Apple’s M3 processor generation continues to take shape thanks to what appear to be unreleased internal test units showing up in analytics data from third-party app developers. Back in May, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman reported on the specs of what appeared to be a new M3 Pro processor. Yesterday, Gurman revealed the specifications of a new M3 Maxwhich has a total of 16 CPU cores and 40 GPU cores, plus 48GB of memory (probably not the maximum that will be available as the current MacBook Pros can go up to 96GB).
The current M2 Max, found in the 16-inch MacBook Pro and Mac Studio, tops out at 12 CPU cores and 38 GPU cores. Gurman says that all four of the M3 Max’s extra CPU cores should be large, high-performance cores rather than smaller efficiency cores; both types of cores increase speeds, but performance cores are obviously more useful for high-end workloads.
Earlier this week, Gurman too noticed a new base model M3 chip that continued to use 8 CPU cores and 10 GPU cores, just like the current M2. This chip would still be a speed upgrade from the M2, but it would have to rely on architectural improvements and clock speed increases rather than extra cores. The original M1 also used eight CPU cores, also split evenly between high-performance and high-efficiency cores.
All M3 series chips (plus the upcoming A17 Bionic chip for next generation iPhones) will be manufactured using a new 3 nm process from Taiwan Semiconductor. A smaller manufacturing process allows Apple to either maintain the same performance at a lower power consumption, increase performance while using roughly the same power, or some combination of the two. The M2 chip uses “N4P,” a refined version of the 5nm TSMC manufacturing process used for the M1 series.
These probably won’t be the only versions of the M3, M3 Pro, and M3 Max we see, and the versions that eventually hit retail may include more (or fewer!) CPU and GPU cores than what has appeared in developer logs so far. Apple offers multiple configurations of most of its Macs, allowing it to use “built-in” chips with defective cores instead of throwing them out (although TSMC allegedly not charging Apple for unusable chips as most chipmakers do for most customers).
Apple often releases new Macs in October after the dust settles from its September iPhone and Apple Watch announcements. We should see the first M3 Macs then, about 15 months after the introduction of the the first wave of M2 Macs. The MacBook Air usually leads the charge.
Apple completed its transition from Intel processors to its own Apple Silicon chips about a year behind schedule, finally replacing the Intel Mac Pro with an M2 Ultra version this summer. Now that the transition is complete, we wouldn’t expect any big surprises from the M3 generation. The M2 generation gave us a “pro” Mac mini, a redesign of the MacBook Air and a 15-inch Air, but the M3 updates should generally just be simple chip upgrades.
Gurman has occasionally mentioned a possible replacement for the old 27-inch iMac, which disappeared from Apple’s range without replacement in early 2022. The iMac used to be the desktop computer Apple would point you to if you needed more power than a Mac mini and less than a Mac Pro, but the M2 Pro Mac mini and the entry-level Mac Studio both fill that spot in Apple’s lineup now. Gurman has said that a larger iMac with a 32-inch screen is in “early testing” and could be released in 2024 or 2025, but that doesn’t sound like a sure thing.
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