It feels like the M1 chip has been around for ages, doesn’t it?
At least, it does to me. But maybe that’s because I’ve written and talked so much about it over the last few months.
Although, if you’re planning on buying a Mac at the moment, you’re probably in a similar boat; you want to know what’s next. And, more importantly, when that shiny new M[something] is going to arrive.
I’ve not written about the M1x or M2 rumours yet. This is partly because I feel a little burned by the rumour mill, but also because I’m rather confused.
We’re clearly on the verge of seeing something new from Apple. But what will it be, exactly? And if you’ve got money burning a giant Apple-shaped hole in your pocket – what should you do with it?
The two-year transition
In June 2020, Apple announced that it would be transitioning from Intel to its own silicon. It would take two years, they told us.
There is some debate as to when that timer started. Was it in June last year when Tim and co. took to stage or was it in fact in November when we saw the first iteration of Apple’s silicon in the form of the M1?
I personally think it was the latter, which gives them some time. But if it was June, the clock is fast ticking.
Apple made it abundantly clear that, despite this transition, there were still Intel Macs on the way. This appears to be referencing the Mac Pro, which is apparently in line for an update to the latest Xeon series chips in 2022.
But for now, we only have the M1 and a bunch of rumours to ponder when it comes to Apple silicon.
Where do we go from here?
The iPad has always stuck to a consistent iteration cycle. For instance, the year after the A12 was launched, we received the A12X, which was simply a slightly better version of the chip it replaced, complete with more cores.
Then, they slapped an M1 chip into the iPad Pro, which confused things a bit.
But you get my point. After each major launch of a new iPad chip, we’d get an ‘X’ variant the year after. That’s what the M1X is expected to be for the Mac.
It’ll be faster than the M1, but, more importantly, it’ll have more cores to play with. Twelve is the rumoured number, with eight of them being high performance (versus the four in the M1).
We’ll probably see more graphics cores in the M1X, too. But rumours suggest that we still won’t be able to take the RAM above 16GB.
This is where the head-scratching starts.
If the rumour mill is to be believed, the M1X will arrive during the autumn, and it’ll probably appear in the 14” and 16” MacBook Pros that have long been – yes – rumoured.
There’s even talk of it appearing in a ‘pro’ version of the Mac mini, and potentially being the chip that launches the big-screen successor to the 27” iMac.
These particular Macs are hotly anticipated. There’s a lot riding on them. I say this confidently because I receive a great many comments from people who fear that the M1 isn’t enough for them; they want the next ‘big’ MacBook or a more potent Mac mini on which to undertake their work.
I fear that if the M1X is indeed the chip powering these big Mac releases, and 16Gb remains the RAM limit, those people are going to feel rather shortchanged – regardless of how many extra cores they’re getting.
I’ve said time and again that RAM on a platform like the M1 simply doesn’t matter as much as it does on an Intel system, but that seems to be irrelevant for lots of people. They just want more.
Which is fair enough.
This brings us to the M2.
While the M1X is simply an extension of what the M1 is capable of, the M2 is expected to be a brand-new generation of Apple silicon.
We’ll see more cores (up to a whopping 32, apparently). RAM options will sail comfortably past 16GB. There may even be a 16-core GPU on offer.
So why do all the rumours point to the M2 making its first appearance in the MacBook Air?
I love my MacBook Air. It is hands-down the best laptop I’ve ever owned. But it’s an everyday workhorse as opposed to a seriously powerful, production-ready beast. In my experience, it doesn’t need any more than 8GB of RAM or 7 cores of graphics processing.
I’ve heard some analysts say that the M2 is the natural successor to the M1 because it’ll focus on both performance and power efficiency. Does that mean the M1X will drop the latter in favour of sheer grunt for those aforementioned power Macs?
If so, how could Apple then justify placing a chip into their cheapest notebook which – on paper, at least – beats the chip in their higher-end machines, hands-down?
Confused? Me too.
Perhaps the M1X is a red herring. Maybe it’ll be skipped entirely, and we’ll head straight into M2 Land.
This begs another question: what should you do, right now, if you want to buy a new Mac?
What to do if you’re ready to buy
Everything I’ve written above is based on rumours (yes, I know I said I’d be taking a break from them).
In reality, when you’re an active commentator in the Mac community, you can’t help but be drawn to the rumours. Plus, hypothesising this stuff is fun; I’ve always enjoyed it. But it is just guesswork, which is why everything relating to the M1X and M2 should be taken with a massive pinch of salt.
If you need or want a Mac right now – buy it. There will always be something new around the corner. But that new thing could be more expensive or later than you expect. There’s also the age-old problem of being an early adopter with this stuff; what if the new MacBooks are riddled with issues?
If you can wait, and have no real need or desire for a new Mac immediately, wait until October (or, at the latest, November). Apple will announce a new range of Macs this year featuring a new chip, and once you’ve seen what it is and what it’s capable of, then you can make an informed buying decision.
Me? I’m waiting on that new 16” MacBook Pro simply because I’m pretty desperate for a new mobile video editing rig.
What are you waiting for?