Apple M1 DTK reviews roundup

The Apple Mac with the company’s M1 chip has now been in the hands of developers for several months, and software is increasingly being ported to the new hardware. So how’s that going?

Apple offered developers a preview of its new M1 silicon in the form of a Developer Transition Kit (“DTK”) that included a developer unit along with tech support from Apple. These systems were prototype ARM-based Mac computers running on Apple’s A12Z Bionic chip first used in the iPad Pro in 2020, and outfitted with 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD, 802.11ac WiFi, GbE, BT 5.0, dual USB-C ports, dual USB-A ports, and an HDMI 2.0 port.

Apple’s M1 Developer Transition Kit
(click image to enlarge)

As the Apple Mac M1 hardware has emerged, native apps that take advantage of the new M1 design’s performance enhancements have begun to arrive. Developers — from web to embedded — have begun migrating to the new machines, and are starting to weigh in on the viability of moving completely to an M1-powered software development environment.

Late last month, Open Source devs got in on the act, began getting code up and running on the M1 hardware, and interestingly, a dev team at Corellium released a Linux port that’s reportedly “completely usable” on the M1 Mac Mini. In an exclusive interview with ZDNet’s Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, Linux creator Linus Torvalds explains why, while he’d love to have a new M1-powered laptop, getting Linux to run well on it isn’t worth the trouble.”

Below are half a dozen other developer experiences, so far, based on working with Apple’s M1 DTK…

  • One week with Xcode on a Mac M1 — Mobile apps developer Mats Bauer writes, “The M1 is excellent. It works fluently with the new OS Big Sur.” However, while noting the affordability of the newer M1 units, Bauer concludes that he’s not yet ready to part with his original development machine, or have to deal with “creating workarounds to M1 problems every day”

  • The M1 Mac — Is it worth it for devs? — Software engineer Alexandru-Dan Pop says, “I didn’t choose the M1 Mac Mini as a mainly daily driver — yet — until docker will be fully supported. I’ll use it for frontend workflows that involve running a bunch of the node.js tasks + mock APIs + continuously running tests in the background.” He adds, “Running the native arm node.js on this machine is extremely performant. Can say for some frontend builds I was getting ~60% speed increases from my 2y old Dell XPS 15.”

  • Programming on the Apple M1 Silicon — Wouter Groeneveld asks, “Is early adoption a good idea as a software developer?” The answer is yes. Wouter discloses that in his daily software “about 50% of them are running under Rosetta. It is impressive nonetheless: it is seamless and still very fast — except if you’re a Java developer and somehow have to support JavaFX.” Additionally, he lays out all the M1 chip’s “awesome perks.”

  • Is M1 Mac Worthy or Good for Developers? — This early assessment of using the M1 Mac for software development concluded: “The transition is definitely one of the best. I simply set up this new laptop from my old one back-up and everything felt like my old laptop in a new system. This is down to configuration files, scripts, packages and languages installed, etc. It pretty much just worked!” The developer is software, web apps, and R&D focused.

  • I’ll send my M1 Apple back. It’s not ready yet — Not everyone is a fan, yet. Engineer and scientist Tom Clark found the M1 Mac experience problematic, detailing numerous software development compatibility issues, along with 6 days lost in setting up his workflows. Tom reports that the new machine is “utterly, blisteringly fast and incredibly smooth” when it does work, but the workarounds and long list of incompatibilities between software packages were the deal breaker.

  • Is Apple Silicon M1 Ready for Developers? — In a nine-minute YouTube Video (below), Noah Rubin sets the mood with music as he walks developers through the new M1 silicon hardware and how it works for web development environments. is also maintaining a list of apps that reportedly support Apple Silicon. Developers are invited to contribute to the list.

Apple has asked developers to return the Developer Transition Kits by the end of March 2021, in return for a $500 credit in the Apple store.

Happy Developing!