Apple unveils its own M1 chip, replacing Intel in new MacBook Air, Macbook Pro and Mac Mini

Apple CEO Tim Cook in the M1 keynote livestream.
Apple CEO Tim Cook in the M1 keynote livestream. Photo credit: Apple

Apple has unveiled its first Macs powered by the M1 chip, the company's own custom silicon that will replace Intel chips.

The new chips will be used in the new MacBook Air laptop, 13-inch MacBook Pro laptop and Mac Mini desktop computer that were revealed at a virtual event Apple streamed on Wednesday morning called 'One More Thing'.

The ARM-based M1 chip is based on the A14 Bionic, the technology that powers the latest iPhones and iPads. It has 8 cores - 4 high performance cores and 4 power efficient cores - along with an 8 core GPU.

Apple claims the chip offers the best performance per watt of any CPU in the world and makes the new MacBook Air faster than "98 percent of PC laptops sold in the last year", although it didn't state the specs of any PC it was referring to.

Other bold but sometimes vague claims were made about the immense power of the M1 chip - but it won't be long until they can be independently benchmark-tested against competitors as the new Macs start shipping next week.

In New Zealand, they'll be priced as follows: 

  • MacBook Air starts from NZ$1749
  • 13-inch MacBook Pro starts from NZ$2299
  • Mac mini starts from NZ$1199

Apple also announced its latest operating system, macOS Big Sur, which will support both M1 and Intel processors and be released on November 12.

2020 Gold MacBook Air with M1 chip.
The new MacBook Air. Photo credit: Apple / Getty

Big Sur boasts updates like a revamped, customisable Control Center, a re-organised Notifications Center and improvements to Maps, Safari and Messages.

A problem with other ARM-based laptops is their incompatibility with existing apps, but Apple's livestream featured several developers talking about how easy it was to transition their apps thanks to innovations by Apple.

"The introduction of three new Macs featuring Apple's breakthrough M1 chip represents a bold change that was years in the making, and marks a truly historic day for the Mac and for Apple," the company's CEO Tim Cook said.

"M1 is by far the most powerful chip we've ever created, and combined with Big Sur, delivers mind-blowing performance, extraordinary battery life, and access to more software and apps than ever before.

"We can't wait for our customers to experience this new generation of Mac, and we have no doubt it will help them continue to change the world."

'One More Thing' follows two other virtual keynotes by Apple in recent months, one unveiling the iPhone 12 range and the other focussing on the latest iPads and Apple Watches.

The new MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro and Mac mini with M1 are available to pre-order today and begin arriving to customers and Apple resellers starting next week.