Launched in late 2020, Apple’s M1 chips revolutionized its Macs with a seismic leap in performance and battery life. Now, the company is preparing a high-end version of this chip to take things to the next level.
Dubbed the M1X, this chip could help cement Apple’s computers as the laptops and desktops to beat. But what can you expect in the M1X? How will it compare to the M1? And what kind of specs will it enable in the Macs that host it? We’ve got all that info and more in this in-depth guide. Read on to learn everything you need to know about Apple’s M1X chip.
Price and release date
After many months of speculation, we are now on the brink of seeing the M1X step into the limelight. That’s because Apple is set to hold an event on October 18, as tweeted by Apple exec Greg Joswiak, where the company will almost certainly reveal a range of new Macs powered by the M1X chip. That wasn’t far out from our estimates of October 19 or 26, although it’s unusual in that October 18 will be Apple’s first Monday event since 2019.
At the show, the M1X is expected to be revealed inside the new MacBook Pro 14 and the updated MacBook Pro 16. According to Bloomberg reporter Mark Gurman, the M1X will also find its way into a new, high-end Mac Mini, although that might not make an appearance until sometime after Apple’s October exhibition.
Despite the hype, the M1X might not actually be the reigning chip champ for long. That’s because we already know that Apple is working on its next-generation chip, the 4nm M2, which is expected to be unveiled in mid-to-late 2022 in a new MacBook Air and possibly even high-end iMac. Its 4nm process should help it outshine the M1X, which is expected to use the same 5nm process as the M1.
As for the price, that’s dictated by the devices the M1X finds itself inside. The MacBook Pro 14 is set to replace the existing MacBook Pro 13, and that starts at $1,299. The MacBook Pro 16, meanwhile, starts at $2,399. However, we have heard talk of price increases for these devices, so don’t be surprised if you have to pay a little extra for an M1X laptop.
And the Mac Mini? The M1X version is said to be a step above the current M1 model, which starts at $699. There’s no word on pricing yet, but it will probably be higher than the $899 price of the current top-end M1 edition.
Specs and performance
Let’s get straight to it: If the rumors are true, the M1X is going to perform conspicuously better than the M1. That’s thanks to its higher core count, as detailed by Mark Gurman. He posits that there are two variants of the M1X in the works, codenamed Jade C-Chop and Jade C-Die respectively.
The former will offer up eight high-performance cores, two high-efficiency cores, and 16 graphics cores. The latter will come in the same configuration, but ramp up the number of graphics cores to 32. Compare that to the M1, which has four high-performance cores, four high-efficiency cores, and eight graphics cores. It’s such a leap, in fact, that popular YouTuber Dave2D has estimated the M1X could reach Nvidia RTX 3070 (mobile) levels of graphical performance.
Jade C-Chop and Jade C-Die could represent the chips going into the MacBook Pro 14 and MacBook Pro 16 respectively. Or they could be two variants that are offered in both MacBook Pro models — a high-end and a low-end chip for each MacBook.
The former is probably the more likely scenario, however, simply because 32 graphical cores (not to mention the extra CPU cores) will draw much more power than the M1 ever did, meaning it will likely need a bigger battery and better cooling. In the larger MacBook Pro 16, that’s probably not a problem, but Apple might find it hard to squeeze everything inside the MacBook Pro 14.
As well as the core count, the onboard memory is said to get a big boost. Right now, the maximum memory you can get on an M1 chip is 16GB. While this performs way better than 16GB of standard memory — YouTube channel Max Tech showed an 8GB MacBook Air outperforming a 16GB Intel MacBook Pro in memory tests, for example — the M1’s RAM cap could still be limiting for demanding users. The good news here is that rumors have pegged the M1X as having 64GB of onboard memory.
We’d also expect Apple to update and improve the Neural Engine on the M1X. This part of the chip handles machine learning tasks, something Apple has increasingly dedicated its attention and resources to in recent years. And we’re hoping it will support more than the single external monitor that the M1 does. Recent talk has suggested the M1X will support up to three displays, so we have our fingers crossed.
There’s a counterpoint to some of these rumors, though. A leaked benchmark on CPU Monkey shows an M1X with 12 CPU cores, not 10. This page agrees with other rumors elsewhere, though, like the 64GB of memory and support for three displays. When it comes to benchmarks, the supposed M1X was neck-and-neck with the Intel Core i7-11700K in the Cinebench R23 single-core test and multi-core tests. If accurate, that’s pretty incredible for a laptop chip, but take it with a grain of salt — “leaked” Apple chip benchmarks have proven to be wrong in the past.
How long will the battery last?
A key consideration for any laptop is battery life, and Apple’s M1 MacBooks perform brilliantly here. In our reviews, the M1 MacBook Pro 13 hit well over 16 hours of light web browsing and 21 hours of video playback. The M1 MacBook Air, meanwhile, managed 15.5 hours and 18.5 hours in the same tests. That was absolutely miles ahead of Apple’s previous Intel-based MacBooks.
With numbers like those, Apple is in no hurry to improve battery longevity. Instead, it seems the company is focusing its efforts on performance. We can infer that based on the core counts we discussed earlier. If Gurman is right and the M1X gets an 8/2 split between high-performance and high-efficiency cores, that’s a very different ratio to the M1’s 4/4 split, and one that’s stacked much more in favor of the high-performance cores.
So, it seems Apple is quite happy with its current battery performance, and we can’t blame it. We’d therefore forecast the M1X to roughly maintain the M1’s phenomenal battery life, while also offering better CPU and graphics performance. Nice.
Fixing the Mac’s port weakness
As much of an upgrade the M1 was over anything Apple could previously offer, it had one major drawback. Every M1 Mac, be that the MacBook Pro or the 24-inch iMac, can only offer two Thunderbolt 3 slots. It seems that the M1 chip simply does not have the bandwidth to support anything more than that.
Well, that’s going out the window, if the rumors are to be believed. Twitter leaker Dylandkt, who has a decent track record, claimed in April 2021 that the M1X will have more Thunderbolt 3 channels than the M1, which will presumably allow it to offer more than just two high-speed Thunderbolt 3 ports.
Dylandkt’s assertion was backed up by Mark Gurman in May 2021. Gurman stated that the M1X will “enable the addition of more Thunderbolt ports,” and said it would be coming to a new high-end Mac Mini with four ports. That should mean less need for MacBook dongles and adapters, which can only be a good thing.
An M1X MacBook Air?
There’s one other M1X nugget doing the rounds, but we’re not entirely sure what to make of it. In a report that outlined much of Apple’s future chip plans, Gurman mentioned the company was working on a higher-end successor to the M1 that will be equipped in the next MacBook Air and a low-end MacBook Pro 13.
It will allegedly have the same number of cores as the M1 but will run faster, while the number of graphics cores will be bumped up from seven or eight in the current MacBook Air configurations to 10 in the new model.
This is slightly out of kilter with what we have heard since. For one thing, the next MacBook Air, expected around the middle of next year, is said to come with the next-generation M2 chip, not the M1X, and we can’t imagine Apple will bring out an M1X MacBook Air that is quickly replaced by an M2 version.
As well as that, the low-end MacBook Pro 13 is a curious claim since the totally redesigned MacBook Pro 14 is almost upon us. We suppose it’s possible that Apple will have two MacBook Pro sizes running concurrently — after all, the iPhone X launched at the same time as the iPhone 8 with its old chassis and Home button design.
But it doesn’t feel very like Apple to do such a thing. The company usually goes all in when it launches a new product format, and the iPhone X is the exception that proves the rule.
Still, we can’t rule it out entirely. Ultimately, we will probably get our answer at Apple’s October event later this month.