When news first broke that Apple was planning to launch Macs with ARM-based processors that the company designed in-house, I didn’t think all of the company’s laptops and desktops would be using the same ARM chips.

But so far that seems to be the case. This week Apple introduced new iMac all-in-one desktop PCs that have the same Apple M1 processor as the Mac Mini, MacBook Air and MacBook Pro 13 the company launched last year. Apple is also bringing the very same chip to its 2021 iPad Pro tablet lineup.

Apple iMac with M1

And that means whether you pay $699 for an entry-level Mac Mini, $799 for an for an entry-level iPad Pro, or $1699 for a top-of-the-line iMac, you’re getting the same processor. It’s a good processor. It outperforms the competition in most benchmarks while consuming less power, and aside from a few app compatibility issues, it supports most macOS and iOS applications. You can even run Windows apps if you buy the latest version of Parallels.

But for years we’ve gotten used to the idea that you have to pay more for a higher-performance version of the latest Intel or AMD processors. Apple has turned that idea on its head. Now you still have to pay more if you want extra memory, storage, or a better display… and you’ll probably have to pay up front, since most of those things are soldered to the motherboard and no longer user upgradable.

But the processor? If you’re buying a Mac or iPad with Apple Silicon, there’s only one option… sort of. Apple does disable a single GPU core in some models, and if you buy a fanless device like the MacBook Air, it won’t offer quite the same level of sustained performance, but it’s still pretty fast.

I doubt this shakeup will lead to any significant change in the x86 space. AMD and Intel will likely continue cranking out a wide range of chips that sell for different price points. Heck, that’s the way ARM-based chip makers like Qualcomm, Samsung, MediaTek, and Huawei do things too. But since Apple has fewer products to maintain, the company can afford to do things differently.

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  1. I’d love to get a PinePhone + keyboard case if it had a built-in mouse too.

    Too bad I’m probably a niche user within an already niche market. I’ve seen built-in mouse questions in past updates in the Pine64 website and forum but they’ve all been completely ignored. Not even a response to acknowledge it.

  2. About the PinePhone keyboard without a mouse. How well can one run a desktop Linux distro without a mouse pointer?

    1. Surprisingly well, but it involves a lot of tweaking things before you get there. If you were to use a window manager rather than a full desktop environment, you could do most to all of your navigation with just keybindings. But I wouldn’t know what that’s like on a keyboard that small.
      Things get more complicated if you ever want to use an external monitor with your pinephone.
      Personally I think the easy way to do things without a mouse is just use desktop applications in Phosh, but that’s a personal preference.
      Or, since using a pinephone is already weird, and the keyboard case makes it pretty big to begin with, you could just carry around a small bluetooth mouse like the ones swiftpoint sells.

  3. If I were to run a desktop Linux distro as my primary use case on the PinePhone, how would the performance compare with the Pyra?

    I’ve seen the videos of some folks using the production Pyras and the performance is way too slow for what I’d like at that price. Seems like Pyra users who waited for it to ship really do have a lot of patience waiting for things.

    1. Given it’s a quad A53 that runs at ~1.2GHz and throttles quickly, it’s not a fun experience. I sometimes hook mine up to a 3840×1080 monitor and it is usable but you’ll be waiting seconds, possibly tens of seconds for web pages to load. It gets a bit better if you tell it not to throttle so early but something like watching a youtube video at 480p without dropping frames is beyond it.

  4. Does PinePhone have plans on adding a mouse pointer to their keyboard case? Is it possible to install a desktop Linux distro on the PinePhone? Something like PineBook mini?

    1. I’d get a PinePhone if they do that.

      Even Apple succumbed to user requests and added a touchpad for their iPad keyboard accessory despite iPadOS being one of the more touch friendly OS’s out there.

    2. A mouse pointer definitely would make the PinePhone an interesting “PineBook Mini”.

  5. Hmm…interesting. When cores are disabled or set to lower power points, less heat and performance hit. Whats interesting is the resale value of the lower end models as they age, because technically these modifications arent physical changes but should be reprogrammable. So…instead of the chips ending in landfills, you could silicon recycled, brought back. But by then there will probably be M2, M3, nevertheless throwing away a good processor doesnt make sense. Of course, actual product has far more parts than a single APU. Side note, they dont seem to market it as APU though, but as CPU.

    1. Also, you’d want a first stab processor to become common as chewing gum….thats how 8086 gained its name sort of…you could find it everywhere. Except M1 can set a completely new reference point.

      1. Ah forgot to mention budget airlines have been doing this for years…single models make for much easier debugging and supply chain simplification, resulting in lower cost, in theory. Of course…details & disruptions like covid matter too.

    2. Apple is not interested in reusing silicon. In fact they destroy tens of millions of perfectly working devices only to keep them away from the used market or being used as donors to fix other devices.

  6. They’ll most likely end up doing the same thing they’ve done with their phones and keeping older models with older chips alive and occasionally release a “budget” device with an older chip like they did with the SE.

  7. PinePhone keyboard prototype transforms the Linux phone into a tiny Linux laptop

    Doesn’t seem like this has a built-in mouse. If so, then a built-in mouse would have been very useful for “laptop” uses. Or at least I would have bought the PinePhone and this keyboard accessory solely to use it as a Linux UMPC with LTE instead of a phone.

    1. I would have loved this with a trackpoint — but they made good use of all the available space; not sure where they’d put it.

      I’m still probably going to grab one.

  8. Looks like Intel is getting kicked to the curb. We knew it was coming, just a matter of the timing, and Apple wasted little time.

    1. And $899 for an M1 powered 13.3 inch Macbook Air is cheaper than a $1k+ 13.3 WinTel Ultrabook.