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The Mac In 2019: Future MacBook Pro, MacBook Air Glimpsed In Intel Roadmap

The AchieVer

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2018 MacBook Air.

2018 MacBook Air.CREDIT: APPLE


The MacBook Pro and MacBook Air should benefit from Intel's chip makeover in 2019.


Intel is slated to move to its Sunny Cove microarchitecture, the chipmaker said recently -- which would put 10-nanometer (nm) Intel processors in Macs for the first time.

Intel in 2019:


Intel has been stuck at 14nm since 2014 -- though it has made iterative improvements to that manufacturing process over the years as it announced new chips.  Enter 10nm Sunny Cove, which is designed to increase performance per clock and improve power efficiency. But the more interesting upgrade will be Gen11 graphics that roughly doubles the performance of Gen9* graphics.


Intel says Gen11 will break the 1 TFLOPS barrier, a big boost for gaming and media applications. The number of Gen11 execution cores -- or so-called execution units (EUs) -- will also see a big increase to 64 from 24. All of this -- including new AVX-512 instructions -- will be incorporated into the next generation of "Ice Lake" processors (based on Sunny Cove), according to Anandtech


The Next MacBook Pro: 

Current 2018 13-inch MacBook Pros with Touch Bar use Intel's mobile Coffee Lake U series processors released in the second quarter of 2018. The 15-inch uses six-core Coffee Lake H, also launched in Q2.


If Apple follows past practice, a future 13-inch MacBook Pro will get Intel's top-of-the-line Gen11 graphics with revved up quad-core processors, while the 15-inch MBP will get updated to Intel's latest many-core mobile processors.


The 13-inch MacBook Pro would benefit the most since it relies on Intel graphics. Current 13-inch MacBook Pros with Touch Bar, for example, rely solely on Intel Iris Plus Graphics 655.

On the other hand, a future 15-inch MacBook Pro would not be as affected on the graphics side since it also comes equipped with AMD graphics (currently AMD Radeon Pro Vega).


The Next MacBook Air:


A 2019 MacBook Air update would use a follow-on to the very-low-power (7-watt) Y series dual-core Amber Lake — used in the current late-2018 MBA.

In fact, very-low-power Y series processors** could reap the biggest rewards from the move to the smaller 10nm geometries that offer improved power-saving characteristics.  Apple uses the Y series in its most power-sensitive and thinnest MacBooks (which includes the mid-2017 12-inch MacBook in addition to the new MacBook Air).


Next, next MacBook: a big surprise or just a big 'maybe'


The biggest change of all -- see this report from Bloomberg -- would be the switch to Apple's own processors, like the A12X Bionic chip inside the newest 12.9-inch iPad Pro. That Apple chip smokes even recent Intel Core i7 mobile processors.

But reports prognosticating about Apple dumping Intel for its own CPU have been around since 2011 so I wouldn't hold your breath.

Besides, the 2018 MacBook Air with Intel's latest power-efficient processor is up to the task (see notes at bottom). Or if you want the next best thing, the 2018 12.9-inch iPad Pro, combined with Apple's Smart Keyboard Folio, offers a good taste of a future iOS MacBook with an Apple CPU.



*Intel, in effect, skipped Gen10, according to Anandtech. For more details see Anandtech on what it calls Intel's "failed 10nm Cannonlake chip."

**I am currently using a late-2018 MacBook Air with an Amber Lake dual-core Y series processor. The 2018 MacBook Air is surprisingly fast and I have, so far, experienced no lag or performance issues. In fact, I see no difference -- doing everyday tasks -- between the 2018 MacBook Air and my quad-core mid-2017 MacBook Pro 15. However, I do see a remarkable difference in battery life: the MacBook Air outlasts the MacBook Pro by hours.  (More on this in a coming review of the 2018 MacBook Air.)



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