Apple’s second generation of custom ARM processors have reportedly entered mass production, reports Nikkei Asia. Sources familiar with the matter told the publication we could see MacBooks with the new chip start shipping as early as July this year. Rumours that next-gen MacBooks will go on sale later this year have been swirling for months, and the launch of M2 Macs could also officially rotate out any remaining Intel-based Macs in Apple’s product line-up this year, though Apple pegged that timeline to 2022.
Tentatively dubbed the “M2,” although some are calling it the “M1X” as well, Apple’s next processor is expected to be another system-on-chip (SoC), with the CPU, GPU, and RAM integrated onto the same board. The 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros are rumoured to be the first Apple computers to get the next-gen processor. Apple’s current-gen M1 processor powers the 13-inch MacBook Pro and MacBook Air, the Mac Mini, and the new 24-inch iMac and 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pros.
There were rumours about a 12-core SoC being used for the new iMacs, but Apple announced the desktop would get the same M1 processor as all the other devices. The dream of a 12-core CPU with double the amount of graphics power isn’t totally dead though, and if Apple’s next-gen chips are already in production, we could be getting a chip with 12 cores after all.
Instead of four performance cores and four efficiency cores — known as a big.LITTLE design in ARM CPU architecture — the next Apple chip is rumoured to have eight performance cores and four efficiency cores. Additionally, the GPU could have 16 cores instead of eight, and 256 EUs (execution units) instead of the 128 in the M1.
The M2 could be on the same 5nm transistor node as the M1 too, although some are pointing to a 4nm node; TSMC, the chip foundry that makes Apple’s CPUs, is on track to deliver a 4mn and 3mn node sometime in 2022, so it seems more likely the M2 will be on the 5mn node given the production timeline Nikkei is reporting.
If you haven’t yet bought a shiny new M1 MacBook, it might be worth waiting a few months longer when Apple does reveal the specs of its M2 processor (possibly at its Worldwide Developers Conference keynote June 7). The core configuration could put it on par with some Intel or AMD desktop processors, and the integrated graphics performance could be better than Intel’s Iris Xe graphics, which currently is the best integrated GPU out there; As it stands now, the GPU in the M1 isn’t far behind Intel’s Iris Xe.