Apple’s new Macs have beefed-up iPhone 12 processors, and more models are coming in Spring

Apple Silicon is coming to MacBook Air and MacBook Pro first, and more models are coming soon, according to a new report

MacBook Air
(Image credit: Apple)

Apple's new Apple Silicon Macs are powered by supercharged versions of the iPhone 12 processor, and more new models will launch in Spring, according to Nikkei Asia. The report's source says that the Apple-made chips in the new MacBooks, which are set to be announced at the company's November 10th 'One More Thing' event, are manufactured using a 5-nanometer fabrication process. The only 5nm chip Apple currently makes is the A14, which powers the iPad Air (2020) and the iPhone 12 – previous chips used 7nm processes.

That makes it logical that the new machines will have a chip that's a variation of the A14 chips – probably with more processor cores and graphics power (much like the A12Z that's in current iPad Pros is a variation of the A12 chip from the iPhone XS), as well as extra RAM. They may even run at higher clock speeds too, though the A14 is already no slouch, so maybe that's unnecessary.

In benchmarks, the A14 outperforms the current MacBook Air and several current MacBook Pros too. But the main appeal of the first-generation Apple Silicon MacBooks and MacBook Pros is likely to be battery life. Apple Silicon has been designed to deliver more performance with less power consumption, and of course that’s crucial for mobile devices. 

While Apple currently promises all-day battery life on its laptops, that’s based on very passive use such as watching video. The prospect of much better battery life for Macs that make video is going to get lots of people very excited.

Which Macs will get Apple Silicon first?

The first Apple Silicon Macs will be announced on 10 November and are expected to be the 13-inch MacBook Air, the 13-inch MacBook Pro and the 16-inch MacBook Pro. Apple is clearly expecting them to sell like hotcakes: Nikkei’s source says that Apple’s initial order is for 2.5 million MacBooks and MacBook Pros, which is equivalent to one-fifth of all the MacBooks it shipped in 2019. 

Although Intel-powered Macs are going to be with us for a little longer, Apple is pursuing an aggressive rollout of Apple Silicon. The first Apple-powered MacBooks will have barely been delivered before Apple launches even more models in the Spring of 2021, according to Nikkei, and the goal is to replace Intel in every Mac from the Mac mini to the Mac Pro.

Thinking different about Mac design

In addition to improved battery life, Apple Silicon also delivers two other key benefits: it’s cheaper for Apple than Intel silicon, and it enables Apple to make extremely portable but powerful devices. The current iPhone 12 range, from the iPhone 12 mini to the iPhone 12 Pro Max, is a great example of that. 

We don’t expect massive changes in Mac design straight away – externally, the new MacBooks are said to look almost identical to their Intel-powered predecessors; when Apple moved to Intel from PowerPC back in the day, it kept its design largely the same for some time – but in the longer term, Apple Silicon could enable Apple to think very different about its entire product line not just in terms of the way it looks, but in the technology it uses. 

The savings Apple makes from using Apple Silicon could be spent on other key components such as the display. We know miniLED iPads are likely in 2021, delivering OLED-style contrast with high brightness and without the burn-in, expense or power demands; mini-LED MacBooks and iMacs might not be too far behind.

What does this mean for potential Mac purchasers? Right now, it means we're likely to see some really good Apple Black Friday deals on the existing MacBook and MacBook Pro. Apple will support Intel Macs for many years to come, and the best Intel Macs are still superb computers. There's no reason not to buy one if the price is right.

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