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One of the biggest announcements at Apple’s WWDC last month was that it will be starting the transition to its own ARM-based Macs, using a new in-house chip that for now, the company is only referring to as “Apple Silicon.”
Based on the same architecture as Apple’s current A-series chips found in the iPhone and iPad, Apple Silicon in Macs will help the company break completely new ground in offering levels of performance and features that simply haven’t been possible in Intel-based Macs.
Further, although Apple also insists that macOS and iOS/iPadOS will remain completely separate entities —we’re not likely to see touchscreen Macs anytime soon — it will become feasible for iPadOS apps to run natively on these newer Macs. In fact, the Developer Transition Kits (DTKs) that Apple has been sending out to help software developers prepare for the new platform is actually a Mac mini that’s powered by the same A12Z chip as the current iPad Pro.
Of course, some still believe that this means that macOS and iOS are on a collision course, and there’s been some evidence that Apple is looking at some interesting possibilities, but for the foreseeable future, Macs will still run macOS, and iPhones and iPads will still run iOS/iPadOS, and never the twain shall meet.
Apple’s Transition Timeline
Apple CEO Tim Cook has confirmed that Apple is planning to release its first Apple Silicon Mac by the end of the year, but that doesn’t mean that the company is completely done with Intel just yet.
Apple has already promised to support Intel-based Macs “for years to come,” and by most reports the entire Mac lineup won’t be running on Apple Silicon until 2022 at the earlier.
Still, with Apple poised to release a major iMac redesign this year, it’s naturally led to some speculation that the iMac could be in the first wave of machines running Apple Silicon. After all, a significantly redesigned iMac would be a great way to herald the new chipset and draw a clear line between the Intel iMac and the new Apple Silicon iMac.
However, it seems that Apple may be sticking with Intel chips in the iMac for now, if new unreleased benchmarks recently found by Tom’s Hardware are accurate.
Some Geekbench benchmarks that recently surfaced on Twitter appear to show the specs for an unreleased iMac that’s a likely successor to the current 27-inch iMac, and it’s running on the newest Intel chipset.
Specifically, the benchmarks show a ten-core Intel 3.6GHz Core i9-10910 chip — a previously unheard of entry from the same family as the “gaming-class” Comet Lake chip that we heard about back in April.
As Tom’s Hardware points out, the Core i9-10910 actually appears to be a step up from the middle-tier 10th-gen Core i9-10900, boasting a 28.6% higher base clock speed, and looks like a special chip that Intel might have cooked up specifically for Apple that might be a a minor step down from the flagship Core i9-10900K while still sporting the same 10 cores but running at more efficient power levels.
The specs also show the mystery iMac also includes an unannounced graphics card in the form of an AMD Radeon Pro 5300, which is most probably a desktop version of the mobile 5300M that was released last year with Navi 14 silicon, which is also predicted to be coming to the new iMac.
What This Means
There’s been some confusing information lately on Apple’s plans for its iMac lineup, making it possible that this Intel Comet Lake Mac may be separate from Apple’s plans for a redesigned iMac.
For instance, reputable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo recently predicted that Apple would be releasing a 24-inch iMac with Apple Silicon in late 2020 or early 2021, while also adding that Apple plans to refresh the current Intel iMac in the third-quarter of this year. This is most likely the machine we’re seeing in the benchmarks, suggesting that Apple engineers are already testing it.
If Apple is actually planning on releasing two new iMac models in such close proximity, it does seem likely that the new Intel iMac will feature the same 27-inch iMac design that the company has been using for years, and we still think it makes sense for Apple to hold back its major iMac redesign — which would be the first one since 2012 — to also herald its transition to Apple Silicon.