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Definition: ARM Mac

An ARM-based Mac computer. In late 2020, Apple began switching its Mac hardware from Intel x86 CPUs to Apple's ARM-based M1 CPUs. The first models were the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro. In 2021, a new M1-based iMac debuted.

Because iPhones and iPads are ARM based, switching the Mac to ARM chips enables development on one platform across Apple's entire line. Since its inception, the Mac family has embraced four hardware platforms (see table below).

The M1 System-on-Chip (SoC)
Apple's ARM-based SoC is the M1, which is a RISC design rather than the Intel CISC architecture. RISC circuits use less complex instructions, run cooler and thus save battery, which is why ARM is used in every smartphone and most tablets. See RISC.

The M1 contains an 8-core CPU for primary program execution (four performance and four efficiency cores), seven or eight GPU cores for graphics rendering and a 16-core neural engine for AI processing. The ARM Macs contain an emulation layer that runs Intel Mac applications even faster than on Intel CPUs (see Rosetta). See SoC, performance core and x86.

   Year    CPU Hardware

   2020    ARM       (see ARM)

   2006    Intel x86 (see Intel Mac)

   1994    PowerPC   (see PowerPC)

   1984    Motorola  (see 68000)