efficient than Intel) and NVIDIA GPUs. Heck at this point they could even put in last years Intel chips and gain upto a 5% improvement over the two year old chips they still selling.
But they don’t want to do that, because in doing so, it would reduce ROI on Intel machines that they’re going to replace next year.
This is the beef I have with Apple AJ, the focus is on profit, they have enough cash to improve their Intel based offerings, especially while Pros wait for more capable machines, but they won’t.
There’s rumors that Apple’s having trouble with the next gen chips, and they may not be available until 2022 or 2023. Bandwidth is a big sticking point and is tangible performance improvement. But at this point, just rumors.