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Why the ‘real’ Apple M2 might not be ready until 2023

WWDC 2022 starts next week, and for months, rumors have been circulating about Apple announcing its M2 chip for new MacBooks. There’s a solid chance Apple will release new MacBooks with updated silicon at WWDC, but it won’t be the full generational jump fans have hoped for.

The issue comes down to what wafer Apple will base the M2 on. The M1 is built on chipmaker TSMC’s 5nm manufacturing process, and rumors have pointed to Apple using the 4nm manufacturing process for the M2. According to Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo and leaker ShrimpApplePro, that won’t be possible if Apple plans on releasing new MacBooks in the second half of the year.

Board concept of Apple M2.

TSMC delayed volume manufacturing on its N4P node — an updated version of the 4nm N4 node, which itself is an update of the 5nm N5 node — out to 2023. True next-gen Apple silicon will likely arrive in 2023 on TSMC’s 3nm process, which is a generational improvement over N5 and its various derivatives.

Naming is the big question at the moment. For months, rumors have pointed to Apple launching new Macs at WWDC this year. Apple has updated all of its Macs (minus the iMac Pro and Mac Pro) with its own silicon, as well as some iPads, so a new MacBook Pro or MacBook Air would likely come with an updated Apple chip.

We don’t know what products Apple will announce at WWDC, or if it will announce products at all. There’s a good chance we’ll see the 2022 MacBook Air and the 13-inch MacBook Pro, however. Both of these products launched in November 2020 with the, at the time, new M1 processor. Nearing two years old, both have been due for a refresh for months.

Assuming one or both machines show up at WWDC, it’s not clear if Apple will use M2 as the nomenclature for its silicon, or announce a new version of the M1. Since the M1 MacBook Air launched, Apple has introduced the M1 Pro, Max, and Ultra. Rumors suggest Apple is working on an M1 Extreme processor, as well, though it likely won’t be an option for an efficiency-focused machine like the MacBook Air.

Although we won’t get true next-gen Apple silicon until 2023, a refreshed MacBook Air is still a strong possibility. Ming-Chi Kuo points out that an “all-new design is already a big selling point for new [MacBook Air]. Leaving much-anticipated M2 series debut to next 14″/16″ [MacBook Pro] may contribute more to Apple.”

Design has been a defining element of the next MacBook Air, at least according to various leaked renders and concepts. The refreshed design is rumored to come in various different colors to match the 24-inch iMac, as well as feature rounded white keycaps. It could feature a 1080p webcam and a notch like the 14-inch MacBook Pro, as well.

For now, all we can do is wait. WWDC 2022 begins on June 6, and you can stream the keynote presentation on Apple’s events page.

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