Actual generation: 3. Actual architecture: M3 Technology: 3 nm Chip design: Chiplet Instruction set: Rosetta 2 x86-Emulation Virtualization: Apple Virtualization Framework
With the Apple M processors, Apple entered the CPU market for mobile devices and desktop computers at the end of 2020. Apple has been developing its own smartphone processors for many years, which are used, for example, in Apple's iPhone and iPad devices. The basis of the new Apple M processors is very similar to the Apple A smartphone processors, but the processors have been significantly strengthened in some places.
In contrast to current AMD and Intel processors, Apple uses the ARM instruction set while the classic processors use the x86-64 instruction set. The Apple M processors include models with 8 to 24 CPU cores, which consist of a hybrid structure of performance cores and smaller efficiency cores. Intel has also been using a similar concept in its Alder Lake processors since 2021. The advantage is that the processors are very economical at low loads and still have high computing power when required.
A strength of the Apple M processors, for example, is the wide memory interface, which means that the largest Apple M (Ultra) processors are connected to the faster LPDDR5-6400 RAM by using several 64-bit memory channels with memory bandwidths of up to over 800 GB/s reach. For comparison: the fastest Intel processors (Intel Core i 14000 aka Raptor Lake Refresh) in this segment support two DDR5-5600 memory channels and thus achieve around 89.6 GB/s.
The internal graphics unit of the processors also benefits from the fast memory connection, which, for example, in the largest Apple M2 Ultra (76 GPU cores) has 27 TFLOPS of computing power (FP32). Here again is a comparison to the current Intel Alder Lake H processors for notebooks: the currently fastest Intel Core i9-13900HK only has 2.2 TFLOPS. However, dedicated graphics cards such as the new Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090 achieve significantly higher values with over 82 TFLOPS.
With the Apple M3 processors, the manufacturer has significantly revised its integrated graphics. This now supports Hardware Ray Tracing and, thanks to the new Dynamic Cache, uses the devices' shared memory much more efficiently.
The current Apple M3 processors are already manufactured using a modern 3 nm process at TSMC in a chiplet design. The current AMD Ryzen processors are also manufactured by the Taiwanese contract manufacturer.