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Computer Components

What is Apple Silicon

Apple Silicon is a family of custom chips (SoCs and SiPs) designed in house by Apple and built by TSMC in Taiwan, the biggest fab in the world. It is a major shift from their previous reliance on Intel processors in Macs and is mainly a push for greater performance and efficiency across their devices. But another main reason that is not talked about too much is that Apple gets more control over their microprocessors. TSMC just builds whatever Apple is asking for, while Intel is just now developing their fab business. Will we get to see some M and A series chips built in the Intel fabs in Ohio soon? It’s possible, time will tell.

Most Important Things About Apple Silicon

ARM Architecture: Unlike Intel’s x86 architecture, Apple Silicon is based on the ARM architecture which is also prevalent in smartphones and tablets. This focus on power efficiency comes with some advantages for battery powered devices.

System on a Chip (SoC): Apple Silicon chips integrate various components into a single chip.

CPU (Central Processing Unit): The core for handling calculations and instructions.

GPU (Graphics Processing Unit): Essential for games, 3D modeling and video editing.

Neural Engine: Accelerates machine learning tasks (image recognition, voice processing)

Other elements like: Image signal processors, secure storage enclaves etc.

Unified Memory: Apple Silicon uses a concept where CPU, GPU and other components share a pool of memory. This avoids data duplication and improves performance.

Customization: Designing their own chips allows Apple to match them specifically to their operating system and software ecosystem, which is a very tight and smooth software to hardware integration.

The M Series and Beyond

M Series: Found in Macs, these range from the entry (and older) level M1 to the powerful M3 Pro, M3 Max and M3 Ultra each offering scaling performance depending on the device.

A Series: These power iPhones and iPads.

Other Chips: Apple Silicon also includes chips for the Apple Watch, AirPods and other smaller devices.

Benefits of Apple Silicon

Performance per Watt: Apple has some impressive power efficiency, delivering high performance with lower power consumption. That’s why Macbook Airs and Macbook Pros have some of the longest battery lives among consumer laptops.

Software Integration: Tight control over both hardware and software means that Apple has a pretty smooth user experience and allows them to optimize their devices for specific tasks and workflows.

Innovation: Apple Silicon helps with their newer features like advanced image processing, always on displays and more advanced AI capabilities.

Other Lesser Known Things About Apple Sillicone

Software Compatibility (Initially): When Apple Silicon first launched, some software wasn’t fully compatible. Rosetta 2, the emulation platform has bridged this gap remarkably well.

Upgradeability: The integrated nature of Apple Silicon systems limits upgradability compared to traditional desktop PCs. Once you buy a Macbook you’re pretty much stuck with whatever configuration you bought.

Apple Silicon represents Apple’s vision of tightly integrated computing platforms. While it brings significant benefits it also highlights Apple’s increasing control over its hardware and software ecosystem.

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