First Mac with ARM processor may be here in 2021

By | 25/02/2020

MacBook Air 2018Apple uses its own designed CPUs in many devices, like iPhones, iPads, Apple TVs or HomePods, but Macs still use CPUs from Intel. It’s rumored for long time that Apple will switch Macs into its own ARM-based chips. From the past, when Apple moved to Intel platform from PowerPC in 2006, Steve Jobs said that Apple was secretly developing Mac OS X for Intel platform, so it’s possible that Apple already has ARM-based Macs in its laboratories. In macOS Catalina, there is finally a Catalyst technology to port apps from iOS/iPadOS to Mac, so moving Macs to ARM platform makes sense.

As we wrote, Twitter also returned its first party app back to Mac, thanks to mentioned Catalyst technology in macOS Catalina. Moving all Apple’s platforms to single architecture will also simplify development ever more. Also, Apple will be able to release own CPUs at any time, so it won’t be limited by Intel’s release cycle. For long time, Intel just increased performance by few percents with little better power efficiency and added some instructions sets and that’s was all, because AMD was not able for years to compete on CPU field with Intel, only recently AMD released powerful CPUs and Intel was forced to release its advanced technology hidden behind lock. If you are owner of 5K iMac from late 2014, your Mac does not support hardware acceleration for HEVC. If you own 5K iMac from late 2015, like me, your iMac supports HEVC hardware acceleration. Though performance of CPUs in these Macs is not very different, when you try to convert video using HEVC, 5K iMac from 2015 will be much, much faster, because 2014 5K iMac will have to use software rendering without hardware acceleration. This is one of the reasons why moving to own CPUs will allows Apple to better optimize their Macs for the latest technologies and with noticeable performance boost.

In Macs, there are already some ARM-based components, like T2 chip and co-processor powering Touch Bar in newer MacBooks Pro. Apple analyst Ming Chi Kuo, who is famous for his accurate predictions, noted to investors:

We expect that Apple’s new products in 12-18 months will adopt processors made by 5nm process, including the new 2H20 5G iPhone, new 2H20 iPad equipped with mini LED, and new 1H21 Mac equipped with the own-design processor. We think that iPhone 5G support, ‌iPad‌’s adoption of innovative mid-size panel technology, and Mac’s first adoption of the own-design processor are all Apple’s critical product and technology strategies. Given that the processor is the core component of new products, we believe that Apple had increased 5nm-related investments after the epidemic outbreak. Further, Apple occupying more resources of related suppliers will hinder competitors’ developments.

Rumored devices, like 2020 5G iPhone, iPad Pro with mini LED display and new Macs with ARM-based CPU are said to use 5-nanometer chips. Maybe, we will hear official expression from Apple at 2020 WWDC, which should be in June 2020.

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