Friday, March 27th 2020

Apple ARM Based MacBooks and iMacs to come in 2021

Apple has been working on replacing Intel CPUs in its lineup of products for a while now, and the first batch of products to feature the new Arm-based CPUs should be coming soon. Having a completely custom CPU inside it's MacBook or an iMac device will allow Apple to overtake control of the performance and security of those devices, just like they did with their iPhone models. Apple has proved that its custom-built CPUs based on Arm Instruction Set Architecture (ISA) can be very powerful and match Intel's best offerings, all while being much more efficient with a TDP of only a few Watts.

According to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, Apple has started an "aggressive processor replacement strategy", which should give some results by the end of 2020, around Q4, or the beginning of 2021 when the first quarter arrives. According to Kuo, the approach of doing in-house design will result in not only tighter control of the system, but rather a financial benefit, as the custom processor will be 40% to 60% cheaper compared to current Intel CPU prices.
Apple 16-inch MacBook Pro
Source: AppleInsider
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98 Comments on Apple ARM Based MacBooks and iMacs to come in 2021

#1
xkm1948
Time for higher education to ditch Apple it seems!
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#2
Vya Domus
Apple has proved that its custom-built CPUs based on Arm Instruction Set Architecture (ISA) can be very powerful and match Intel's best offerings, all while being much more efficient with a TDP of only a few Watts.
I don't know what it would take for people to finally realize that this is simply untrue.
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#3
notb
xkm1948
Time for higher education to ditch Apple it seems!
I just can't believe ARM would reach MacBook Pro lineup.
I guess we may see ARM MacBook Air. If next to x86 - great. If replacing it - well, 2020 Airs will probably be available for a while, so most interested will get theirs (it's reeeaaally good).
Of course Apple may surprise us with excellent x86 emulation (including virtualization).

Anyway, I came here mostly to check if "they should go AMD" comments outnumber "RIP Intel".
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#4
GoldenX
notb
I just can't believe ARM would reach MacBook Pro lineup.
I guess we may see ARM MacBook Air. If next to x86 - great. If replacing it - well, 2020 Airs will probably be available for a while, so most interested will get theirs (it's reeeaaally good).
Of course Apple may surprise us with excellent x86 emulation (including virtualization).

Anyway, I came here mostly to check if "they should go AMD" comments outnumber "RIP Intel".
Even thou 7nm is awesome, Zen2 still has some horrible power spikes, so I don't see Apple using them for now, or ever if they want to ditch x86/AMD64.
OTOH, RIP Intel.
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#5
illli
This rumor has been going on for seemingly the past 8 years. Maybe one day someone who predicted it to happen "in the year 20xx" will actually be correct
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#6
Flanker
Vya Domus
I don't know what it would take for people to finally realize that this is simply untrue.
I'm holding my breath until I see the exact same application (hopefully the exact same source code), compiled to respective architectures, then compare their performance and power usage
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#7
phanbuey
So... they're basically going to make an ipad laptop with a touchscreen.
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#8
sam_86314
According to Kuo, the approach of doing in-house design will result in not only tighter control of the system, but rather a financial benefit, as the custom processor will be 40% to 60% cheaper compared to current Intel CPU prices.
And surely Apple of all companies will pass those savings onto the consumer... :rolleyes:

I'm sure they'll come up with some excuse.

Also RIP Bootcamp users. First the T2 chip and now this.
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#9
phanbuey
sam_86314
And surely Apple of all companies will pass those savings onto the consumer... :rolleyes:

I'm sure they'll come up with some excuse.

Also RIP Bootcamp users. First the T2 chip and now this.
I don't think this product is intended for people who know any of the words you just said.
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#10
Caring1
sam_86314
And surely Apple of all companies will pass those savings onto the consumer... :rolleyes:

I'm sure they'll come up with some excuse.
That was my thought too, financially benefit who exactly?
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#11
voltage
just when Intel's most advanced proc ever will finally come. not so sure this is a smart move on apples part, although apple does have "money to burn."
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#12
chodaboy19
It totally makes sense in the long term view. Apple wants to control as much as possible, they already created their own ARM-based CPU for phones. A desktop version is only a matter of time. I am surprised it has taken them this long still.

Remember when Apple switched to x86 and shocked the world? This is that 2nd coming but with ARM!
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#13
ARF
illli
This rumor has been going on for seemingly the past 8 years. Maybe one day someone who predicted it to happen "in the year 20xx" will actually be correct
It's about time.
Nowadays, GCC, an amazing Open Source Software project, does a better job compiling for most RISC platforms than any proprietary compiler you can find. Also, the speed of modern processors has sort of closed the noticeability gap for a shitty compiler. If the program is simple enough, even if it was poorly compiled, it will still execute faster than any user would notice.

We are at a stage where RISC architecture is probably the best direction to head for desktop applications. It is already in your servers and your cell phones (MIPS, Power, ARM, etc...). It was in your Apple Computers and it worked well there for a very long time (but getting a Mac to run Windows was a better business move).
I can go on much longer about things like average [CPI] (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cycles_per_instruction) and pipelining (which is easier when all of your instructions are the same length, which is most common on RISC architectures), but at that juncture, I would suggest picking up a computer architecture book.

ARM is already looking to be the desktop processor of the future. It should be caught up to x86 soon and its licensing is desirable. Microsoft even suggested that Windows 8 might run on ARM. Everyone likes it for the power dissipation it offers, but the instruction set is where it shines. Linux and Android already run quite well on it by the way. Check out RaspberryPi if you want to run one yourself. They should be available soon.
x86 has a whole heap of instructions that aren't commonly used anymore.
x86 is quite a terrible architecture but x86-64 makes many drastic improvements.
Now, as per x86 itself: there are a few reasons it is still used. The main one is that it is historical; it has a lot of momentum. Same reason Linux is widely used. It's not because it's optimal, but everyone already uses it.
Here is why we are stuck on x86 cpu's : When IBM got with intel to provide the chip for their desktop, IBM needed a larger supply and to ensure a better supply line than intel could provide.
Intel was forced to contract production of their their processors out of competition selling and their other cpu companies who agreed to make chips of a intel design stopped production and development of their own cpu's. Intel used this fact against their competition as eventually they were able to scale up production. They pushed Intel as a household brand, and did not license designs to those with a x86 license. Slowly x86 chip companies were bought out by other companies or went under.
Leaving intel with the only mature game in town.
askscience/comments/opg0h
Apple always innovates. They were the first with Retina-class displays, now they will be the first ditching x86 altogether, they will be the first to introduce an unlimited detail camera in their iPhones. :eek:
wccftech.com/exclusive-future-iphone-to-feature-unlimited-detail-camera-for-pin-sharp-digital-zoom-at-any-setting/
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#14
efikkan
If Apple does at some point move (some of) their Macs to ARM it will neither be for performance or cost reasons; the only reason would be to strengthen their walled garden.

Performance wise, RISC architectures can't compete with x86, and the whole CISC vs. RISC debate have been irrelevant since the mid 90s as all modern x86 microarchtectures employ micro operations which combines the both of both worlds. This also resolves the "legacy" part of x86.

ARM is a nightmare to support for computers in general, it's only suited for embedded devices or devices within a tight eco-system. To even run the OS, a custom firmware module is needed, tied to the specific ARM implementation. Next, software developers have to choose between only using the base instruction set and the resulting lousy performance, or to use any of the huge pile of custom features which vary from chip to chip and create custom versions of their software for each feature set they want to target. Anyone complaining over a few legacy instructions in x86 is just clueless; ARM is much worse. These custom accelerated features are application specific, and is the reason why your ARM powered phone or tablet is even usable.

While Apple might be heading down their own path, Intel (and AMD*) will not be heading in the ARM direction. It's hard to predict precisely where desktop computers will be 10 or 20 years from now, but it's clear from their advancement that they're moving towards CISC with more SIMD. With Intel's ever-increasing flexibility in AVX-512, and their research into "threadlets", we should be expecting some substantial performance gains over the next decade or so.

*) As a side note; AMD were originally planning to make Zen their stop-gap between Bulldozer and their next gen desktop architecture K12 (based on ARM). Meanwhile, their plans have evolved and currently states to make at least five iterations of Zen, K12 is MiA and is already obsolete vs. competing ARM designs.
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#15
R0H1T
I'm not sure why I keep reading these long prose on x86 & its apparent/inherent superiority?

Fact 1 ~ there's nothing that competes with Apple's highest end chip in a similar power envelope. Sure you could go on about Windows vs Linux vs Android vs Mac endless debate, though Apple is still king of the hill by a moonshot!

Fact 2 ~ ARM hasn't really had a go at the desktop arena because of the x86 "walled garden" not necessarily as it's inferior! Heck the server space is a similar walled garden, though arguably to a lesser extent because enterprises can make their own decisions & follow through on making their software work with various ISA or custom hardware unlike retail desktop consumers.

www.anandtech.com/print/15578/cloud-clash-amazon-graviton2-arm-against-intel-and-amd
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#16
Turmania
I mocked Apple when they released iPhone. Thought it was such a stupid idea like many of us. How wrong we turned out to be! So I learned the hard way, do not judge before it comes out.
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#19
ARF
Aquinus
Since Geekbench isn't known for favoring ARM CPUs at all or anything... :wtf:
It's not only Geekbench. I can compare the responsiveness of my phone with MediaTek MT6750T, an 8-core ARM phone-CPU with my desktop and to be honest the desktop feels less responsive, and yet consumes a heck of a lot more power.
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#20
R0H1T
Aquinus
Since Geekbench isn't known for favoring ARM CPUs at all or anything...
Actually it isn't, no evidence that Geekbench favors any ISA otherwise why would AT or many other reputed sites still include in their various tests? The part about the OS & schedulers is a bit more complicated & over there it's hard to have a truly apples vs apples comparison.
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#21
ebivan
First Ryzen conquers the desktop market, right now, Epic is starting to become serious competition in the high volume server market and soon this. Intel has tough times coming...
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#23
TheLostSwede
Some of the nay sayers here might want to take a look at what Amazon/Annapurna Labs have cooked up.
It's possible to get surprisingly good performance out of ARM cores these days and it's likely that if this rumour is true, that Apple has tuned their SoCs much more than Annapurna Labs have done in the below tests.
It would require some change to software though, as it seems like more cores are going to be needed to be able to compete in some tasks though.
www.anandtech.com/show/15578/cloud-clash-amazon-graviton2-arm-against-intel-and-amd/5
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#24
Assimilator
FFS. Always the same idiots with the same so-called arguments.

IT'S NOT JUST ABOUT PERFORMANCE YOU MUPPETS. It's about HAVING SOFTWARE THAT PEOPLE RELY ON running an Arm. It's about the fact that x86 has an enormous, decades-old library of applications, many of which no longer have source code available, many of which are relied upon by massive organisations for their day-to-day operations.

S**tty Apple laptops that going to do nothing more than run a web browser and MS Office and various other trash from the iStore do not have any of those concerns. Nobody buys or uses Apple latops to do real software development (sorry JS users, VS Code and NPM aren't real software, they can be run on a toaster). So the x86 ecosystem isn't something that Apple needs to care about, just their own, which is small and has been moving to Arm for the last decade so that Apple can offer One OS To Rule Them All across all their devices, not just phones. Thus it is trivial for Apple to replace x86 CPUs with Arm CPUs in their "laptops" that are actually iPads with permanently-attached trackpads and keyboards.

And stop posting that stupid AnandTech article. It's essentially free advertising for Amazon/Graviton2 because it contains ZERO real-world benchmarks. NONE. Amazon can provide all the Arm hardware in the world, the end-user is still responsible for the actual software running on those instances and guess what, you aren't going to find very much cloud-relevant software that compiles to Arm because nobody gives a s**t about Arm in the cloud. There are no big-name webservers with Arm binaries, there are no big-name databases with Arm binaries, and there is nobody in those projects rewriting their code to be performant on Arm because there is no incentive for them to do so.

x86 is not going away, ever. Arm is not going to displace it, ever. Stop dreaming, start thinking for a change.
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#25
hojnikb
Assimilator
FFS. Always the same idiots with the same so-called arguments.

IT'S NOT JUST ABOUT PERFORMANCE YOU MUPPETS. It's about HAVING SOFTWARE THAT PEOPLE RELY ON running an Arm. It's about the fact that x86 has an enormous, decades-old library of applications, many of which no longer have source code available, many of which are relied upon by massive organisations for their day-to-day operations.

S**tty Apple laptops that going to do nothing more than run a web browser and MS Office and various other trash from the iStore do not have any of those concerns. Nobody buys or uses Apple latops to do real software development (sorry JS users, VS Code and NPM aren't real software, they can be run on a toaster). So the x86 ecosystem isn't something that Apple needs to care about, just their own, which is small and has been moving to Arm for the last decade so that Apple can offer One OS To Rule Them All across all their devices, not just phones. Thus it is trivial for Apple to replace x86 CPUs with Arm CPUs in their "laptops" that are actually iPads with permanently-attached trackpads and keyboards.

And stop posting that stupid AnandTech article. It's essentially free advertising for Amazon/Graviton2 because it contains ZERO real-world benchmarks. NONE. Amazon can provide all the Arm hardware in the world, the end-user is still responsible for the actual software running on those instances and guess what, you aren't going to find very much cloud-relevant software that compiles to Arm because nobody gives a s**t about Arm in the cloud. There are no big-name webservers with Arm binaries, there are no big-name databases with Arm binaries, and there is nobody in those projects rewriting their code to be performant on Arm because there is no incentive for them to do so.

x86 is not going away, ever. Arm is not going to displace it, ever. Stop dreaming, start thinking for a change.
You need to wake up in 2020, sir. Things like emulation exists and most software can be ported over to ARM without too much difficulty. Other than some very purposeful machines (think CNCs) everything else can easily switchover to arm, if and when performance will be there. It's that much easier for apple, since it has tighter control on their platform.
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