This article is based on an article from the Japanese edition of Engadget and was created using the translation tool Deepl.
The Apple Silicon "M1" chip is proving to be more and more high performance, but why is it so fast? A software developer's analysis of it has been published, which considers it and digs deeper.
Erik Engheim, a developer based in Norway, points out that the first factor is that the M1 is not a simple CPU. It is a so-called SoC (system-on-a-chip), which integrates a variety of functions. In that package, you'll find an eight-core CPU, an eight-core GPU (seven cores on the lower MacBook Air models), unified memory, an SSD controller, an image signal processor, Secure Enclave, and more.
And while Intel and AMD chips focus on general-purpose CPU cores, the M1 chip gains an advantage because it focuses on specialized chips that handle specialized tasks, according to him. In other words, in addition to the CPU and GPU, the M1 includes the Neural Engine, which is responsible for voice recognition and camera processing, a built-in video decoder/encoder for power-efficient video conversion, Secure Enclave, which is responsible for encryption, the Digital Signal Processor that handles things like decompressing music files, and the Image Processing Unit that speeds up tasks done by image processing apps.
Engheim particularly emphasized the strength of Unified Memory Architecture (UMA), which allows cores such as CPUs and GPUs to exchange information with each other; UMA allows CPUs and GPUs to access the same pool of memory, rather than copying data from separate areas, thus speeding up the exchange of information and improve the overall performance, he said. However, UMA is a structure that has been used in smartphones and gaming consoles for a long time, and there is a sense that a more in-depth analysis is needed.
Aside from that, what we want to focus on is the analysis of how the special chips inside the M1 contribute to the speedup. All of these can speed up certain tasks and lead to tangible improvements for the actual user, which is one of the reasons why so many people who are working on image and video editing on the M1-equipped Macs are finding the speed increase.
Other companies have been using the specialized chips for some time, but Engheim noted that Apple is taking "a more radical shift towards this direction". Intel and AMD rely on selling general-purpose CPUs, while PC makers like Dell and HP are likely to be unable to design a complete SoC in-house as Apple does for licensing reasons, he said.
What's more, Apple's ability to integrate hardware and software in a way that its competitors can't follow means that the same factors that give the iPhone and iPad an advantage over other smartphones and tablets have been brought to bear on the Mac.
While it's certainly possible that both Intel and AMD will start selling finished SoC products, their customers, PC manufacturers, may have different needs. It has been stated that there could be a conflict between Intel, AMD, Microsoft, and PC manufacturers over what special chips need to be included, since software support will eventually be required.
Besides that, Engheim also believes that Intel and AMD are in a tough spot due to the limitations of the CISC instruction set and their business models that don't make it easy to create end-to-end chip solutions for PC manufacturers.
Broadly speaking, Apple's ability to have the heads of software and hardware in the same company to coordinate and have specialized chips targeted at specific software processing makes it easier for users to achieve visible speed gains. Reading this in conjunction with the interview with Apple executives about the M1 chip will give you a better understanding.
Source: Erik Engheim
This article is based on an article from the Japanese edition of Engadget and was created using the translation tool Deepl. The Japanese edition of Engadget does not guarantee the accuracy or reliability of this article.