The Intel era of Mac computers is coming to an end, and for good reason. In the past five years, MacBooks and iMacs have had a harder time standing out from the competition than Apple products normally do. After all, if Macs use all of the same components that other laptops do, what sets them apart? Apple has its own software in MacOS, yes, but from a hardware perspective, there are limitations.
That’s where the T2 chip came into play. From the Touch Bar on the MacBook Pro to improved webcams and speakers on the latest iMac, the T2 chip has been the magic behind the Mac for years. It was the Apple Silicon before Apple Silicon existed — and it just might give us a preview of the future of the Mac.
The humble beginnings of Apple Silicon
As the name suggests, the T2 Security Chip is not the first of its kind. Before it came the Apple T1 chip, which was introduced with the redesigned MacBook Pro in 2016. It wasn’t talked up much, but this was the first solely Apple-designed processor to appear in a Mac, long before the company announced its switch to its own ARM-based chips. While given the humble task of security, the T1 began to allow Apple to have more control over the way its computers functioned.
The T1 was responsible for the System Management Controller, which itself handled essential Mac functions such as power management, the fans, sleep and wake, and protecting the microphone and camera. The Touch Bar, also introduced in the 2016 MacBook Pro, came under the T1’s remit as well. Interestingly, one reason for this was so that the control strip would not count as an external display and impact Intel’s limit on how many screens could be connected at once.
Another reason the T1 controlled the Touch Bar was to help it protect Touch ID and Apple Pay by embedding your key data into its Secure Enclave. This basically acted as a fortified lockbox by preventing third-party apps from seeing your fingerprint data — the T1 checked your fingerprint against the one it stored in the Secure Enclave, then notified the app of the result.
In addition to the functions covered by the T1, the T2 also handles audio management, image signal processing for the FaceTime…