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We’ve been hearing for a while that Apple has a colourful new design in mind for its next-generation MacBook Air, but now it looks like the company is also going to use this as an opportunity to unveil its next-generation M2 chip — but not until early next year.
This latest information comes from leaker @dylandkt on Twitter, who has shared reliable information before, and echoes both similar claims by Jon Prosser and Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman back in early May.
However, @dylandkt adds a bit more depth to these rumours, pegging a release timeframe of early 2022, while also clarifying that we’ve actually been hearing about two entirely different classes of Apple Silicon chips.
M1X vs M2
For the past several months, the terms “M1X” and “M2” have been thrown around somewhat interchangeable as possible successors to the now-legendary M1 chip that made its debut last fall in Apple’s MacBook Air, entry-level MacBook Pro, and Mac mini.
While the M1 chip has also since found its way into both a colourful new 24-inch iMac and the latest iPad Pro models, it’s still clearly an entry-level piece of Apple Silicon. For instance, it seems to be architecturally capped at 16GB of RAM, only two Thunderbolt ports, and 2TB of SSD storage.
Hence, it’s been fairly obvious that Apple has a more powerful version of the M1 in the works, but it hasn’t always been clear whether that would be called the M1X or the M2.
However, it appears that Apple actually has two different chips in development: the M1X as an enhanced M1 for its “Pro” Mac systems, and the M2 as the direct successor to the M1.
This actually does make some sense, since Apple has previously used the “X” designation in its A-series chips for the more powerful versions found in higher-end iPad devices like the iPad Pro. So, it stands to reason that the M1X would be the souped-up M1 for the upcoming 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro — which are expected to arrive later this fall.
Meanwhile, the MacBook Air was the first to go all-in on Apple Silicon with the M1, replacing the entire Intel lineup in one fell swoop. By comparison, Apple still sells Intel versions of the Mac mini and MacBook Pro.
Naturally, the next-generation MacBook Air is unlikely to need a chip that offers “pro” level horsepower, such as more GPU cores, RAM, and storage capacity. This rules out the much-rumoured 20-core successor that we’ve been hearing about since late last year.
That chip is much more likely to be the M1X, and while reports vary on exactly how powerful it’s going to be, it’s expected to feature at least 8 high-performance CPU cores, and either 16 or 32 GPU cores, plus support for four Thunderbolt channels, up to 64GB of RAM, and SSD sizes of up to 8TB.
Meanwhile, much like Apple’s year-over-year improvements to its A-series chips, the M2 will likely feature the same basic specs as the M1, retaining the same 8-core CPU and 8-core GPU configuration, while simply making each of those cores more powerful.
This would also presumably be followed by an “M2X” in late 2022 or early 2023 as a similar Apple Silicon upgrade an even more powerful MacBook Pro lineup.
It’s fairly obvious that the M2 will land in the MacBook Air, and likely also next-generation iPad Pro, Mac mini, and 24-inch iMac models. However, the lower-end MacBook Pro becomes more of an open question once the M1X surfaces.
The MacBook Pro lineup has been oddly split for years, with an entry-level model that features only two USB-C/ThunderBolt ports instead of four, and capped out at lower specs even in the Intel days. For the longest time, it was also the only MacBook Pro without the Touch Bar.
Last year, however, Apple used the opportunity to add the M1 chip to that version, while still keeping the two “higher-end” Intel models in the lineup. That presented the rather ironic situation where the “entry-level” MacBook Pro suddenly ran circles around the more expensive models.
Of course, the M1X chip will change that this year when the new MacBook Pro lineup arrives. However, it leaves us wondering whether Apple will continue to offer a “non-X” MacBook Pro model on the lower-end, or finally remove the model that’s been blurring the lines between the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro families.
[The information provided in this article has NOT been confirmed by Apple and may be speculation. Provided details may not be factual. Take all rumors, tech or otherwise, with a grain of salt.]