From Wayne Ma’s “Apple’s Road Map for Mac Chips Shows Likely Advantage Over Intel” ($) posted Friday by the Information:
Apple’s plans for its future Mac processors suggest those new chips are likely to easily outperform Intel’s future processors for consumer PCs, previously unreported details about Apple’s road map show. Apple has already begun working on the next two generations of Mac chips, which are expected to succeed the M1—the first Mac processor Apple designed in-house as it began to move away from Intel, according to three people with direct knowledge of the plans.
Apple’s third generation of Mac processors—which go by the code names Ibiza, Lobos and Palma, according to three people with direct knowledge of the projects—look to be an especially big step up from the processors Intel is expected to begin shipping around that time, analysts told The Information…
If Apple succeeds in blowing past Intel in the performance department, it will be a major vindication of its decision to end the 15-year relationship between the companies and to invest heavily in the expansion of its in-house chip design team. For over a decade, the company’s silicon engineering group has been designing the processors that go into iPhones and iPads, the A-series of chips. Last November it introduced the M1 in some MacBook models, and last month it put improved M1 chips in more of its product line, eliminating Intel processors from all but a couple remaining Macs.
Silicon engineers have a number of technical tricks they can perform to boost the performance of processors, all of which come with trade-offs such as increased power consumption and heat, as well as presenting thorny new design and manufacturing challenges. Designers can increase the number of dies—the hearts of the processor—on the chips, which contain dense thickets of transistors. A single die can contain multiple cores, allowing more tasks to be performed at once.
Silicon engineers can also increase the frequency of chips so they can execute more instructions per second. And they can use more-advanced manufacturing processes to shrink the size of transistors—measured in nanometers—on a die, enabling more-advanced chip designs.
In the case of Apple, the company’s first generation of Mac processors—the M1, M1 Pro and M1 Max—each has one die and is manufactured using a 5-nanometer process. But Apple’s road map calls for steady improvements on those features.
For its second-generation processors, Apple plans to manufacture them using an upgraded version of the 5-nanometer process, two people with knowledge of its plans said. One of the people said the chips will contain two dies. Apple plans to take a much bigger leap with its third-generation processors, some of which will have four dies made using a 3-nanometer process, that person said.
Apple’s fastest processors currently contain 10 compute cores on a single die, which could translate into as many as 40 compute cores for a chip with four die.
My take: They had me right up to 4 dies X 10 cores/die = 40 cores. The math can’t be that simple.
Note: Apple famously code-names its silicon after islands — from humble Staten to colossus Rhodes. Ibiza, Lobos and Palma happen to be Spanish islands — two Canaries and a Mediterranean.