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Mac M2 processors: Apple secures 4nm node for late 2021 release

Macbook Electric Color
Dmitry Chernyshov/Unsplash

Apple’s next powerful desktop processor upgrade may not happen until late this year or early 2022. Though unconfirmed and largely a rumor right now, it’s reported that Apple’s next-generation chipset based on the 4nm node would not be ready for production by manufacturing partner TSMC until late this year. The company’s current Mac mini, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro all use a 5nm node.

According to a report from DigiTimes, Apple has already secured capacity at TSMC’s fabs for its M-series desktop processors based on a smaller N4 node, with volume production for the 4nm chipset to happen sometime in the fourth quarter of 2021. This timeline is said to have been moved up from a 2022 timeframe, according to unnamed sources used by the publication. If accurate, this means that new Macs with the new N4-based M series processors — likely to be dubbed the M2 — may not materialize until late this year at the earliest or early next year.

In the past, we’ve heard rumors that Apple is readying new designs for its MacBook Pro laptops — which could be redesigned in 14- and 16-inch display sizes — along with a newly designed iMac that loses its bottom chin and a more compact Mac Pro based on its own ARM-based M series processor. Given the design refresh, those models may not debut until the TSMC can deliver the new M series processors based on the 4nm node, as historically Apple prefers to reuse old case designs when it changes to a new chip architecture for the first generation. This is something we’ve seen when Apple migrated from Power PC processors to Intel in the past and with the move to M1 on the most recent Mac products.

The smaller and more compact 4nm node will help Apple further slim down its laptops and deliver more powerful chipsets with better battery efficiency. The more compact silicon allows Apple to squeeze more transistors onto the chip. For its part, Apple already boasted up to 20 hours of battery life on the MacBook Pro when viewing videos, which is double what Apple had quoted for its prior generation Intel-powered model.

On desktops, Apple’s advances in silicon design will help it to compete against rivals AMD and Intel. News of Apple’s accelerated plans to 4nm comes on the heels of Intel’s latest 7nm announcements.

In addition to the more advanced 4nm node, Apple is also said to be partnering once again with TSMC for the A15 chipset, and the publication’s sources noted that this processor series will go into the upcoming iPhone 13 smartphone. The chipset is expected to be based on a more advanced process of the N5 node called N5 Plus or N5P. And beyond 4nm, Apple is already rumored to be working on a 3nm processor for Macs.

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