With the release of the Apple M1 chip in late 2020, new Apple products have been rolling out with the new in-house silicon, including the new iMac, MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro, and the new Mac Mini. The new ARM-based SoC has been a huge success for Apple, so we are all waiting to hear about the next generation of Apple Silicon, the Apple M1X chip.
There hasn't been an official announcement from Apple about the next-generation silicon, so all we have at this point are rumors and speculation, but there are some things we can guess from past experience and what we know about where Apple wants to take their products in the near future, and also what we know based on the ARM architecture that Apple is using for their chips.
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Apple made some pretty bold claims about its M1 chip that might not have fully panned out in the end, but it is still an undeniably powerful processor that has a lot of improvements over the Intel chips that Apple had been using previously.
With the Apple M1X chip, we're hoping to see more of the performance gains that the original Apple M1 chip promised. Like the M1, the M1X chip will feature the big.LITTLE design of ARM chip, with a mix of efficiency cores and performance cores to better manage CPU utilization.
While eight cores are standard for most flagship processors, the ARM architecture allows for some flexibility here, and the SoC design paradigm adds in a GPU as well. The new M1X chip will almost certainly include Thunderbolt support, just like its predecessor, and may even take advantage of DDR5 and PCIe 4.0, meaning faster memory and SSD access speeds over the M1.
The 16-inch MacBook Pro will likely need a more powerful CPU than the M1, so we expect to see the M1X chip introduced with the newest MacBook Pro model later this year, so we won't have long to wait to learn more about this next-gen chip. There are also rumors of a 14-inch MacBook Pro that could be powered by an M1X chip as well.
Cut to the chase
- What is it? Apple's latest ARM-based silicon for new MacBooks, Macs, and iPad Pros
- When is it out? New Macs running on the M1X should be available later this year
Apple M1X release date
The Apple M1X won't be available on its own, so its availability is tied to the release dates of the MacBooks, Macs, and iPad Pro models that run on the new chip. We expect the first of these to be the new 16-inch MacBook Pro, which is due for a refresh later this year.
We also expect to see the new M1X chip in 27-inch iMac Pro desktops, which might be available as early as late 2021, though it's more likely we'll see these in 2022. The new iPad Pro running on the M1 chip was just announced in April 2021, so we shouldn't expect to see the new M1X chip in an iPad Pro model until the next generation iPad is released in 2022.
Apple M1X price
Again, the Apple M1X chip won't be sold on its own, so its price ultimately depends on the price of the MacBook, Mac, or iPad model it is powering.
The M1 chip didn't bring down the prices of the new iMac, 13-inch MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, or Mac Mini models, but it didn't increase them either. The move to its own in-house silicon is saving Apple money on production costs, so it's possible that with the Apple M1X, Apple could pass some of those savings on to the customers, but that's pretty unlikely.
One other thing to consider is that with the Apple M1X, we might see different processor configurations at different price points the way Intel has Core i3, i5, i7, and i9 chips and AMD has its Ryzen 5, 7, and 9. If Apple does something similar, we would see different pricing for MacBooks and Macs depending on the level of M1X chip it has powering it.
Apple M1 specs and performance
Apple made bold claims about the performance of the M1 that were a bit of an overshoot of what we actually found, at least in terms of performance, but the M1 was still surprisingly powerful and its battery life lived up to its billing, thanks to the improved efficiency provided by the ARM design.
With the M1X chip (or chips), we're expecting a higher level of performance but its hard to predict what kind of boost we're actually going to see. The M1 chip was already built using a 5nm process, and though TSMC is said to be entering into risk production of its 4nm process later this year, with full production beginning sometime next year, whether Apple can do a 4nm process for the M1X chip is an open question and, in all honesty, it probably can't. At least not with this chip.
Still, Apple has been known to surprise us, so it's not out of the question to see a 4nm M1X chip later this year or early next.
Apple M1X:-12 Cores.- 8 performance cores.- 4 high efficiency cores.- Coming first on a MacBook Pro 16” unveiling as a press release.- According to a source who used a prototype, “if you think M1 is fast, you haven’t seen M1X”.-Name isn’t final though. pic.twitter.com/tpBhXpDCadNovember 22, 2020
According to known Apple leaker @LeaksApplePro, the Apple M1X is going to feature 12 cores overall, with four efficiency cores and eight performance cores, double the number of performance cores in the M1. That should seriously improve in-app performance, especially on more demanding apps like those used in creative content work like video editing and graphics work.
The integrated eight core GPU could also see some variety, including higher core counts for the desktop Mac Pro models typically used in multimedia content creation, and further refinement of the new 16-core neural engine for improved AI-related tasks like resource and heat management, security features, improved webcam and streaming experiences, and more.
According to Apple Insider, the new M1X chip could see double the number of GPU cores, from eight to 16, with 16GB of maximum memory, 256 execution units, and the ability to drive up to three displays, an improvement over the M1's two. The power draw will obviously be greater, 35W TDP, up from the M1's 15W TDP.
These specs were pulled from CPU Monkey and haven't been independently verified, so they should be seen more as a projection of what's possible than what will actually make it to production.
Regardless of the specifics, we expect that there will be across the board improvements to all of these components with the Apple M1X chip, but until it is announced, specific details about the new silicon will be pretty slim from the usually tight-lipped Apple.