Apple made quite a splash with the introduction of its self-built M1 SoCs back in 2020. The original M1 chip seems quaint now that the Pro, Max, and Ultra variants have launched, and Apple is now preparing for round two of its silicon onslaught. The company is reportedly hard at work on the follow-up chip, predictably named M2. This is not a huge surprise, as it said the M1 Ultra was the final chip in the family at its Peek Performance event. Developer logs show the new chips are already being tested, and will show up in a flurry of new and upgraded Macs in 2022.
Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman has the scoop, and says there are four different M2 chips being tested currently. The new SoCs will make their way into the company’s flagship Mac Pro computer, as well as several new models in the coming year. The Mac Pro is the only computer Apple sells that is still using Intel silicon, so for a lot of us the replacement chip for that is most intriguing. After all, if the M1 Ultra with its 114 billion transistors isn’t powerful enough for the Pro, whatever they have planned must be (literally) huge. The arrival of M2 is designed to reinforce the company’s dedication to the Mac, which languished for years with Intel chips and odd design decisions. Apple has begun to reverse that trend with its M1-based models, even going so far as to bring back features it had previously removed. This includes the always-popular MagSafe as well as things like HDMI and SD card readers.
The only new model on the horizon for Apple is an entry-level Macbook Pro with an M2 SoC. Though the company currently sells a “cheap” 13″ model at $1,299, it’s an odd duck. It uses the base M1 chip, which is the same chip that’s being used in its iPad Pro and Air. This makes its inclusion in a “Pro” machine questionable. The upgraded M2 version will add two more cores to the GPU, going from eight to ten. The CPU side of the chip will remain an eight-core design. This grants it four performance cores, and four efficiency cores.
The same M2 chip will find its way into a redesigned Macbook Air. The Air has surprisingly used the same “wedge” design since Steve Jobs pulled it out of a manilla envelope in 2008. There have been small changes over the years, especially in 2020 when it got a new keyboard and display. But for 2022 it’ll be an all-new design completely. Rumors suggest it’ll follow the cues of the Macbook Pros with more of a “flat brick” shape. Like those computers it’ll also offer MagSafe and maybe even a bit more I/O. The current model only includes two USB-C ports and a headphone jack.
The 14″ and 16″ Macbook Pros will get the M2 Pro and Max chips and will be exactly the same other than size. The updated M2 Max will add two more CPU cores, going from ten to 12. The GPU will gain six more cores, going from 32 to 38 total. Developers logs show it will come with 64GB of memory, which is only possible on the Max version currently.
The company is also testing an upgraded Mac Mini, which currently comes with the M1 silicon. It’s seemingly trying to bridge the gap between the Mini and the Mac Studio. The performance delta between the original M1 and the Ultra in the Studio spans the company’s entire chip lineup. Apple is trying to remedy this without cannibalizing sales. It’s considering either the M1 Pro or Max in the new Mini, or a version of the M2 chip.
Naturally, all eyes are on whatever replaces the Intel Xeon CPUs currently in the Mac Pro. Most people are predicting that just as Apple went with a double-Max design for the M1 Ultra in the Studio, the Pro will have a quad-Max arrangement. Since the M1 Ultra is two Max chips fused together, that means four M2 Max chips combined. That would mean a 40 core CPU and a 96-core GPU. WWDC is right around the corner, so hopefully at least one of these new models will be unveiled. The rest might arrive at its hardware event in October.