First Apple silicon Macs likely to be MacBook rebirth, iMac with custom GPU

Posted:
in General Discussion edited September 2020
New reports from the supply chain claim that Apple is readying a MacBook as its first Apple silicon Mac, and is also going to use its own GPU in a new iMac.

Apple's discontinued MacBook may return with Apple silicon
Apple's discontinued MacBook may return with Apple silicon


First details of Apple's planned specifications for its forthcoming Apple silicon Macs have begun to emerge from sources within the supply chain. As well as details of the forthcoming MacBook, it's claimed that Apple is developing its own GPU which may first appear in an iMac to be released in the second half of 2021.

According to China Times, Apple's first machine will be a MacBook with a 12-inch Retina Display. Previous reports have said it that the first Apple silicon Mac will be a MacBook Pro.






The report claims that the new Apple silicon MacBook will run on an Apple A14X processor, which is expected to used in the next iPad Pro models.

It's possible that the reference to a MacBook instead of a MacBook Pro is generic and that the sources are simply describing any Mac laptop. However, those sources also specify that the device will have USB Type-C and weigh less than 1kg. It will provide a battery life of between 15 and 20 hours. For comparison, the current MacBook Air weighs 1.29kg and the 13-inch MacBook Pro weighs 1.4kg.

The A14X processor design has reportedly been finalized and is expected to go into mass production at TSMC, using that firm's 5nm process. It's claimed that Apple has bought TSMC's production capacity that was previously to be used by Huawei.

TSMC's 5nm process is also said to be being used for Apple's forthcoming in-house GPU. The specifics on this aren't clear, but China Times says that work is progressing smoothly. It's not clear whether all Apple silicon Macs will gain this Apple GPU, but the publication says that a revised iMac launching in the second half of 2021 will.

The current Intel-based 27-inch iMac was updated in August 2020. The 2017 12-in MacBook, however, was discontinued in July 2019, leaving the MacBook Air as the entry-level laptop. While that small MacBook was adored by many, it was also the machine that introduced the butterfly keyboard.

The butterfly keyboard on Apple's discontinued MacBook
The butterfly keyboard on Apple's discontinued MacBook


Apple ultimately replaced the butterfly keyboard with a revised scissor-mechanism which it calls the Magic Keyboard. While that new keyboard is now present across all of Apple's shipping MacBook Pro and MacBook Air models, the company has not officially said that the butterfly model will not return.

It's not clear from the China Times sources whether the expected Apple silicon MacBook will have a butterfly keyboard. However, its reduced weight suggests a thin design, which at least means it's possible the slimmer butterfly mechanism may be used.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 72
    22july201322july2013 Posts: 2,896member
    Reading all these predictions are nice, but I’d really prefer seeing a timeline diagram with AppleInsider’s estimated release dates for each family of Macs. Because this is too many words. 
    mariowincowatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 72
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 6,957member
    An in-house GPU eh?

    This is where the bun fight starts. 
    tobianchiacornchipthtchasmwatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 72
    tobiantobian Posts: 124member
    looking fwd to some nifty resonant cpu and gpu codenames :)
    cornchipwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 72
    entropysentropys Posts: 3,382member
    Will it have more than one port? And a scissor keyboard?

    those are two key questions.
    mwhitecornchip
  • Reply 5 of 72
    jdb8167jdb8167 Posts: 624member
    Apple has already stated for the record that they are going to use their own GPU. Why is this written as speculation?

    They have also stated that they are designing Mac specific SoCs. So no, it won’t be an A14X. Though it might use the same core design but the number of CPU and GPU cores are going to be Mac specific. 
    foregoneconclusionRayz2016mwhitecornchiptmaypatchythepiratemariowincospock1234firelockwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 72
    Rayz2016 said:
    An in-house GPU eh?

    This is where the bun fight starts. 
    I would imagine that the MacBook would continue to use the SoC style GPU just like the iPad. It will be interesting to see what Apple does for higher end hardware like the MBP or iMac line. Will it still be integrated, or will they do a discrete version of the GPU?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 72
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 6,957member
    Rayz2016 said:
    An in-house GPU eh?

    This is where the bun fight starts. 
    I would imagine that the MacBook would continue to use the SoC style GPU just like the iPad. It will be interesting to see what Apple does for higher end hardware like the MBP or iMac line. Will it still be integrated, or will they do a discrete version of the GPU?
    I have a question, as a GPU layperson. 

    If they’re using their own tech for GPUs then what is the advantage of a discrete GPU?  

    watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 72
    blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 2,645member
    Rayz2016 said:
    An in-house GPU eh?

    This is where the bun fight starts. 
    I would imagine that the MacBook would continue to use the SoC style GPU just like the iPad. It will be interesting to see what Apple does for higher end hardware like the MBP or iMac line. Will it still be integrated, or will they do a discrete version of the GPU?
    That’s the big question in my mind, too. 

    The AMD Navi GPU, fabbed on 7nm, has a die size of about 250mm. https://www.techpowerup.com/gpu-specs/radeon-pro-5700-xt.c3662

    That’s a lot bigger than any GPU Apple has integrated into a SOC before, but the SOC for the PS5 is even larger https://www.pushsquare.com/guides/ps5-vs-xbox-series-x-full-tech-specs-comparison

    Individual Mac models don’t have the economies of scale to justify taping out huge fully integrated custom SOCs. So I doubt apple does something like the PS5 SOC. 

    But we also have this:

    https://www.anandtech.com/show/16031/tsmcs-version-of-emib-lsi-3dfabric

    Which is basically the next generation in chiplet glue.

    i bet that’s the direction Apple goes. A single Mac cpu chiplet and a single GPU chiplet, but glued together in multiple combinations for different Mac models.

    no discrete GPU 
    foregoneconclusionGG1hcrefugeewatto_cobraDetnator
  • Reply 9 of 72
    Rayz2016 said:
    Rayz2016 said:
    An in-house GPU eh?

    This is where the bun fight starts. 
    I would imagine that the MacBook would continue to use the SoC style GPU just like the iPad. It will be interesting to see what Apple does for higher end hardware like the MBP or iMac line. Will it still be integrated, or will they do a discrete version of the GPU?
    I have a question, as a GPU layperson. 

    If they’re using their own tech for GPUs then what is the advantage of a discrete GPU?  

    Most likely Apple won’t be able to compete on speed and features when it comes to high end GPUs such as the Radeon or Nvidia ones, and they’ll offer a replacement for what we consider built-in graphics GPUs (such as the Intel ones).

    Perhaps the MacBook Pro Apple SoC version will contain an Apple integrated GPU plus a discrete ATI GPU, similar to laptops as of today but with Intel GPUs.
    As Apple advances GPU design they will more likely replace the mid to high-end with their own ones as well. 
  • Reply 10 of 72
    wood1208wood1208 Posts: 2,693member
    In Apple ecosystem, under 13" screen is replaced by iPad(with physical keyboard/mouse support) so I wonder why Apple is releasing small screen macbook ? And better Apple offer 14" Macbook Air/Pro with Apple Si release. Apple's own GPU will be interesting. 2021 will be show case year for Apple Si MACs.

    edited August 2020
  • Reply 11 of 72
    rob53rob53 Posts: 2,905member
    Reading all these predictions are nice, but I’d really prefer seeing a timeline diagram with AppleInsider’s estimated release dates for each family of Macs. Because this is too many words. 
    I agree but I'd go further. There's too many words being used for the same and different things (yes, confusing). We're used to separate chips for each function. The next generation Macs: 1) might stay this way, 2) might combine everything into one SoC, or 3) combine some things while keeping other discrete. I used the only one specific "thing" the SoC which also needs to be clarified because even on iOS devices, there's more than one big chip.

    The chart Apple used at WWDC showing all the features of the new Apple Silicon-based Macs didn't help. How many of those functions will be handled within the main SoC and which will be handled on secondary chips? Apple said they're using integrated GPUs like the do on iOS devices and how Intel provides some CPU chips (is the GPU actually integrated or added as a secondary chip?). In order for Apple to compete with the more powerful GPU designs, I can't see how they would be able to cram 100-5000 GPU cores into the ASi SoC even with something like the chiplet gluing (a new term to me). How large can Apple make their SoC? Large enough to hold 20 CPUs and 1000 GPUs (Nvidia graphics cards go up to 5760 cores, GTX Titan Z). How much heat will this create? There's a lot of things to discuss and it appears we need a new vocabulary chart and some new SoC design diagrams to help everyone along into the future of Apple products. I know it's all magic but for Macs it will be different.
    watto_cobrarundhvid
  • Reply 12 of 72
    cornchipcornchip Posts: 1,897member
    My humble opinion - Apple is going to kill it with these things.

    as far as all the GPU questions go, wouldn’t Apple’s work on that custom processing card for the NNMP factor into all this somehow? You may be able to tell that I don’t know what I’m talking about... 
    spock1234watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 72
    neilmneilm Posts: 943member
    According to China Times, Apple's first machine will be a MacBook with a 12-inch Retina Display. Previous reports have said it that the first Apple Silicon Mac will be a MacBook Pro.
    A new 12" Retina MacBook would certainly be an easy introductory Apple Silicon model from a performance standpoint, whereas the expectations for a MacBook Pro replacement would be much higher.

    Think of it as a clamshell iPad with a keyboard and running MacOS instead of iPadOS. Current iPads already have much better performance than the previous 12" MacBook, so that part wouldn't be a challenge. Apple might even get away with not having Thunderbolt 3, although I'd hope for more than the old MacBook's miserable single USB-C port.

    The MacBook "plain" is also a currently vacant slot in Apple's lineup, although it could be argued that a new MacBook might cannibalize iPad sales to some degree. To this day I've never seen the old 12" MacBook in the field, whereas Airs and Pros are everywhere.
    cornchipwatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 72
    Rayz2016 said: I have a question, as a GPU layperson. 

    If they’re using their own tech for GPUs then what is the advantage of a discrete GPU?  

    My understanding is that it has to do with power draw, i.e., the really high end GPUs require too many watts to be feasible for an integrated design. 
    cornchiplarryjwwatto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 72
    neilm said:

    The MacBook "plain" is also a currently vacant slot in Apple's lineup, although it could be argued that a new MacBook might cannibalize iPad sales to some degree. To this day I've never seen the old 12" MacBook in the field, whereas Airs and Pros are everywhere.
    Hugely popular with Wall Street spreadsheet jockeys, “HR” types, journalists. 


    Back when they did the shift to Intel, the first machines were a 15” MacBook Pro and a Mac Mini, both developer favorites. I think the easier part of that transition was getting fast Pro hardware out the door, and the hard part getting all the consumer software needs aligned.

    This time, the software side will be much easier because of their strict 64bit Cocoa transition, but the Pro hardware will take time to ramp up. Pity, I’m ready to get a new 16”…
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 72
    rob53rob53 Posts: 2,905member
    Rayz2016 said: I have a question, as a GPU layperson. 

    If they’re using their own tech for GPUs then what is the advantage of a discrete GPU?  

    My understanding is that it has to do with power draw, i.e., the really high end GPUs require too many watts to be feasible for an integrated design. 
    Could it also be that many/most high end GPU manufacturers are over-clocking their chips causing the high power draw? Might Apple's GPU design be clocked at a normal rate giving up some speed while keeping power usage down allowing them to pack more GPU circuits into the SoC for Macs than they would for iOS devices?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 72
    rob53 said: Could it also be that many/most high end GPU manufacturers are over-clocking their chips causing the high power draw? Might Apple's GPU design be clocked at a normal rate giving up some speed while keeping power usage down allowing them to pack more GPU circuits into the SoC for Macs than they would for iOS devices?
    That's what makes it interesting going forward. Apple's chip design experience and customization might provide a solution that isn't typical in the industry. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 72
    john_tjohn_t Posts: 12member
    These will be brutally underpowered. And butterfly keyboard? Again?
    bloodshotrollin'red
  • Reply 19 of 72
    I've have the 2017 rose gold MacBook and think it is the quintessential Mac laptop. Yes, the one USBC was a bit of a mistake. The keyboard is fine. I've had one key stick to and simply took a thin guitar pic and slid it around the key. Problem solved. I would love to see the the next gen with thinner bezels, larger trackpad, at least Touch ID (if not Face ID) a better camera for Zoom calls and, of course, extended battery life that comes with Apple silicon! Laptops should be light and super pretty! :)
    patchythepiratespock1234MisterKitwatto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 72
    zimmiezimmie Posts: 598member
    Rayz2016 said:
    Rayz2016 said:
    An in-house GPU eh?

    This is where the bun fight starts. 
    I would imagine that the MacBook would continue to use the SoC style GPU just like the iPad. It will be interesting to see what Apple does for higher end hardware like the MBP or iMac line. Will it still be integrated, or will they do a discrete version of the GPU?
    I have a question, as a GPU layperson. 

    If they’re using their own tech for GPUs then what is the advantage of a discrete GPU?  

    The big advantage is disaggregation. For example, if you put the GPU in a physically separate chip, you can cool it separately. You can also design and update it separately, but that's mostly important for integrators who don't make their own chips.

    This advantage doesn't matter as much in a laptop as it does in a tower like the Mac Pro.

    Rayz2016 said:
    Rayz2016 said:
    An in-house GPU eh?

    This is where the bun fight starts. 
    I would imagine that the MacBook would continue to use the SoC style GPU just like the iPad. It will be interesting to see what Apple does for higher end hardware like the MBP or iMac line. Will it still be integrated, or will they do a discrete version of the GPU?
    I have a question, as a GPU layperson. 

    If they’re using their own tech for GPUs then what is the advantage of a discrete GPU?  

    Most likely Apple won’t be able to compete on speed and features when it comes to high end GPUs such as the Radeon or Nvidia ones, and they’ll offer a replacement for what we consider built-in graphics GPUs (such as the Intel ones).

    Perhaps the MacBook Pro Apple SoC version will contain an Apple integrated GPU plus a discrete ATI GPU, similar to laptops as of today but with Intel GPUs.
    As Apple advances GPU design they will more likely replace the mid to high-end with their own ones as well. 
    That seems odd to say, since the A13's existing GPU gets about half the performance of the Xbox One S, and Macs have much better cooling than iPhones. GPU performance doesn't quite scale linearly, but it's close.
    tmayspock1234watto_cobra
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