iMacs, MacBooks and Mac Pros
The current iMacs and MacBooks are great, but better things are coming
Apple’s most recent Mac update was to the iMac, which now has Intel Skylake processors and 5K displays in the 27-inch models and Intel Broadwell processors in 21.5-inch models, one of which now has a 4K display. Those Broadwell processors are a compromise: Apple would much rather have the more powerful Skylake architecture in every iMac, but it’s waiting for Intel to add integrated graphics. Once it does, you can expect Skylake to appear across the Mac range – including the MacBook Pro sometime in 2016.
There are several key benefits to Skylake processors beyond the usual speed bumps. It supports USB-C, which we’ve already seen in the MacBook; fast DDR4 RAM; WiGig for simple, fast wireless connections to accessories; wireless charging; and, most interestingly of all, Intel’s upgraded Thunderbolt 3 interface.
Thunderbolt 3 uses the USB-C connector and USB-C cables to deliver up to 40Gbps data transfer speeds, and because it follows the USB-C standard that means it also supports 100W fast charging for laptops. Clearly it’s a case of when Apple dumps USB-A for USB-C, not if.
Non-Retina devices’ days are numbered, but we’re not sure that the 5K display will make its way from the iMac to Apple’s mobile devices: the Radeon M9-equipped MacBook Pro can already drive a 5K display, and while some 4K video professionals would love the extra room for toolbars and palettes, such a laptop wouldn’t be cheap. We’re not sure there are enough people who need 5K displays in their mobile Macs.
Both Nvidia and AMD will be launching new generation GPUs in 2016 using the second generation of HBM (High Bandwidth Memory),
which offers much higher bandwidth than the GDDR5 memory that’s used in current graphics cards. Because HBM is stackable it can cram much more memory into a given space, and it’s significantly more power-efficient too. It’s the future, and as soon as Apple can get it into its Macs you can be sure it will.
There’s a very good chance that HBM will make its debut in a refreshed Mac Pro, which is also due a processor refresh: the Pro’s Intel Xeon E5 v2 processor is getting on a bit, and moving to a fourth-generation E5 means more cores: where the Mac Pro currently maxes out at 12 of them, the Xeon E5 v4 can have up to 22.
Apple would much rather have Skylake processors in every iMac, but it’s waiting for Intel…
Both the MacBook and Mac Pro will get a huge boost from Intel’s next-generation Skylake and Xeon processors.