Introducing the new, Apple silicon powered M1 macOS larger runner for GitHub Actions

Today, GitHub is releasing a public beta for the new, Apple silicon powered M1 macOS larger runner for GitHub Actions.

Apple silicon powered M1 macOS larger runners

Apple developers require the latest chipset to take advantage of features in the latest versions of iOS and macOS. They also want increased performance by leveraging the on-chip GPU capabilities of the M1 processor. The M1 macOS runner comes with GPU hardware acceleration enabled by default. Workloads are transferred from the CPU to the GPU for improved performance and efficiency. The runner is equipped with a 6-core CPU, 8-core GPU, 14 GB of RAM, and 14 GB of storage. It can reduce build times by up to 80% compared to the existing 3-core Intel standard runner, and up to 43% compared to the existing 12-core Intel runner.

How GitHub uses the M1 runner to build GitHub mobile for iOS

The GitHub mobile iOS team leverages the new M1 runner for 10k+ minutes to deliver updates of the GitHub iOS app to the Apple App Store every week.

The transition from the 12-core Intel runner to the M1 runner resulted in a 44% build time improvement, from 42 minutes to 23 minutes. While the time spent testing the binary remained constant for single target runs, code compilation improved by 51%, along with UI tests improving by 55% across the entire GitHub mobile test suite.

The transition to the M1 runner was seamless, with updating the YAML workflow label being the only requirement to access it. However, due to differences in UI rendering between M1 Macs and Intel Macs, the team had to re-record images for snapshot tests, which compare new UI images with recorded reference images on a pixel-by-pixel basis. The M1 runner has proven to be advantageous for iOS teams, as it provides access to the VMs GPU and speeds up the App Store review process. Faster approval and publishing of apps can be achieved, which reduces the time spent on submitting to the Apple app store.

How to use the runner

To try the new Apple silicon macOS larger runner, update the runs-on: key in your GitHub Actions YAML workflow YAML file to target macos-latest-xlarge or macos-13-xlarge. The 12-core macOS larger runner is moving from xlarge to large, and is still available by updating the runs-on: key to macos-latest-large, macos-12-large, or macos-13-large. There is no sign-up required for the beta and the runner is immediately available to all developers, teams, and enterprises.

Screenshot of updating the `runs-on` key in the GitHub Actions YAML workflow YAML file to target `macos-latest-xlarge` or `macos-13-xlarge` and use the new runner.

New macOS runner pricing

As part of GitHub’s continued commitment to deliver the best developer experience we are excited to share with you that we will be decreasing the price of our macOS larger runners. We understand the importance of achieving both cost-efficiency and high performance and this price decrease reflects our dedication to supporting your success. With today’s launch, our macOS larger runners will be priced at $0.16/minute for XL and $0.12/minute for large.

To learn more about runner per job minute pricing, check out the docs. Additionally, if you’re interested in using larger macOS runners and understanding the difference between them and larger Linux and Windows runners, you can find more details in the “About larger runners” section of our documentation.

What’s next?

You can track progress towards the general availability of macOS larger runners by following this roadmap item. Also, macOS 14 will be available this year, and you can use this roadmap item to track progress towards it. To stay updated with the latest GitHub Actions updates, keep an eye on the GitHub blog.