After the success of its new M1-based MacBooks and Mac Mini, for 2021 it appears Apple is hoping to follow its early success with a new line of even faster homegrown chips that could challenge the performance of Intel chips on both laptop and desktop.
According to a new report from Bloomberg, Apple’s 2021 roadmap includes two new lines of custom chips intended for use in new versions of the MacBook Pro (most likely the 16-inch MBP), entry-level and high-end iMacs, and even a new Mac Pro desktop.
While its possible that some of Apple’s more ambitious processors could get held back until 2022, according to people familiar with the matter who spoke to Bloomberg, Apple has its target set on chips designs featuring up to 16 performance cores plus four efficiency cores slated for use in future MacBooks and iMacs. Depending on yields, this would potentially give Apple the flexibility to release next-gen Apple chips with only eight or 12 high-performance cores enabled earlier in the year (possibly as soon as the spring), while saving higher performance laptop chips and desktops chips—featuring up to 32 performance cores—for a fall debut. The M1 currently available uses seven to eight cores depending on which device you get with only four devoted to high performance. This means these new chips would have twice as many high-performance cores at minimum.
One important consideration is that for high-end desktops, Apple would most likely want to include (or at least provide the option) for a more powerful discrete graphics solution, which according to Bloomberg could initially be available in either 16 or 32-core variations. Then, in either late 2021 or early 2022, Bloomberg claims Apple could release 64 or 128-core graphics solutions designed to significantly outperform the AMD GPUs used in current Intel-based Macs.
For all the Mac fans out there who remember a time when Apple made affordable desktops for regular people, this timeline could be especially notable as Bloomberg mentioned that alongside new iMacs, Apple is also working on a “half-sized” Mac Pro featuring a 32-core Apple processor intended for release in late 2021 or sometime in 2022. While it may be a bit too early to start saving up now, this half-size Mac Pro could present a real sweet spot between a more entry-level desktop like the Mac Mini and much more expensive systems like the Mac Pro, which starts at a whopping $6,000.
Also, while Bloomberg’s piece routinely mentions that Apple is hoping to develop a slate of chips that can outperform competing Intel CPUs in both laptops and desktops, we also have to assume that Apple has AMD in its sights as well now that AMD has largely surpassed Intel in performance with its latest line of Ryzen processors like the Ryzen 9 5950X.
For Apple, even if the company isn’t able to hit all of its planned timelines, this reported roadmap indicate Apple is going to be very aggressive in its transition away from Intel-based chips to homegrown silicon. And if these new chips are anything like the M1 chip used in the first-wave of Apple-powered Macs and MacBooks, Apple could have a very impressive lineup of custom-designed silicon on its hands.