Image by Dmitry Chernyshov, distributed under the CC0 licence.
Everyone who is involved in the financial world needs a good computer.
A fast and powerful machine is needed to check stock prices, run analytics, look at charts, or run a bitcoin node. In order to get a leg up in this competitive space, you need the best and the greatest. But the search can be difficult. And that is where we come in. We’re here to help you decide which computer to get next.
Back on November Tenth, Apple held another one of their events. Usually, they are pretty normal. Computers integrate the newest generation of Intel CPUs. Apple raises prices enough to maintain enormous profits but tries to be reasonable. Apple fans grin at the slight increases in performance. PC lovers complain that Apple is an overpriced normal computer.
Until recently, I would have dismissed claims that Apple is extremely special. I would have said, ‘it is just normal electronics inside a fancy case. There is nothing different about the components’. But that was when Apple computers used commodity x86_64 Intel Processors, low-end graphics processing units, and small amounts of dynamic random access memory. Now everything has changed. For a long time, Apple has used its own custom processors in some of its products. The iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch to be specific. These are very power efficient, and also use the ARM architecture which is starting to take over the world. They all have used Apple Silicon since their inception. But the Macintosh line of computers has been Intel for over a decade.
The Mac Gets Apple Silicon
Switching to Apple Silicon fits in Apple’s business model. They provide everything in the tech space to their customers. The company manufactures their own devices (all the parts now), the operating system, and software and services to run on their devices. Apple specializes in everything tech-related and tries to get people to use Apple for everything in their life. This is what has made them so successful. They create a lifestyle for people. The company provides everything that Apple computers need to run, leading to a degree of interconnectivity that cannot be seen in the PC space. When you don’t have to outsource, you save costs and get more profits. There is no middleman.
Apple wanted to take Intel out of the equation. They asked themselves: why use Intel processors? Intel has really been falling behind in recent years. Their processors are expensive and not very innovative. Worst of all, they are still using the fourteen-nanometer manufacturing process. The rest of the world is on seven nanometers. Intel’s processors weren’t keeping up, so in order to keep the Macintosh innovative, they had to be removed from the equation.
On November Tenth, Apple released a whole new line of Macbooks, a new Mac Mini, and an operating system for ARM: macOS Big Sur. But the most amazing advance that was announced was M1, a system on a chip or SoC. M1 contains the world’s fastest CPU core, RAM, a fast GPU, and Neural Engine on one chip. All made by Apple. This is revolutionary.
This event was recorded at the amazing donut-shaped Apple Park. So, in case you missed it, you can watch it here:
This video is courtesy of Apple Inc.
Why This Matters
The M1 processor changes everything. Suddenly, I can safely say that there is something special about Apple. They are the only main company making ARM processors for consumers. Why is ARM special? Well, its architecture is a lot simpler and more efficient according to LaptopMag. This is good because it means that with the same amount of power, the computer can be faster and can do more. It also enables the new Macbook Pro to have a tested battery life of twenty hours, according to Linus Tech Tips.
A finite number of transistors can be fit onto a chip. That is just how the world works. But the more transistors on that chip, the more cores and processing units can be built and the faster the chip is. In order to fit more transistors, the size of the transistors (the manufacturing process) needs to be made smaller. Apple did this. M1 is made on the five nanometer process. Smaller than the runner up at seven! And almost a third of Intel. This size is truly amazing because of its tiny size. We are getting down to a level close to that where electrons will quantum tunnel across transistors and render them useless. Since transistor size is over twenty five percent smaller and since ARM is much simpler, it follows that M1 processors should be a lot faster than even AMD.
System on a Chip
The integration of a concept known as SoC or System on a Chip is one of the biggest advancements that M1 has made. Traditional computer systems have separate chips for the central processing unit, graphics processing unit and random access memory. These chips are spread out across the motherboard, far away from each other, and they connect to each other using ‘slow’ interfaces. For example, most GPUs connect to the rest of the computer over the PCIe 3.0 interface at a speed of one gigabyte per second (Trenton Systems). But having the GPU on the same chip as the CPU enables hyper speeds. Very low latency, and much more bandwidth.
Another amazing thing is having the RAM (memory) on the same chip as the CPU. Common modular DDR4 RAM is pretty fast, twenty-five gigabytes per second according to Wikipedia, but not as fast as CPU cache. Why? Because usually, RAM is far away from the CPU. But with M1, the RAM is on the chip, right next to the CPU cache. This means that the RAM can have super hyper bandwidth and really low latency.
And for the cherry on top, there is a neural engine on the chip, enabling machine learning at eleven trillion operations per second (Apple). That is more than the GTX 1080, but with integrated graphics. Wow. The neural engine has sixteen cores and the GPU seven or eight. That is amazing for one chip. There are sixteen billion transistors (Apple). All of these features add up to make M1 crazy powerful, and you will feel it if you use one.
Two Types of CPU Cores
The CPU has four high performance cores and four efficiency cores. The efficiency cores consume a tenth of the power of the high performance cores. This means that when you don’t need maximum power, like when web browsing, you can sip power and save battery. This enables Macbook Pro’s twenty hour tested battery life (Linus Tech Tips). But those efficiency cores together are as powerful as a last gen Intel Macbook Air (Apple). Pretty good. But when you need the power, the high performance cores kick in. In M1, there are four of the world’s fastest CPU cores (Apple). That is good for applications like film editing and music production along with code compilation. It will make a bitcoin developer’s life easier.
So, if you need a powerful computer, you should buy an M1 Mac. They have the best bang for the buck. The M1 Mac Mini starts at only $699. Right now, iMac and Mac Pro are not using Apple Silicon, but an Apple Event is rumored to take place in April, according to MacRumors. More Apple Silicon computers are probably going to be release, along with the twelve core (rumored) M1X processor. It might be a good idea to wait until April before making any purchases, so be on the look out. But I feel safe it saying that the M1 Macs might just be the best computers, for their price, that you can buy.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent those of GoldPundit.