What Apple just announced is definitely fascinating. There is tons to unpack here, but let me just put my thoughts together from the point of view of ex Adobe demo artist who had to run Unreal on a laptop in front of corporate clients.
Running heavy 3D software on notebook (such as Unreal or Substance Painter with something actually in viewport) has so far meant immediately finding outlet and plugging kilograms worth of power brick to outlet. That, or letting the performance die. I can’t stress how huge difference there has been on either plugged or unplugged. To put it simply, without a plug, no 3D, period.
I am quite happy with my 17 inch Zephyrus with 32gigs of memory and a 2080. This works well, as long as it is plugged, and if I set the performance profile to quiet it is also decent quiet, not bad at all. Can also run games in silent mode decently enough. But compiling shaders in Unreal engine is painfully slow when comparing to my AMD tower. If I was to travel and needing to answer to a client work, this would be near undoable, as average shader compile of a new project can take 3X as long as it does on my desktop, the computer being unusable at that time.
Same goes with my 2019 Macbook Pro, by the way, or make that 4X the wait. If Mac would do the same job on battery power, this would be fantastic.
The unified memory is fascinating as well, if Substance Painter got optimization to take advantage of the shared GPU memory, this could potentially challenge RTX3090 machine. I don’t know how feasible this is, but I am a dreamer.
However. At this point it is hard to say how useful the new Mac would be for someone running Substance or Unreal. Unreal key features such as ray tracing support or nanite do require NVidia graphics card which are non-existent at the moment for Apple. I would doubt there will be a workaround for this anytime soon.
No matter how attractive the Apple system is, this would be the deal breaker for me – so many workflows are tied CUDA or Nvidia Raytracing. Also add to this the missing software on Mac. And there is for example the Delighting feature of Substance Sampler.
Cinema 4D and recently Redshift are fascinating though which both run reportedly well on M1. Having Unreal run natively on M1 with Raytracing and Nanite, that would be very interesting.