Product Review: Apple's M1 MacBook Pro 13"

When They Meant One More Thing, They Meant One More Big Thing

Apple made ground breaking announcements at its "One More Thing" event on November 10th, 2020 event.  The launch of the M1 chip, macOS Big Sur operating system, and a long awaited update to the Mac line up.  Apple takes its destiny into its own hands from silicon to services.  By having complete control of the chip, operating system software, and hardware, Apple delivers exponential gains in performance, better value, longer battery life, and significant improvements to the Mac line up.

Mac mini, 13-inch MacBook Air, and the 13-inch MacBook Pro sport the new Apple-designed M1 chip (see Figure 1).  This 5nm system on a chip (SOC) delivers Apple's own design and architecture which pulls the processor, GPU, DRAM, fabric, cache, and Neural Engine, and security features, all on one chip.  With the power of 16 billion transistors, the chip blows away the competition when looking at performance per watt.

Figure 1. Inside Apple's M1 Silicon On Chip (SOC) Specifications

Source: Apple

Compared To The Intel MacBook Pro 13", The M1 MacBook Pro 13" Has Many Advantages

When the M1 MacBook Pro 13" is compared to the Intel MacBook Pro 13", the obvious similarities come from the familiar chassis design and key display features (see Figure 2).  Both models share:

  • Availability in Space Gray and Silver
  • 13.3-inch LED-backlit display with In-plane switching (IPS) technology, wide color (P3) and True Tone
  • 720p FaceTime HD camera
  • Wide stereo sound and support for Dolby Atmos playback
  • 3.5 mm headphone jack
  • Magic Keyboard
  • Force Touch Trackpad
  • Touch Bar and Touch ID
  • Bluetooth 5.0

Figure 2. Everything You Need To Know About The M1 MacBook Pro 13"

Source: Apple

Here are the differences between the two models (see Figure 3):

Figure 3. Side by Side Comparison of Intel-based vs M1 Apple SOC-based MacBook Pro 13" 

Source: Constellation Research, Inc.

Overall, the M1 MacBook Pro beats out the existing Intel line up.  However, a few areas of improvement for future releases include the need for a better than 720p FaceTime camera (though the M1's ISP does improve the performance of the 1.2 megapixel camera), Wi-Fi 6 support, and the lack of a touch screen.

Compatibility With x86-64 Apps Remains A Work In Progress

Initial tests on the M1 MacBook Pro have yielded great performance and exponentially improved battery life when running native Apple apps.  However, slight glitches and significant performance hits occurred with application crashes wtih some of the enterprise products from Microsoft including Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Teams, and Microsoft Edge browsers.  The Microsoft Office suite didn't show any lag at all when used and Microsoft Excel macros seemed to experience improved performance.

Other enterprise software such as Autodesk Revit, Avid ProTools, Google Drive File Stream, MatLab, Oracle VirtualBox, Parallels, and VMWare Fusion currently are not supported by the M1 chip.  Initial experiences with much of the Adobe Creative Cloud suite show some compatibility issues with Rosetta 2 for Adobe AfterEffects, Illustrator, Indesign, Photoshop 2020, and Premier Pro.  Ongoing fixes and updates can be found on the Adobe web site.

Slack really slacked and needed a performance hit.  Video software such as BlueJeans, GoToMeeting, WebEx, and Zoom all were quite laggy.  Meanwhile, DJ controller software such as RekordBox by Pioneer wasn't working yet on Rosetta 2 or M1 as of this post.

Enterprise clients should confirm which apps work with the new M1 architecture and ask for a roadmap from key vendors for M1 forward and backward compatibility on Rosetta 2.  Early adopters must determine the trade-off of native Apple performance versus x86-64 Intel compatibility.  The independent crowdsourced site "Is Apple Silicon Ready" also confirmed some of the incompatibilities and performance issues with M1 and Rosetta 2 experienced in this review.  (Note: this site is not an Apple-run or reviewed site, and the accuracy and timeliness of information it offers is not officially verified)

The Bottom Line: The New M1 Macs Are A Future Proof Investment

The fully integrated control of the M1 chip, macOS BigSur, and Mac hardware kicks off the beginning of a new era for Apple.  The venerable hardware innovator now has full control of its ability to differentiate on product, performance, price, and place. As Apple Silicon makes its way into the full line up of hardware, users can expect significant advantages over commodity and purpose built PCs.  Moreover, the announcements made at the 2020 Worldwide Developers Conference and the November 10th event bring the convergence of iOS and macOS one step closer. 

However, much work needs to be done on backward compatibility as early users and tests show a lot of broken apps to be addressed. Overall, the M1 MacBook Pro 13", Mac mini, and MacBook Air are a wise investment into the future. In conversations with the major software vendors, Constellation expects backward compatibility to improve as major software vendors  adjust and improve their offerings to support the new line up over the next 18 to 24 months.

Early adopters and Apple shops looking to modernize their computing should consider the M1 MacBook Pro 13", Mac mini, and MacBook Air in their procurement refresh cycle plans and short lists over the next 24 months. Why? This is the next era of computing for Apple and the long-term benefits will significantly outweigh the costs.

Source: Apple

Your POV

Ready for a new MacBook? Do you think the Silicon to Services strategy will succeed or fail for Apple?  Have you tried out the Mac mini? Add your comments to the blog or reach me via email: R (at) ConstellationR (dot) com or R (at) SoftwareInsider (dot) org. Please let us know if you need help with your AI and Digital Business transformation efforts. Here’s how we can assist:

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