Thoughts on Macs with M1 Processors

Apple recently introduced three new Mac models that eschew the Intel processors we’ve relied upon for over a decade. The three new models are all powered by Apple’s new M1, alleged to be the most powerful chip Apple has ever produced and the first designed specifically for the Mac.

I have yet to touch an M1-powered Mac, so if you watched the 50-minute event or browsed Apple’s website recently, you probably know as much as I do.

I want one, but there are a couple of things I need to find out more about before I commit:

Boot Camp?

First and foremost, Apple’s Boot Camp, which enables Intel-powered Mac to run Windows (and other operating systems), relies upon your Mac having an Intel processor. So, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to boot into Windows on M1-powered Macs.

On the other hand, Parallels is in active development of its Parallels Desktop virtualization software that runs natively on M1 Macs (visit parallels.com for details).

The point is that if you rely on Boot Camp, Parallels Desktop, or other emulation/virtualization software to run Windows, Linux, or any other operating system on your Mac, take time to evaluate the state of emulation and virtualization software on M1-based Macs before you acquire an M1-powered Mac.

Rosetta 2?

Another thing to consider is that all Mac apps will have to be updated to run natively on M1-powered Macs. While Apple’s Rosetta 2 technology will allow most Mac apps to run on M1 Macs without updating, history suggests that some apps will run better than others under Rosetta 2 and that some apps may not work correctly.

While all of Apple’s applications have been updated to run natively on M1, if you rely on third-party apps to get things done, I urge you to confirm that those apps run properly on an M1 processor. The good news is that RoaringApps (roaringapps.com), which hosts a crowd-sourced list of apps that have been updated for M1, is a great place to start.

The bad news is that there were fewer than two dozen apps on the list when I looked (not surprising considering I wrote this column before M1-based Macs became available).

Bottom line: If you’re considering a new M1-equipped Mac this week (or month), give some thought to emulation and Rosetta 2 before you decide.

I’m Not Trying To Be Negative

I’m not trying to dissuade you from M1-equipped Macs… I just wanted to call your attention to things that may not work as expected, especially in the beginning.

That being said, I am looking forward to switching to an M1-equipped Mac so I can render Final Cut Pro timelines up to 6x faster; watch up to 20 hours of video playback without recharging; edit 4K video without dropping frames; and run iOS and iPadOS apps on my Mac for the first time.

That’s all for now; I’ll tell you more once I get my hands on one.

6 thoughts on “Thoughts on Macs with M1 Processors

  • Thanks, y’all, for the feedback. Only time will tell whether emulation/virtualization is viable (and usable) on Macs running Apple silicon. Since I rarely use such services, I’m considering ordering an M1-based Mac sooner rather than later.

  • I’m finding most of my third party apps were already up-to-date for M1 by the time my Air arrived on Tuesday.

    Since then, even more have come around. As the folks at Bjango told me, for most developers they really think this is as simple as checking “Universal” and recompiling. Case in point: CoconutBattery and TimeMachineEditor, two freeware apps, were among the first batch of updates I saw come through.

    And thus far, things have been quite smooth for me. I don’t do any Windows stuff, and the only hiccup I’ve had is with (some) Homebrew stuff. But that was easily solved by creating a separate instance of Terminal and setting that to run via Rosetta. Boom. All good.

  • Bob:
     
    This is not negative at all, but sage advice. One simply needs to holistically appreciate one’s needs, use case and the potentially risks and benefits of a decision. It is an essential part of the ‘informed’ piece to informed consent – what we should be entitled to, for example, with our social media platforms, but I digress. 
     
    Once the benchmarks and comparisons of the A12 bionic in the iPad Pros vs the MBP Intel CPUs came out, with those of the iPad beating those of the Intel in both single and multi-core comparisons, it left little doubt that the Apple Silicon – powered Macs would outperform their Intel – enabled predecessors. However, speed and power alone do not an optimal user experience make. Nor, in a product and service ecosystem as complex as Apple’s, can there be a one size fits all optimisation. That’s part of the beauty of a rich, diverse and well-resourced ecosystem; it can accommodate a broad swathe of user needs, preferably a majority, even if not every boutique aspiration. 
     
    I did set up my wife’s new M1 MBA this past Friday, and was very impressed with both the hardware and the new macOS 11.01 Big Sur. I personally like the iPadOS adaptations to macOS, as these have been field tested for productivity use cases, and most of them, being minimalist-utilitarian, work very well. Rosetta works almost seamlessly, certainly with greater fluidity and speed than did the original version for the PowerPC to Intel switch. I have yet to update my 2017 MBP to Big Sur, but see no pressing need for the moment, as two mission critical apps require Rosetta on macOS, and one of them is not yet available on iPadOS, my preferred workhouse whenever possible. 
     
    Looking forward to further macOS 11 reviews, as well as those Apple Silicon – powered iMacs. 
     

  • Since I cannot edit my previous message, here is an update:

    Craig Federighi: Native Windows on M1 Macs is ‘Really up to Microsoft’
    As for Windows running natively on the machine, “that’s really up to Microsoft,” he said. “We have the core technologies for them to do that, to run their ARM version of Windows, which in turn of course supports x86 user mode applications. But that’s a decision Microsoft has to make, to bring to license that technology for users to run on these Macs. But the Macs are certainly very capable of it.”
    https://www.macrumors.com/2020/11/20/craig-federighi-on-windows-for-m1-macs

  • Thanks for the review. Comments:

    It is good to have choices, but the problem with Parallels Desktop is that it fails when used to control external machines (using Windows applications) via USB. VMware Fusion works great for that.

    On the other hand, hackers developed XOM to run Windows on Mac, and then Apple used that to release Boot Camp. In other words, the initial hard work was done by hackers, not Apple. Now, Apple could release Boot Camp for ARM-based Apple Silicon Macs if Microsoft sells Windows for ARM to end-users (now, it is only sold to OEM). I mean, the technology is there. It is just a matter of marketing decisions. That would run Windows for ARM natively on Macs, emulating both Intel x86 32- (already available) and Intel 64-bit (beta expected from Microsoft this month) as well. That would be great!

  • Thanks for the review. Comments:

    It is good to have choices, but the problem with Parallels Desktop is that it fails when used to control external machines (using Windows applications) via USB. VMware Fusion works great for that.

    On the other hand, hackers developed XOM to run Windows on Mac, and then Apple used that to release Boot Camp. In other words, the initial hard work was done by hackers, not Apple. Now, Apple could release Boot Camp for ARM-based Apple Silicon Macs if Microsoft sells Windows for ARM to end-users (now, it is only sold to OEM). I mean, the technology is there. It is just a matter of marketing decisions. That would run Windows for ARM natively on Macs, emulating both Intel x86 32- (already available) and 64-bit (beta expected from Microsoft this month) as well.

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