Skip to main content

Future MacBooks could get a big performance boost if new Apple patent pans out

Your next MacBook Pro powered by a future version of Apple’s in-house-designed M1 processor could be even faster and last longer on a charge if Apple’s new hybrid memory patent, which combines high-density, low-bandwidth memory with low-density, high-bandwidth memory, becomes a reality. Rather than share memory between the CPU and GPU on Apple’s current system on a chip (SoC) design — which has its own set of limitations — Apple proposes in its patent, filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, that the use of a hybrid system would be more efficient and deliver additional performance.

“Providing a memory system with two types of DRAM (e.g., one high-density and one low-latency, high-bandwidth) may permit a highly energy-efficient operation, which may make the memory system suitable for portable devices and other devices where energy efficiency and performance per unit of energy expended are key attributes,” the company said in its filing.

This would differ from the unified memory architecture, or UMA, that Apple currently employs on its ARM-based processors, as the CPU and GPU would also need to share memory capacity and bandwidth. This in turn could have a material effect on performance, according to Tom’s Hardware.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Conversely, using a hybrid approach, as Apple is proposing, would mitigate the need to use large amounts of costly high bandwidth memory. Apple’s patent combines DDR memory with HBM memory. Apple’s design was likely envisioned for portables, like the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro, as the company detailed that the DRAMs are to be soldered onto the logic board.

“With two types of DRAM forming the memory system, one of which may be optimized for bandwidth and the other of which may be optimized for capacity, the goals of bandwidth increase and capacity increase may both be realized, in some embodiments,” Apple elaborated. “Additionally, energy efficiency may be managed in the high-bandwidth portion of the memory. The portion of the memory that is optimized for capacity may have a lower-bandwidth goal and a relaxed (longer) latency goal, since these goals may be served by the portion that is optimized for bandwidth. Similarly, the portion of the memory that is optimized for bandwidth may have lower area efficiency goals, but latency and energy efficiency improvements may be made.”

Image used with permission by copyright holder

The company added that high-bandwidth, low-latency, energy-efficient, and high-memory systems could be achieved in a more cost-effective manner through this hybrid memory architecture. “Particularly, implementing the high-density portion and the high-bandwidth, low-latency portion in separate chips that together form the main memory system may allow for each memory to implement energy-efficiency improvements, which may provide a highly energy-efficient memory solution that is also high performance and high bandwidth,” the company said.

Apple isn’t the only company to work on a hybrid memory architecture. Intel’s Xeon processor use both DDR4 memory and Optane memory to support a hybrid approach, and the next-generation Xeon chipsets are said to support HBM. It’s unclear if or when Apple’s hybrid memory architecture will debut on some future version of the M1 chip — technology companies like Apple often file patents that don’t make it to a final product.

Apple has also been rumored to be working on a future M1 processor version with more cores and enhanced graphics capabilities. Such a chip could find its way into a new Mac Pro.

Editors' Recommendations

Chuong Nguyen
Silicon Valley-based technology reporter and Giants baseball fan who splits his time between Northern California and Southern…
Apple’s next MacBooks and iPads could be in serious trouble
The MacBook Pro open on a wooden table.

Hype has been growing for Apple’s upcoming M3 chips, which are expected to splash down in a slate of Macs and iPads later this year. Yet one leaker has come along to spoil the party and has claimed that we won’t see anything of the sort until 2024.

That idea comes from Twitter leaker Revegnus, who tweeted that there would be “No M3 Mac or iPad for this year.” That will be disappointing news to anyone looking forward to laying their hands on the latest and greatest Apple silicon chips in the coming months.

Read more
Apple could be working on a secret OLED MacBook Air
The screen of the MacBook Air M2.

Apple could be planning a new MacBook Air equipped with an OLED display, according to Korean tech website TheElec. Interestingly, there are suggestions that the MacBook Air could get this high-end tech before Apple’s flagship MacBook Pro models.

Right now, none of Apple’s MacBook laptops come with OLED panels, and instead use Liquid Retina displays based on LCD technology. That could all change if TheElec’s claims are accurate, however.

Read more
A brand-new M3 MacBook Air could be just months away
Apple MacBook Air M1 open, on a table.

Apple has only just launched its M2 Pro and M2 Max chips inside new MacBook Pro laptops, but some people are already looking to the future. And according to a new report, next-generation Apple silicon chips could be here in a matter of months.

That idea comes from Taiwanese publication DigiTimes (via MacRumors), which claims that a new 13-inch MacBook Air with an M3 chip could launch in the second half of 2023. That device might represent the most significant performance increase in an Apple laptop since Apple silicon first launched in 2020.

Read more