When we published our extensive two-part review of the M1-powered Mac mini last spring with a particular CAD/3D focus, we ended by saying that “Apple’s Firestorm cores in the M1 are unmatched. Where the M1 falls down is in multi-core performance.”
Fixing the Multi-Core Issue
I don’t want readers to misunderstand that last sentence, however. The M1 is an incredibly powerful chip for its cost and it divides its 8 CPU cores into 4 Firestorm and 4 Ice-Storm cores. Balanced symmetrically between performance and energy efficiency, the M1 made sense for the types of Mac computers Apple had targetted the chip for.
Now with the MacBook Pro, Apple is thinking that pro users are going to bias workflows that put slightly more emphasis on powerful time-saving functionality over battery life. The new MacBook Pros still get incredibly battery life, but these machines are for power users. Where the M1 MacBook Air is ideal for say a journalist or author in a remote location who needs to get a lot of writing done and needs maximum battery-life, the M1 Pro or M1 Max-based MacBook Pro is for the film editor, architect, 3D animator, or coder who needs to get work done faster even when unplugged.
Apple has rebalanced things. The M1 Pro and M1 Max feature 10 cores and 8 of them are Firestorm cores, while only 2 of them are Ice Storm cores. The result is these new MacBook Pros deliver double the number of Firestorm cores (8) and that makes a big impact on multi-core workloads like 3D rendering workflows, film editing workflows, science and engineering workflows, and 3D CAD/BIM workflows in AEC where more processing these days is multi-threaded. In short, Apple has totally fixed the multi-core issue, giving pro users whose apps use more “multithreaded” the power they really want.