Apple’s MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and Mac mini get M1 chips with 16 AI cores

In addition to announcing the release of macOS Big Sur and formally revealing its first Mac-specific M1 chips, Apple today unveiled the first Mac computers that will use its new software and hardware: M1-powered versions of the 13-inch MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro, and Mac mini. Each of the machines will be using the M1 chip to deliver performance roughly three times the prior comparable Intel model, with AI performance that will be upwards of 11 times faster thanks to a new 16-core Neural Engine.

On the surface, the new machines look very similar to the Intel-based Macs they replace. However, they benefit from some new Apple chip-enabled features that will make them instantly appealing to new users, with the now fanless MacBook Air boasting longer battery life and dramatically improved graphics performance compared with Intel’s integrated Iris Plus graphics chip. The Mac mini promises three times the prior CPU performance and six times previous GPU performance, while the MacBook Pro gains up to five times faster graphics and 2.8 times the CPU speed. All of the new machines support Thunderbolt 4 and USB 4, as well as Wi-Fi 6 for wireless connectivity.

Interestingly, all of the machines appear to be shipping with not just the same M1, but without any option to pick between speeds or graphics upgrades. Apple lists the same eight-core CPU, eight-core GPU, and 16-core Neural Engine across all three models, without any CPU or GPU customization. Customers can add more RAM and more solid state storage to the base models, but that’s it, and Apple is continuing to sell Intel versions of the 13-inch MacBook Pro alongside the M1 models.

Longevity is a major selling point for the new laptops. The Intel 13″ MacBook Air promised 11-12 hours of video playback or web browsing on a single charge; for the M1 version, Apple promises over 15 hours of run time, with up to 18 hours of video playback. Thanks to its larger internal battery, the MacBook Pro promises 17-20 hours of run time, depending on tasks, which Apple notes is the longest battery life ever in a Mac.

Interestingly, Apple isn’t necessarily ratcheting up the pricing on the new models. The new MacBook Air continues to sell for $999 — the same it previously cost for a 1.1GHz dual-core Intel Core i3, 256GB of storage, and 8GB of memory — with a $100 discount for educational customers. The Mac mini previously started at $799 for a 3.6GHz four-core Intel Core i3 with 256GB of storage and 8GB of memory, plus Intel’s integrated UHD Graphics 630 GPU, but Apple has dropped the entry price to $699 for the M1-based version. Finally, the $1,299 entry price remains the same for the 256GB SSD-equipped MacBook Pro; a $1,499 model ships with 512GB. All of the machines will be available for preorder today, and available next week.

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