Apple’s M-Series Mac Roadmap Leaks

Posted on December 8, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Apple, Mac and macOS with 27 Comments

A report citing multiple sources says that Apple’s next-generation M-series Mac chips are due in 2021 and could outperform Intel’s fastest microprocessors.

The report, in Bloomberg, notes that the new chips will improve on today’s M1 chipset, which targets low-end Macs like the Mac Mini, MacBook Air, and entry-level MacBook Pro. That chipset features 8 CPU cores, split evenly between high-performance and efficiency cores. But the new chips will be much more ambitious, Bloomberg claims.

There will be two new M-series chips in 2021, according to this report.

The first will feature 16 high-performance cores, four times the number in the M1, and four efficiency cores and will target next-generation MacBook Pro and iMac models. (It may ship with as few as 8 or 12 high-performance CPU cores based on fabrication success.)

The second, planned for late 2021 and aimed at the Mac Pro, will feature as many as 32 high-performance cores. That Mac Pro will be half the size of today’s version, Bloomberg says, and may not arrive until early 2022, when Apple is expected to complete its transition away from Intel-based Macs.

Apple will also improve the graphics subsystem in these future M-series chipsets, though Bloomberg is a bit vaguer on this topic. Where the M1 offers 8 integrated GPU cores, future M-series chips that target higher-end Macs could ship with 16-core and 32-core graphics parts, it says, plus “pricier graphics upgrades with 64 and 128 dedicated cores aimed at its highest-end machines” that may ship by 2022.

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Comments (30)

30 responses to “Apple’s M-Series Mac Roadmap Leaks”

  1. Chris_Kez

    Ah boy, things are going to get interesting.

  2. angusmatheson

    I remember the dark years of the MacBook Pro when they didn’t anything new for years then released that disaster with the MacBook Pro with the terrible butterfly keyboard.

  3. sammyg

    Personally if I were Microsoft and its PC vendors I would be seriously worried. There is a rumor that AMD is trying to bring back the K12, an ARM SOC they messed with in 2018 but abandoned, but even if they do it is probably too late. Apple's might, size and mountains of money, is just a huge advantage.

    If these early (M1) performance reviews are an indication of how the M1X, M2, M3 will scale and perform then Apple is running away from WinTel and it will drastically change the desktop computing landscape.

    Once Adobe fully gets behind the M Series chips (2021), you will see mass defection of video professionals on the PC. Especially if they can buy some 4K base model Mac Pro that is blowing away their current 5-10K WinTel box today. If AVID and DaVanci jump on board as over for that industry from the little guy to Hollywood.

    All those game makers on iOS that know Apple's Metal API' have much more powerful platforms to move those games too. Could Apple make a gaming console two years from now? Or a gaming centric Apple TV to rival the PS5 and XSX? They have the store all ready and lots and lots of customers.

    Honestly this is the biggest news in the desktop computing industry in the last 25 years.

    • aways987

      In reply to sammyg:

      I'm a long time Windows user and I ordered my first Mac, an M1 mini yesterday. If I like it I will replace my Windows laptop when the 16 inch MBP comes out. What should really worry PC vendors is the entry level Macbook Air will cater for 99% of users needs.

      • toukale

        In reply to aways987:

        Agreed. What should worry the pc industry the most is the rumor that Apple is working on a lower cost Mac they will introduce in 2022, something similar to the iPhone SE but for the Mac. If Apple were to introduce an SE like Macbook Air for $600 then game will be over. The pc industry oem's are barely surviving as is, if Apple were to enter that part of the market with a price point like this with the performance of an M1? Can you imagine, how will those oem's make any money at all. Microsoft have nothing to worry about, they've already pivoted to the cloud but Intel and the rest of those pc oem's would be in deep trouble.

        • aways987

          In reply to toukale:

          Exactly the Apple line up has some strong value proposition.

          An iPhone SE has a better processor than some flagship Android phones. The entry level iPad does a better job than any non-Apple tablet.

          It's crazy to think that AMD and Intel double down on x86 when both have tinkered with their own ARM chips and it was clearly the future.

  4. glenn8878

    I’m more curious about the M2.

    • Paul Thurrott

      I'm holding out for the M3! :D
      • michael_babiuk

        In reply to paul-thurrott: Based upon my traditional 5 year Mac update cycle, the M3 class of machines will fall within that chipset's timeline introduction. In all seriousness, that will be when I update and the M3 class chipset should be manufactured with 3 nanometer fabrication processes. Imagine how many billions of transistors those chips will have?! The mind simply boggles.
        Can't wait to play MS Solitaire on it. Those cards should really fly off the screen after a completed game! Grin.
  5. scovious

    Wouldn't this leak imply that Apple is not going to have dedicated GPU silicon in their Mac Pro system? That would mean that upgrading a future Mac Pro desktop computer will only include adding RAM and afterburner cards, unless the owner wants to re-purchase their entire processor and graphics unit, and hope it will slot in?

    Apple abandoned their Mac Pro 2013 by never releasing a single upgrade for it, making ram upgrades the only choice for owners. Apple now chooses to abandon intel and therefore current and future third party GPU support in their upcoming Mac Pro line, and based on those decisions you would expect that Apple will not update, or release any meaningful upgrades for their intel based Mac Pro, except for what people can plug in from AMD until Apple sunsets the pricey desktop like the cylinder before it.

    Who trusts a company that treats its pro level customers like that?

    • Greg Green

      In reply to scovious:

      So far on their first try M1’s can compete surprisingly well in some areas with Mac Pros. In other areas the M1 clearly loses bigly, but it’s a $700 Mac mini vs a $4000 Mac Pro. The fact that the M1 can even come close to competing is amazing. And it’s doing it with about 20w vs 200-300 watts..

      i suspect apple knows what they’re doing with graphics as well as the core cpu.

    • sammyg

      In reply to scovious:

      Actually Apple brought the Mac Pro back, in a tower a few years ago....replacing the 2013 Trashcan that was sold through 2017?

    • bkkcanuck

      In reply to scovious:

      The leak does not imply anything other than the performance... It does not say how it will be implemented (on package or discrete graphics component). Personally, I care about expandability if I were in the market for a new Mac Pro (I don't need that level now) -- but if it had built in graphics that were all on one package and gave me multiple times more performance than I would get as a discrete GPU.... I would buy the box with the built in graphics... I think most would...

      • wright_is

        In reply to bkkcanuck:

        Except that the proposed Apple Silicon GPU is about 3,000 cores behind a high-end discrete card...

        • michael_babiuk

          In reply to wright_is: Would that core count discrepancy make a bit of difference in the real world? With just 8 GPU cores, the M1 "entry level" Macs have already demonstrated amazing graphical superiority (In Photoshop and Final Cut Pro X optimized M1 Mac apps) over the vast majority of Intel "Pro Class" machines. Think what the first generation MX class Mac Pro machines could accomplish with all those extra GPU cores?

        • bkkcanuck

          In reply to wright_is:

          I am not going to pretend to understand the minutia of it, but from what I understand the 3,000+ cores are more of a marketting term in they equate a lot of indivisible computing units (many of those would make up an equivalent to a core by another manufacturing). I believe the most comparable number would be the number of 'streaming multiprocessors' [of which there are 82 on the 3090]. Additionally, the underlying design of the GPU on the Mac (and I believe on what Intel is working on) is a tile-based renderer - while the existing discrete GPUs by AMD and nVidia are intermediate-mode (which affected differently by memory bandwidth and size - tile based being much more efficient but with some potential weaknesses [assuming they have not been worked out]). Sufficient to say the underlying design will be considerably different. As for amount of performance improvement necessary to reach the 3080.... I am guessing maybe 8 times more performant would be sufficient (not sure about ray tracing with a pure Tile based render though). Take this with a grain of salt (maybe a big one), the Geekbench 'Metal' score for compute is around: 75,000 for the AMD Radeon Pro 5700XT so I am guessing the AMD Radeon 6800XT would be around double that - so maybe a guestimate of 150,000 and that tends to be compareable to an nVidia 3080 (maybe 160,000 if they had metal drivers). The metal score of the M1 is around the AMD Radeon Pro 5300M -- around 23,000... The rumoured top target of the Apple GPU is 128 cores from the existing 8 cores on the M1 (which makes me suspicious that it might be on a different chip even if it is put on a common package with the CPU).

    • nbplopes

      In reply to scovious:

      “Pro’s” usually upgrade every 3-5 years. More so the ones that actually use the super high end machines. Pro’s that go for the highest end machines go for their performance not longevity. Because their needs usually surpass the ability of the machine.

      Now, if the Apple comes up with a 16 core laptop and another 16 Core iMac (with higher clock speed), Pro’s that need the performance will jump on board and don’t look back if the M1 is any indication of what will come.

      Even AMD recent moves will stand a chance in this context ... I believe.

      Will see.

      PS: Apple will support Intel until the last Intel Mac is turned into legacy. Usually Mac get the latest OS for 7 years and then a 3 more years after that where its hardware is still supported by Apple. So, it’s about 10 years in total. So count on Apple fully supporting Intel Mac at least till 2031.

      Yes, ignorance cannot be trusted.

      • angusmatheson

        In reply to nbplopes:

        i have and old PowerPC Mac in a closet. It breaks my heart to think of all the intel macs being abandoned like that. 2031 I could live with. I fear it will be sooner.

      • bkkcanuck

        In reply to nbplopes:

        The last transition the previous hardware was 'supported' for 7 years (until obsolete), but OS upgrades stopped after a two versions (release cycle around 2 years for a total of 4 years). That last PowerPC version was then supported for around 3.5 years. Each version of macOS is typically supported between 2 and 4 years (depending on release). I expect the same - maybe 3 more Intel macOS releases, then that last one supported until that last Intel Mac becomes obsolete (4ish years). A lot of professionals don't upgrade their macOS versions to the newest since they don't need the new bells and whistles they just need there applications to continue to run stably...

        • nbplopes

          In reply to bkkcanuck:

          True. But people tend to compare with the previous transition with an erroneous mindset IMHO. Apple was in a completely different position back than. It had less than 3% market share, ... Apple was reaching a vanish point. Further more the users back than were far less demanding than today.

          This time the scale of the problem has little to compare with, not even with the previous transition. Hence certain things will be different ...

          PS: Actually they already are. Rosetta 2 is far more effective and efficient than Rosetta 1 one .. why? Precisely because of the scale that it needs to cope with. Heck, one can ear reports of Intel apps translated to M1 running faster than in native Intel hardware. That was never the case with Rosetta 1 because it didn’t need to deal with the same scale. Moving a couple of million along the transition path is “easy”, now moving hundreds of millions ... its completely different thing ... and they will cope with it.

          Terrific engineering team this company has. In software as well as hardware.

  6. harmjr

    So here is a when Hell Freezes Over thought could Apple start selling M1 chips to PC makes....

  7. brettscoast

    wow this takes this to a whole new level, over to you Intel.

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