Apple Silicon M1’s biggest surprise? Insane battery life

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Apple M1 battery life
Apple's new M1 chip offers massive battery life improvements.
Photo: Apple

Apple Silicon was widely expected to be fast, but perhaps the biggest surprise of the new M1 chip is the insane battery life it enables.

During Tuesday’s “One More Thing” keynote, Apple touted some truly eye-popping battery life numbers. While we expected improved battery life from the new MacBooks, the numbers Apple released surpassed expectations.

The new ‌MacBook Air‌, for example, can run for up to 15 hours while browsing the web wirelessly. It will run for up to 18 hours while playing videos.

Compare this to the previous Air, which lasted for 11 hours when web browsing and 12 hours when watching movies.

That’s up to an extra six hours of battery life — almost a full working day.

What about the MacBook Pro?

The battery life in the new ‌MacBook Pro‌ is even better.

The new MacBook Pro’s battery will run for up to 17 hours when web browsing and up to 20 hours when playing video. The previous-generation ‌MacBook Pro‌ ran for up to 10 hours when browsing the web and up to 10 hours when watching movies. That’s an improvement of 7 hours and 10 hours, respectively.

According to Apple, the improvements are the “longest battery life ever in a Mac.”

“The battery is generally more time than I spend awake in a day,” Conor Russomanno, a neurotechnologist and one of Apple’s early testers, said in a promotional video played during the event.

While the Air features a 49.9 WHr battery, and the Pro comes with a 58.2 WHr battery, both machines are powered by Apple’s new M1 chip, the first Apple Silicon CPU.

The secret? High-efficiency cores

The extra battery life is achieved largely by the M1’s four high-efficiency cores. These four cores are roughly equivalent in performance to an older dual-core ‌Intel MacBook Air‌, but operate at much lower power. These four cores run simple, low-performance tasks like browsing the web or writing email.

When the user engages in more intensive tasks, like building a 3D model or editing video, the M1 engages its four high-performance cores for to boost the power. According to Apple, the M1 boasts up to 3.5x faster CPU, 6x faster GPU, and 15x faster machine learning.

The upsell

While Apple’s event featured a lot of technical info about the new chips, battery life is an easy-to-understand metric for most consumers — and a big factor in buying decisions. Almost doubling battery life should be an easy sell.

“Advancements of this magnitude only come from making bold changes,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook at the conclusion of the event.