Citing sources close to Apple, a new report in Bloomberg outlines Apple’s roadmap for moving the entire Mac lineup to the company’s proprietary, bespoke silicon, including both planned release windows for specific products and estimates on how much performance CPU cores products will have .
The M1, which has four performance cores (in addition to four efficiency cores), launched this fall in the company’s lowest-end computers, namely the MacBook Air and relatively inexpensive 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 more expensive 13-inch MacBook Pro configurations in 2021, with the first chips capable of at least some of these computers will arrive as early as spring, and probably all in 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, wouldn’t arrive until 2022, the year Apple has said it plans to complete the transition to silicon. 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 can 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 cautiously makes it clear that for some reason, Apple may choose to initially only release Macs with 8 or 12 cores, but that the company is working on chip variants with the higher core count anyway.
The report reveals two other tidbits. First, a direct relative to the M1 will power new iPad Pro models 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. Furthermore, Apple is working on “priceier graphics upgrades with 64 and 128 dedicated cores aimed at the very best machines” for 2022 or late 2021.
When Ars reviewed the M1 Mac mini and MacBook Air, we found that the performance was significantly better than their counterpart Macs with Intel chips.
Apple says it 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 high-speed memory without losing efficiency when moving or copying the data around.
When we interviewed Apple executives Craig Federighi, Greg Joswiak, and Johny Srouji, they claimed that the M1 is just the beginning of the performance leap for Macs based on this architecture.
Pointing to the chart above, they indicated that while the M1 in the MacBook Air is at the 10W line on that chart, the performance line continues to scale upwards. On that scale, next year’s new chips could fall.
When Apple first announced its custom silicon shift earlier this year at its developer conference, it said it expects to complete Intel’s transition within two years, which fits the timeline outlined by this Bloomberg report. Still, it’s important to note that delays and changes to the designs of these chips are always a possibility as you look to 2022.
Frame image by Lee Hutchinson