Citing sources close to Apple, a new report in Bloomberg outlines Apple’s roadmap for moving the entire Mac lineup to the company’s own custom-designed silicon, including both planned release windows for specific products and estimations as to how many performance CPU cores those products will have.
The M1, which has four performance cores (alongside four efficiency cores), launched this fall in the company’s lowest-end computers—namely, the MacBook Air and comparatively low-cost variants of the Mac mini and 13-inch MacBook Pro. These machines have less memory and fewer ports than the company’s more expensive devices. The Macs with more memory or ports, such as the 16-inch MacBook Pro, are still sold with Intel CPUs.
According to the report’s sources, Apple plans to release new Apple Silicon-based versions of the 16-inch MacBook Pro and the higher-end 13-inch MacBook Pro configurations in 2021, with the first chips appropriate for at least some of these computers arriving as early as spring, and likely all of them by fall. New iMac models that share CPU configurations with high-end MacBook Pros are also expected next year.
The Mac Pro, on the other hand, would not arrive until 2022, which is the year that Apple has said it plans to complete its silicon transition. That suggests the Mac Pro may be the last machine to make the leap.
New chips for the high-end MacBook Pro and iMac computers could have as many as 16 performance cores (the M1 has four). And the planned Mac Pro replacement could have as many as 32. The report is careful to clarify that Apple could, for one reason or another, choose to only release Macs with 8 or 12 cores at first but that the company is working on chip variants with the higher core count, in any case.Advertisement
The report reveals two other tidbits. First, a direct relative to the M1 will power new iPad Pro models due to be introduced next year, and second, the faster M1 successors for the MacBook Pro and desktop computers will also feature more GPU cores for graphics processing—specifically, 16 or 32 cores. Further, Apple is working on “pricier graphics upgrades with 64 and 128 dedicated cores aimed at its highest-end machines” for 2022 or late 2021.
Apple says it has achieved these performance improvements in part because of a newly refined unified memory architecture that allows the CPU, GPU, and other components to quickly access data in the same shared pool of fast memory without losing efficiency to moving or copying the data around.
When we interviewed Apple executives Craig Federighi, Greg Joswiak, and Johny Srouji, they claimed that the M1 is only the beginning of the performance leap for Macs based on this architecture.
They pointed to the above chart and indicated that while the M1 in the MacBook Air sits at the 10W line on that chart, the performance line continues to scale upward. Up that scale is where next year’s new chips could fall.
When Apple first announced its custom silicon shift at its developer conference earlier this year, it said it expects to complete the transition from Intel within two years—which fits with the timeline this Bloomberg report has laid out. Still, it’s important to note that delays and changes to the designs of these chips are always a possibility when looking as far out as 2022.
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