Benchmarks have appeared for what is widely thought to be the next generation of Apple's Mac processors. The M1X - or possibly the M2 - is expected to follow the M1 that was introduced in November 2020. The next generation Apple silicon chip is expected to feature in the next editions of the MacBook Pro and the larger iMac.
Here's everything we know about the successor to Apple's M1 Chip.
What is M1X?
The M1X Chip is thought to be the name for the next generation of Apple Silicon. It will be Apple's second ARM-based processor built for Mac.
Rather than jumping straight to the M2 it seems that it is Apple's plan to first introduce a speedier version of the same basic processor with more processor cores and more graphics cores.
If the rumours and leaked benchmarks from CPU Monkey are to be believed, this new version of the M1 Chip - the M1X - will offer a big improvement on the M1 Chip found in the November 2020 updates to the MacBook Air, entry-level MacBook Pro and the Mac mini, and the April 2021 24in iMac.
What is M2?
The M2 could be the successor to the M1X, or it might be that Apple skips the M1X altogether and moves straight to the M2.
Alternatively the M2 could be the chip used for the Macs designed for creative professionals, while the M1X succeeds the M1 in Macs that are designed more for every day use.
For example, Apple might launch the M2 for the successor to the 27in iMac and the 16in MacBook Pro, while using the M1X for the rumoured 14in MacBook Pro, and eventually the next generation of the MacBook Air.
The next Mac update is expected in June at WWDC. That update is likely to feature either the M1X or M2 (or both).
WWDC will take place from 7 June 2021. Read about what to expect at WWDC.
However, there could be a slightly longer wait. A Nikkei report in April 2021 indicates that production on the successor to the M1 started in April 2021. However, Nikkei's sources indicate that the new chip won't be ready to be used in Macs until July.
Nikkei's sources suggest it is likely to be around three months before the chip starts to make its way into Apple's computers - indicating a summer release date for new Macs is possible. Assembly "could begin as early as July for use in MacBooks that are scheduled to go on sale in the second half of this year", claims the report.
Which Macs will feature the M1X?
We think that the M1X will be used in the 14in MacBook Pro.
Which Macs will feature the M2?
We think Apple will choose to use the more powerful M2 Chip for the 16in MacBook Pro and 27in iMac refresh.
Here's what the rumours and leaked benchmarks suggest we could see in the new M1X - it is possible that these could be the specs for the M2 if Apple moves straight to the M2 rather than launching an M1X.
All the rumours point to there being 12 cores in the Apple M1X. That's an increase compared to the eight cores found in the M1. Where the M1 had four high-performance cores (codenamed Firestorm) and four energy-efficient cores (codenamed Icestorm), there will be eight high-performance Firestorm cores in the M1X.
Apple didn't reveal the clock speed of its M1 processor, but the benchmarks suggested that it was clocked at 3.2GHz. This hasn't changed for the M1X - according to the leaked benchmarks the new chip will still be clocked at 3.2GHz.
Like the M1 the M1X will still be based on a 5nm production process.
These extra cores will require more power, and the benchmarks indicate that the wattage will increase, maxing out at 45 watts for the M1X compared to the M1 Mac mini which maxed out at 39 watts. This is still pretty good going given that the 2018 Intel Mac mini maxed at 122 watts.
The benchmarks indicate that there will be 256 execution units for the M1X, compared to 128 execution units in the M1.
Like the M1 Mac the M1X benchmarks indicate that there will still be a 16GB max for RAM.
M1X display support
The benchmarks also indicate that the M1X will run up to three displays - which will be an improvement compared to the M1 MacBook Air and MacBook Pro which can only support one additional display (unless you follow this tutorial: How to connect two or more external displays to Apple Silicon M1 Macs.
The M1 Mac mini can at least run an Apple XDR and a 4K display together.
What about the M2?
According to a Bloomberg report, Apple's at work on a number of new Mac processors.
As well as M1X Apple is also developing in-house CPUs that boast 16-core and 32-core GPUs. The Bloomberg report from December 2020 suggested that Apple is working on designs with as many as 16 power cores and four efficiency cores, according to sources.
For higher-end desktop computers and a new smaller Mac Pro Apple could offer 32 high-performance cores - but those chips aren't expected until 2022, according to Bloomberg's sources. The ultimate Mac Pro desktop maxes out at 28-cores currently.
Alongside the 16-core GPU anticipated for the M1X Apple is said to be working on a 32-core graphics option, and by 2022 we could see 64 and 128 dedicated cores in Apple's highest-end machines, according to Bloomberg's sources.
You may also like to read: Mac trends in 2021 - The super Macs are coming.