This is my fourth CPU Architecture transition in the Apple ecosystem, from the Motorolas on the II’s and LC, through the PowerPCs in the Titanium Powerbook, Intels on the Aluminum MacBooks to the ARM M1 today.
This transition has been the smoothest by far, so much so, it’s not worth posting about. But that would overlook the incredible amount of work performed by untold thousands of people in building and testing their software to ensure this invisible transition happened.
And it would overlook the significant changes in hardware too, not just the CPU architecture, but also the move to new GPUs, screens, security chips, ports and keyboard.
On the software
First to the Apple developers who transitioned the entire Operating System and Apple Application ecosystem over, and to the teams behind them that ported the tools and kits over (never mind the hardware engineers who made it all possible).
Then there are the Open Source teams who migrated Darwin (via FreeBSD) to ARM and maintained it for decades. And the compiler folks who translated the same code for each chip. And to all the Linux developers who contributed their time and code to flesh out the ARM Unix-like underpinnings. And to the Open Source teams that ensured their applications ran well on ARM, be it database tools, programming languages, and feature libraries. And the teams that make plugins and libraries for those products, their code had to work too.
And to all of the independent and commercial developers who make amazing MacOS Apps, who spent the time ensuring their applications were available, stable and performant on the new platform.
And to all the people behind them, at work in support and testing, and at home, supporting their software dreams.
Because of your time and effort, everything I run on my new M1 MacBook Pro is Apple native. Nothing is Intel (except for one Rosetta 2 thread - which I really do not need). In the PowerPC to Intel transition, Rosetta was critical to keeping the ecosystem alive and us users productive; now, it’s just a nice to have - and not need - safety net.
On the Hardware
A few things I noted in comparing my new 2021 M1 MacBook Pro to my previous 2018 MacBook Pro:
- It’s thicker. Much closer in size to the 2009 MacBook Pro, but it feels lighter and more airy than the compressed bricks of more recent Intel models.
- Having ports back is great. But I had gotten so used to where the Thunderbolt ports were on the previous models that I still try push Thunderbolt cables into the MagSafe or HDMI slots when not looking.
- I miss the Touch Bar. Ok, that’s a lie. I do use the M1 more as a laptop instead of in clamshell with the Studio Display, and the function keys work just fine. The Touch Bar did look good though.
- Welcome back the upside-down T-cursor pad and proper key travel. The keyboard is great.
- The screen is wonderful and bright and things seem a smidge bigger and more readable to my old eyes.
- I do not notice the notch. Oh there you are. Maybe when MacBartender smartly displays its bar below the notch (love that feature).
- The battery life is … invisible to me. The Intel models all felt like they would die after 4-6 hours of coding (probably because they were so hot), this one keeps going and remains cool. Then again, it is brand new.
- I like having MagSafe again, and the power cord feels nice.
- Audio output is … new. I am getting used to it. It seems more echoey and less direct as compared to the iPad Pro and older Macs.
- I don’t miss my Windows 11 VM (yet another safety net that was not needed), but was pleasantly surprised to see C# run just fine natively.
The M1 MacBook Pro is damn fine hardware, even for a Rev 1 Apple Product. The CPU performance is just incredible for a laptop computer (so much so that Laptop recommendation sites now bypass this computer because it’s that far ahead and wins every comparison). And the Software has moved onto it without a perceivable hiccup.
I for one, am very appreciative.