Ap­ple could use In­tel’s CPUS in its next Mac­books

No one out­side of Ap­ple knows, but here’s what we think it just might do with In­tel’s new lap­top CPUS, writes Gor­don Mah Ung

Macworld - - Contents -

With In­tel’s in­tro­duc­tion of its 8th gen­er­a­tion Cof­fee Lake CPUS in April, it’s again that time of the year when the re­al­ity TV show called Mac­book gets to act as a ro­mance-seek­ing lap­top look­ing for new in­ter­nals.

While the fu­ture of the Mac­book could see a mar­riage with an Ap­ple-made ARM pro­ces­sor, its im­me­di­ate fu­ture will see the con­tin­u­a­tion of the courtship with In­tel and its x86 CPUS. Us­ing our knowl­edge of pre­vi­ous Mac­book con­fig­u­ra­tions and what other lap­top mak­ers are us­ing, we’re will­ing to make a few fore­casts on what to ex­pect, and what kind of per­for­mance dif­fer­ence they will make.

Mac­book: Mi­nor changes ahead

Of all the lap­tops Ap­ple cur­rently sells, the Mac­book (mid 2017) is the one least likely to un­dergo a ma­jor pro­ces­sor change. The fastest Mac­book to­day fea­tures an ul­tra-low-power Core i7-7y75 – that’s a dual-core CPU based on In­tel’s 7th gen­er­a­tion Kaby Lake mi­croar­chi­tec­ture. Since In­tel hasn’t re­leased an up­dated 8th gen­er­a­tion ul­tra-low-power CPU yet, it’s un­likely to see the Mac­book see a ma­jor in­ter­nal re­fresh this year.

If Ap­ple re­designs the en­tire plat­form, then all bets are off. But on the Mac­book’s chas­sis to­day, we wouldn’t hold our breath. The tech gi­ant’s ap­proach of only up­grad­ing when it’s worth it to con­sumers (and it­self) also makes a lot of sense here, too, be­cause most wouldn’t be able to no­tice a per­for­mance dif­fer­ence.

Mac­book Air: Huge po­ten­tial

The £949 ques­tion this year is what hap­pens to every­one’s favourite lit­tle Mac­book Air. It went from dead to ru­mours of a lower-cost ver­sion.

Cpu-wise, the Mac­book Air cur­rently tops out with a 5th gen­er­a­tion Core i7-5650u. That’s a dual-core Broad­well CPU first in­tro­duced in 2015. In CPU years, that’s a long time, but most peo­ple haven’t minded be­cause it’s go­ing into a lap­top at a low price point.

And, to be fair, when paired with the stupid­ly­fast SSDS Ap­ple uses, most peo­ple us­ing the Mac­book Air for what they are in­tended for are mostly sat­is­fied with the speed.

Still, if we were to bet on what Ap­ple is likely to put into any new Mac­book Air, we’d say In­tel’s new­est 8th gen­er­a­tion Core i7-8650u and Core i5-8350u chips fit the bill. Both are quad-core chips with Hy­per-thread­ing and based on In­tel’s Kaby Lake R chips. What these pro­ces­sors would bring over the cur­rent Mac­book Air CPU is a huge

per­for­mance boost, thanks to in­creased clock speeds and dou­bling of the CPU cores. It’s en­tirely pos­si­ble that a new Mac­book Air based on an 8th gen­er­a­tion In­tel CPU would be com­pet­i­tive with a 15in Mac­book Pro from three years ago.

This spec­u­la­tion doesn’t en­tirely match up with the ru­mours of a more af­ford­able Mac­book Air. If Ap­ple does de­cide to lower the price like the ru­mours say, then ex­pect a dual-core chip based on In­tel’s 7th gen­er­a­tion stan­dard Kaby Lake series of chips in­side – and many tears for what could’ve been. If I were bet­ting dough­nuts, I’d bet on a quad-core ver­sion.

13in Mac­book Pro: Cof­fee Lake boost

The 13in Mac­book Pro is likely to go smooth and steady. To­day’s top model fea­tures a 7th gen­er­a­tion Core i7-7567u in­side. That’s a dual-core chip with Hy­per-thread­ing. What sets it aside is a beefed-up graphic chip: In­tel’s Iris Plus with 64MB of on board em­bed­ded DRAM to speed it up.

Be­sides the in­creased 3D per­for­mance, that pro­ces­sor also runs slightly hot­ter with a ther­mal bud­get of 28 watts ver­sus the 15 watts of the

CPUS used in the Mac­book Air.

We ex­pect Ap­ple to drop In­tel’s Core i7-8559u in­side. That’s a new quad-core Cof­fee Lake CPU. (Don’t ask us why this is a Cof­fee Lake chip while the quad-core Core i7-8650u is Kaby Lake R. We don’t know.)

Like the huge bump in per­for­mance in the Mac­book Air, a Cof­fee Lake-based 13in Mac­book

Pro would of­fer a mas­sive per­for­mance leap over the pre­vi­ous dual-core ver­sion in Cpu-lim­ited tasks thanks to the in­creased num­ber of cores and the higher clock speeds.

Graph­ics in the 13in Mac­book Pro 13 with an 8th gen­er­a­tion Cof­fee Lake CPU in­side should also see a very de­cent bump, as In­tel now in­te­grates 128MB of EDRAM cache over the pre­vi­ous ver­sions 64MB of EDRAM. A slightly faster main mem­ory of LPDDR3/2133 could also up graph­ics per­for­mance (DDR4 is also sup­ported but Ap­ple favours bet­ter bat­tery life and will likely stick with LPDDR3).

Over­all, if Ap­ple does go this route, it’s a very re­spectable per­for­mance up­grade for the 13in Mac­book Pro.

15in Mac­book Pro: A co­nun­drum

The 15in Mac­book Pro is prob­a­bly the hard­est to forecast. To­day, the top-end CPU is a 7th gen­er­a­tion Core I7-7920HQ. That’s a Kaby Lake quad-core CPU with Hy­per-thread­ing and clock speed range of 3.1GHZ to 4.1GHZ.

Most peo­ple ex­pect Ap­ple to use In­tel’s new

8th gen­er­a­tion Core i9-8950k, a Cof­fee Lake H CPU with 6 six cores and Hy­per-thread­ing. Un­der cer­tain con­di­tions, it can be up to 700MHZ faster. In pure per­for­mance, it will yield a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease thanks to the ex­tra cores.

Users of the 15in Mac­book Pro tend to be con­tent cre­ation pro­fes­sion­als who edit video, ren­der 3D scenes or do other Cpu-in­ten­sive tasks.

A Core i9 or one of In­tel’s other 6-core Core i7 pro­ces­sors makes a lot of sense.

The fly in the oint­ment here is that there’s no new graph­ics core to pair it with. It’s been over five years since Ap­ple used Nvidia’s Geforce graph­ics in a Mac­book Pro. AMD’S Radeon Pro 580 is start­ing to feel a lit­tle old, too. AMD did an­nounce a new dis­crete graph­ics chip at CES, but it’s not ex­pected un­til later this year at the ear­li­est. So, does Ap­ple just roll with the cur­rent Radeon Pro 580 or wait un­til next year?

Ru­mour has it that noth­ing will change at all with the Mac­book Pro line-up. It would be a tough pill to swal­low to see Ap­ple con­tinue to roll with the cur­rent 15in Mac­book Pro when a 6-core

CPU op­tion is at hand. While it’s been easy to de­fend not jump­ing on ev­ery new CPU In­tel trots out ev­ery cy­cle be­cause the per­for­mance gains just aren’t that sig­nif­i­cant, this time, there’s more to be gained. It’s pos­si­ble that Ap­ple may not up­grade the CPU based on the lack of sup­port for LPDDR4 in the 8th gen­er­a­tion CPUS. The new chips sup­port DDR4, which is faster and of­fers up to 64GB of RAM, but con­sumes far more power when in standby mode. Ap­ple has tended to favour the much longer standby power con­sump­tion of LPDDR3, so we guess that 16GB will still be the max­i­mum amount of RAM in the 15in Mac­book Pro.

The X-fac­tor: Kaby Lake G

The X-fac­tor in all this is In­tel’s other new chip: Kaby Lake G. The 65-watt Core i7-8705g or the

100-watt Core i7-8809g ba­si­cally com­bine a cus­tom AMD Radeon RX Vega M graph­ics chip and 4GB of HBM2 RAM with a quad-core Core i7 or i5 CPU.

The com­bined pack­age means that lap­top mak­ers can go much thin­ner and much smaller than be­fore. If you’re think­ing Kaby Lake G is seems cus­tom tai­lored for a 15in Mac­book Pro, it’s what we think, too. The main is­sue here is it’s ‘only’ a quad-core CPU and the 15in Mac­book Pro seems like it’s itch­ing for six cores.

TheMac­bookAir could ei­ther get a lot faster or a lot cheaper this year. We’re bet­ting it’ll get a lot faster

We think Ap­ple will drop the new­est 8th gen­er­a­tion CPU in­side the 13in Mac­book Pro and call it day. Did we men­tion that means prob­a­bly twice the per­for­mance?

We’d guess Ap­ple will up the 15in Mac­book Pro to a full 6-core CPU, but it’s pos­si­ble it’ll take a side step with Kaby Lake G, too

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