A new Mac is in the pipeline and it will run on Apple Silicon – that’s the name Apple is using for its custom-made ARM-based chips that it will be transitioning to over the next two years. The company has confirmed that the first ARM Mac will launch before the end of 2020 – so we should see the first ARM MacBook or Mac soon, in fact there are rumours that the new Apple Silicon MacBook will launch at an event in November.
It might seem likely that this new ARM Mac would take the form of the Mac mini since there is already an Apple Silicon version of the Mac mini that is available to developers for testing purposes – and indeed we could soon see a consumer version of this. However, the rumours are pointing to the first Silicon Mac being a new MacBook, similar to the 12in MacBook that Apple discontinued in July 2019.
Other rumours point to the MacBook Air and the 13in MacBook Pro also getting Apple’s version of an ARM processor soon.
In this article we’ll look into Apple’s plans to start using its own ARM-based SoCs rather than Intel chips in its Macs. We’ll examine the Apple Silicon release date rumours, details of the MacBook that is expected to be the first to use Apple’s new processors, and what it might mean for its graphics capabilities.
We’ll also assess whether this new Mac could be capable of running both iOS and macOS.
ARM MacBook release date
Apple has confirmed that the first ARM/Silicon Mac will arrive before the end of 2020. If you are wondering when that first Apple Silicon Mac or MacBook will launch you are in the right place to find out!
We think that the first Mac to get an Apple Silicon processor will be the 12in MacBook. Around the same time we think Apple will also update the MacBook Air and the 13in MacBook Pro – although it’s feasible that the 12in MacBook will actually replace the 13in MacBook Pro. We anticipate the roll out being something like this:
As for when we are likely to see those first Mac or MacBook with ARM-based processor it seems likely that it will launch in November – in fact leaker Jon Prosser is predicting 17 November 2020.
To confirm, there IS a November ARM Mac event.
I’m hearing November 17th. 🗓
— Jon Prosser (@jon_prosser)
October 16, 2020
In a 9 October article Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman also suggested Apple will launch its new Macs in November. “The first Mac laptop with Apple’s own processor, among other products, will emerge at another launch in November,” wrote Gruman.
We weren’t surprised that the first Silicon MacBook didn’t put in an appearance at Apple’s 13 October event, we thought that the new Mac would require more ‘air time’ than this iPhone 12-focused event would allow.
Apple Silicon MacBook price
Back in July 2020 tweeter Komiya suggested that the price of the new ARM MacBook would be $849 – with a $799 price for students.
MacBook Pro 13”
(*idk about the exact price) https://t.co/aypv0pZhGB
— Komiya (@KOMIYA45020228)
July 25, 2020
In a tweet on 24 July, Ihacktu (aka iHacktu Pro) claimed that a new Silicon MacBook would cost just $800. He also suggested that there would be a Mac event on 27 October. His tweet was deleted soon after.
In the same tweet Ihacktu also suggested that a new Silicon 13in MacBook Pro would start at $1,099 (it’s currently $1,299). More information here: Silicon MacBook could launch on 27 October and cost $800.
Making its own processors in house could theoretically mean that Apple can save money and pass the saving onto consumers.
However, it’s often the case that when Apple introduces a new product the price goes up. So the first generation Apple Silicon MacBooks could actually cost more than their predecessors.
However, we think that in this instance Apple will want to make the upgrade attractive to consumers and for that reason we expect that the pricing will be similar to what it is now.
What is Apple Silicon?
Apple has announced that it will be moving away from Intel processors inside its Macs to its own home-made processors – called Apple Silicon. You may have heard them referred to as ARM processors, that’s because the architecture that underlies them is known as ARM. Apple’s been making its own processors for a while now – every iPhone, iPad, and many other Apple products have Apple processors inside. Indeed, some Macs already have an Apple processor inside – the T1 and T2 are ARM-based security related chips that appear in various Macs.
This won’t be the first time Apple has made such a transition, in 2006 it moved from PowerPC chips to Intel. Just as was the case back then, this latest move won’t happen overnight and there will be a lot of work involved behind the scenes, not just for Apple but also for developers who will need to translate their apps to run on the new architecture (although initially apps will be automatically translated using Apple’s Rosetta system). We have everything you need to know about Apple Silicon here. You might also be interested to read about how Apple Silicon will compare to Intel here.
New ARM MacBook specs
Aside from the Apple Processor inside this new Mac, what other specs can we expect to see?
It’s possible that these first Macs to use Apple Silicon will not change in any other way – we may see the same RAM and storage allocation for example.
Komiya has also leaked details of the Apple Silicon MacBook in the below tweet from August 2020:
12” Retina Display
15hr~20hr battery life
720p Facetime HD Camera
Single USB-C port
About 2 ponds
4th gen Butterfly Keyboard
$849~(For Students: $799~)
— Komiya (@komiya_kj)
August 29, 2020
He suggests that the new MacBook will feature a A14X chip, 8GB and 16GB of RAM, and between 256GB to 512GB storage. The most impressive claim: battery life of up to 20 hours.
Silicon MacBook Graphics
The specs of consumer focused Macs are very different to those destined for professional users – especially professional creatives. The GPU provision of Silicon Macs is the most obvious question – and the biggest concern for professional users. We have details of Apple’s Silicon graphics plans here.
However, most consumer Macs currently have integrated Intel graphics. What graphics will the new Apple Silicon MacBook offer?
Apple told developers at WWDC that Apple Silicon Macs will sport custom Apple GPUs. In a developer support document Apple advises not to underestimate an integrated Apple GPU, saying: “Don’t assume a discrete GPU means better performance… The integrated GPU in Apple processors is optimized for high performance graphics tasks.”
At least for consumer Macs using an Apple integrated GPU would make sense, and it shouldn’t be a huge leap for the company – Apple already makes its own GPUs for the iPhone and iPad.
However, when it comes to pro focused Macs, such as those that currently use AMD GPUs the transition will be more complex. The company may continue to use these high-end graphics processors. Alternatively, this may also explain why the iMac and other pro-focused desktops and laptops won’t be transitioning to Apple Silicon soon.
Face ID on new MacBook
When Apple is able to use Apple Silicon inside its Macs it may pave the way for Face ID on the Mac. There is evidence in the Big Sur beta that the TrueDepth camera is going to become a feature of the MacBook range, enabling Face ID.
Silicon Mac software
We know that the first Apple Silicon Macs will run macOS Big Sur – the operating system that is being developed for both types of Mac. However, there is a lot that these new Silicon Macs will be able to do that their Intel counterparts won’t.
The WWDC keynote suggested that it will be possible to run iOS apps on the new Silicon-powered Mac.
This means that developers won’t have to develop separate versions of their apps for Mac and iOS/iPad OS – one app could work on all platforms.
This reminds us of a 9to5Mac report back in May 2018 that revealed details of an in-house project as Apple codenamed ‘Star’ that suggested that Apple was creating an ARM-based processor to be used in a “brand-new device family” that would run a derivative of iOS on a Mac.
That ‘Star’ project related to a product with that has “a touchscreen, a SIM card slot, GPS, compass, is water-resistant and also runs EFI,” according to 9to5Mac. EFI (Extensible Firmware Interface) is the boot system used by Macs.
Wouldn’t it be nice if this new Apple Silicon Mac had a touch screen? Speaking of which, this is why we think Apple needs a touchscreen Mac.