Next-Gen ‘M2’ Chips May Not Arrive Until 2023 | Is It Safe to Upgrade My Mac Right Now?

Industry sources suggest an 18-month upgrade cycle for Apple Silicon
New MacBook Pro 2021 Credit: Jack Skeens / Shutterstock
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It looks like we may be waiting a bit longer than we expected before the next generation of Apple Silicon arrives in next year’s Macs, as analysts predict that Apple is planning to move closer to an 18-month interval between major updates.

According to Taiwan’s Commercial Times (Google Translate), the development of Apple’s M2 chips is nearing completion, although they’re not expected to actually begin shipping in new Macs until the second half of 2022.

This would in turn push the “M2X” generation of chips — which will likely be called the M2 Pro and M2 Max, following in the footsteps of their M1-based predecessors — into early 2023.

The report notes that Apple’s standard M2 chip is currently code-named “Staten” while the M2 Pro/Max chips are code-named “Rhodes.” The entire lineup is expected to be mass-produced using TSMC’s new 4-nanometer process, with the next generation after that — the “M3” — expected to shift to the bleeding-edge 3-nanometer process.

If true, however, this would mean that we won’t likely see the M3 arrive until early 2024, as the Commercial Times report says that they’ll come 18 months after the M2.

Although reports last summer predicted a colourful new MacBook Air could arrive in early 2022 featuring the new M2 chip, although more recent leaks have suggested mid-2022, which lines up with this latest report.

After all, there are still a few Macs that have yet to get the Apple Silicon treatment at all, so the first half of next year will largely focus on those.

Expect a 27-inch iMac with an M1 Pro/Max configuration to replace the 2020 10th-gen Intel model, plus a similarly spec’ed higher-end Mac mini so that Apple can finally phase out the one remaining Intel model in that lineup.

Then there’s the Mac Pro. While it’s hard to say exactly what direction Apple is going to go with that one overall, rumours point to a Mac Pro Cube redesign that will likely feature a stacked M1 Max Duo or Quadra chipset. This would allow Apple to complete its full transition to Apple Silicon without waiting for the M2 or another more powerful chip to arrive, and considering that the M1 Max already holds its own against an eight-core Intel Xeon Mac Pro, a 40-core M1 Quadra would easily exceed even the most powerful Mac Pro.

What’s less clear, however, is whether Apple will phase out the current Mac Pro entirely. Unlike Apple’s more consumer-focused Macs, the Mac Pro is used by high-end studios that may still rely on hardware and software that require Intel-based chipsets, and therefore be reluctant to move to Apple Silicon quite yet.

It’s more likely that Apple will release the new Mac Pro Cube while continuing to sell the 2019 Mac Pro to give the new model time to prove itself worthy of the kind of ultra-high-end production workflows used by studios like Pixar and Dreamworks.

Plus, if rumours are true, the new Mac Pro Cube will be less modular than the current model, which is going to rule it out entirely for some professional environments that rely on more internal hardware. While the GPU capabilities of a purposed M1 Max Quadra would certainly eliminate the need to add additional GPU or Afterburner cards, there are still other internal cards that provide pro audio and video interfaces needed by many specialized applications.

While an 18-month cycle seems a little slower than we had perhaps hoped for, it’s not all that unusual when you look at the overall refresh cycle of Apple’s Mac and iPad product lineups. If anything, it’s the iPhone’s A-series chips that are on a much more ambitious update cycle than anything else, and that makes sense when you consider that the iPhone is still Apple’s bread and butter product lineup, accounting for around half of its entire annual revenue.

It’s also fair to say that Apple’s current M1 chips are already so far ahead of anything else in the industry that Apple doesn’t need to be in that much of a hurry to update them with a whole new generation.

Today’s 16-inch MacBook Pro with an M1 Pro/Max chip will continue to run circles over anything else on the market for at least the next couple of years.

On average, most Intel Mac users only upgraded on a three- to five-year cycle, and it’s fair to say that Apple Silicon will have even more staying power.

[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.]

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