Ultra-powerful MacBook Pro M1 with 12 cores to get March release

More cores and more memory for Apple’s high-end MacBook Pro

MacBook Pro 16 inch
(Image credit: Apple)

The next generation of MacBook Pros are about to get even more powerful. According to Apple tipster LeaksApplePro, a 12-core M1-powered MacBook Pro is just weeks away. That would deliver a big performance boost over the current M1-powered MacBook Pro, which has an eight-core M1 processor.

LeaksApplePro likes to make short pronouncements, and this is no exception: they posted “Next Mac March 12 cores”, and that’s it for now. Last week they posted a similar announcement about forthcoming high-end processors: “64 cores lol. will tell you soon. Can’t tell you now.”

More cores and more unified memory

If the 12-core M1 is indeed destined for the MacBook Pro, the most likely candidate is the 16-inch MacBook Pro: Apple’s biggest, most powerful MacBook Pro is currently Intel-powered with a choice of a 6-core Intel Core i7 or an 8-core Intel Core i9. 

While the current M1 MacBook Air is the best laptop for most people, the big MacBook Pro has always been designed for more demanding tasks and needs an even more powerful processor as a result. Desktop performance has always meant more cores, but moving away from Intel means we can have even more cores.

LeaksApplePro says that’s exactly what Apple will achieve this with eight high-performance cores, four energy-efficient cores and 64GB of unified memory. This Apple Silicon will be called M1X to differentiate it from the processors already in the MacBook Air, MacBook Pro and M1 Mac mini.

The only real surprise here is the timescale. Previous reports suggested that the big MacBook Pro wouldn’t get an Apple Silicon heart until the tail end of the year.

M series processors are evolving fast

Apple’s plans to move the entire Mac line to Apple Silicon by the end of 2022 are moving quickly: we’re already looking at going from eight cores to twelve, and Apple is apparently working on a processor with 64 cores for future Mac Pros. If the reported M1X specifications are correct, it’s also boosted unified memory from the current 16GB limit to 64GB.

The CPU cores and memory are just part of Apple Silicon, though. Apple is also working on more powerful graphics processing, and according to Bloomberg it’s currently testing graphics with 16 and 32 cores. The same report says Apple intends to offer high-end Macs with 64 or even 128 graphics cores as soon as 2022. 

Performance isn’t the only issue here. The M1 Macs we’ve seen so far have had fewer ports than, and can’t officially drive as many displays as, the Intel-powered 16-inch MacBook Pro. That’s not an issue for most of us, but if you’re working in a field such as commercial video production it may be a deal-breaker. It’ll be interesting to see whether more cores in the M1X will come with more expandability than the current M1 models.

In the meantime, don't forget to check out our picks of the best lightweight laptops, best laptops for students, and best monitors for MacBook Pro.

Carrie Marshall

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written more than a dozen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote seven more books and a Radio 2 documentary series. When she’s not scribbling, she’s the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR (havrmusic.com).