KEY POINTS

  • Apple recently launched three new Mac models all powered by Apple's new M1 chip
  • One of the models come with a 7-core GPU while others have an 8-core GPU
  • The reason for this is what is called “chip binning,” a report says

Apple surprised the world when it recently announced three new Mac models. The three new devices – a 13-inch MacBook Pro, 13-inch MacBook Air and a Mac mini – are all powered by its new in-house silicon called the M1 chip, signaling Apple’s departure from long-time processor supplier, Intel.

The Cupertino tech giant proudly claims that all three Mac models are significantly more powerful than their predecessors, offer faster processing and provide better graphics performance despite having less maximum RAM compared to models that were powered by Intel’s chips.

All three devices feature an M1 chip that has an 8-core CPU, an 8-core GPU and 8GB of what Apple calls “unified memory.” All of them seem to be on par with each other save for one model: the base MacBook Air.

What’s with the base MacBook Air?

It’s interesting to note that while all the new Mac models have 8-core GPUs, the base MacBook Air with M1 chip only has a 7-core GPU. Apple’s online store indicates that the higher-end MacBook Air has an 8-core GPU as well.

So, why did the company create a model with a graphics processing unit that only has seven cores? 9To5Mac has an excellent explanation for this. According to the tech outlet, the reason for this is what is called “chip binning.”

Chip fabrication processes normally tend to become more challenging the smaller they get. Producing 5nm chips, for example, will be more difficult compared to producing 7nm chips.

Manufacturing chips at a “nanometer level of precision” means higher levels of “contamination,” the outlet noted. Thus, what chip makers do is “aim for a particular spec, then separate out those chips which fall short, and sell those as a lower-spec version.” These chips are placed in a different bin, hence “chip binning.”

The 7-core GPU chips used in the base MacBook Air aren’t intentionally produced, the outlet noted. Rather, Apple took the 8-core GPU chips that suffered from a little bit of damage during production and placed them in the new base MacBook Air.

It’s worth noting that these chips actually have eight cores, but only seven of them are working properly. They’re cheaper than those with eight properly functioning cores, and they work nonetheless.

MacBook Air MacBook Air Photo: Pixabay