When Apple released the M1 chip late last year, two things were clear: Macs were much faster, and the future was incredibly bright. What we didn’t know was how Apple would handle updates now that the entry-level models were as fast as some of the Pro machines. At the time, Apple said it was developing “a family of chips” that would be unveiled as the transition continued over the next two years, and now it looks like the Mac M1s are all out, we look forward to the next walk.
The timeline is a bit clearer now. Now that Apple has updated its entire line of consumer Macs to the M1 chip in the MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro, Mac mini, and 24-inch iMac, rumors are mounting about the next round of Apple’s silicon-based Mac. . According to the latest speculation, Apple will keep pace with the A-series chips on the iPhone and iPad, but with a lot more power between generations.
Apple’s current M1 processor is based on the 5nm A14 chip, the first to arrive in the iPad Air and later in the iPhone 12. It has 4 high-performance cores with 192KB of L1 and 128 instruction cache. KB L1 data cache and 12 MB L2 shared cache and 4 energy efficient cores with 128 KB instruction cache, 64 KB L1 data cache and 4 MB shared L2 cache. That makes a total of 8 cores evenly distributed between power and efficiency, resulting in a huge increase in speed compared to previous models. The system on a chip also has an 8-core GPU in most models (the entry-level MacBook Air and the 24-inch iMac have a 7-core GPU) with 128 execution units and up to 24,576 concurrent threads.
Memory has also changed. With the M1, LP-DDR4 memory isn’t just soldered to the motherboard, it’s actually part of the chip itself. This means it’s faster and more efficient than before, but it’s also a bit more limited: you can only get 8GB or 16GB in a Mac M1 and there’s no way to put it. upgrade after purchase. (This won’t come as a surprise to MacBook buyers, but the same unfortunately applies to desktop models.) And finally, the chip has a 16-core neural engine, as well as Secure support. Enclave and USB4 / Thunderbolt.
M1X — End of 2021
We started hearing about the development of an M1X chip earlier this year, and it appears to be popping up in the redesigned 14in and 16in MacBook Pros later this year. Much like the 2018 iPad Pro’s A12X, it will be built on the same architecture as the existing M1 processor but will deliver faster overall performance.
According to CPU Monkey, which claims to have received references from the next chip, the M1X could have a 12-core processor with 10 high-performance cores and two high-efficiency cores, and a 16-core GPU with 256 execution units and a 32GB shared L2 cache and up to 64GB LPDDR4X. In a slightly different version, Mark Gurman reported slightly different M1X processor specs, with eight high-performance cores and two high-efficiency cores.
Based on what we know from previous versions of “X” this makes sense. For example, the iPhone Xs A12 was a six-core processor with two high-performance cores and four high-efficiency cores, while the A12X was an eight-core chip with four high-performance cores and four high-efficiency cores.
These specs would give Apple’s high-end M1X Macs a nice performance boost over the current crop of M1 machines. It is also said that they will support four Thunderbolt / USB 4 ports.
M2 — Beginning of 2022
Apple’s M2 chip will likely arrive in the upcoming MacBook Air, which is looking to get a complete overhaul with new colors to match the 24in iMac. According to Bloomberg, Apple’s next-generation processor “will include the same number of compute cores as the M1 but will run faster.” It’s similar to how Apple approaches upgrades to the A-series, which has six cores from the A11 processor despite significantly improved performance. As for the GPU, Bloomberg reports that the cores will drop from seven or eight to nine or 10.
We don’t yet know how the speeds compare, but based on previous chips, we can expect the M2 processor to be actually a bit slower than the M1X chip. The same limitations on USB4 / Thunderbolt and RAM will also likely remain as Apple establishes non-X chips as consumer products for users who are not as demanding.
M2X — End of 2022
According to reports, Apple is planning an even higher-end chip for the Mac Pro and possibly a larger iMac. The chip will likely have multiple performance levels, which could “come in 20 or 40 variants of compute cores, consisting of 16 high-performance cores or 32 high-performance cores and four or eight high-efficiency cores,” according to a report by Bloomberg. . The workstation-grade chip would also have 64- or 128-core graphics options, which would replace AMD GPUs in current models. These specs are comparable to those offered by Intel and AMD in their high-end chips and would challenge the fastest PCs, at least on paper.
Apple could very well call this chip the M2X, but since the Mac Pro processor would be such a big leap from the supposed chips, it will likely be separated from the pack with a whole new naming scheme. (Apple has already used the “Z” identifier on the chips to indicate improved graphics performance.) Mark Gurman has indicated that the next iMac will likely use the M1X or M2X chip in the next iMac, but it’s not clear what ‘it refers to this chip or a less powerful M2 variant.
It’s also possible that Apple may combine two M1X chips inside the Mac Pro to improve performance, a tactic it last used with the Power Mac G4 in 2001. But regardless of how Apple considering going about it, expect the new Mac Pro to bring tremendous speed that blows up today’s model and meets ultra-high computing demands. This chip and machine won’t be just for mortals, but luckily Apple has plenty in the works.
Michael Simon has covered Apple since the iPod was iWalk. His obsession with technology dates back to his first PC, the IBM Thinkpad with the pop-up keyboard to replace the reader. He’s still waiting for it to come back in tbh style.