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Old Feb 21, 2014, 03:43 PM   #1
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Intel's Processor Roadmap Leaves Uncertainty for Apple's 2014 Mac Updates




With Apple's Mac lineup beginning to show signs of aging, consumers are no doubt starting to wonder when they can expect updated models to hit the market. Apple's product update cycles are in large part driven by availability of new processors, so it pays to take a look at Intel's roadmap to see what might be coming when to give Apple new options for upgrades.

The MacBook Air is currently the older of Apple's two current notebook lines (setting aside the non-Retina MacBook Pro that has been reduced to a single 13-inch model and hasn't been updated since June 2012). Apple's ultrathin notebook currently offers a choice of two low-power 15-watt Haswell chips to help achieve remarkable all-day battery life. Entry-level models include a 1.3 GHz i5-4250U chip, while higher-end models bump up to a 1.7 GHz i7-4650U processor. Both chips include Intel's "Iris 5000" integrated graphics that offers reasonable everyday performance in a power-efficient design.

According to an Intel roadmap leaked by VR-Zone [Google Translate], a successor to the current low-end chip is set to launch in the third quarter in the form of an i5-4260U Haswell refresh, presumably carrying just a small speed bump compared to the current chip. Another alternative for Apple could be the 1.4 GHz i5-4350U or its just-announced successor 1.5 GHz i5-4360U. The 4350U chip has been available since last year, but Apple elected not to use it in the current MacBook Air. The high-end MacBook Air situation is less clear, as leaked roadmaps have not yet shown a direct successor to the current i7-4650U chip.

Intel roadmap for 15-watt chips appropriate for MacBook Air
One other potential wildcard for the MacBook Air is a series of rumors claiming that Apple is working on a 12-inch Retina notebook of some kind for the middle of this year. Rumors have suggested that this machine could replace the current MacBook Air line, in which case all bets would be off on which chips Apple would use for the new machine.

Moving on to the Retina MacBook Pro, it is worth examining the 13-inch and 15-inch models separately, given the distinct differences in chips used in the two models. The 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro currently offers three different processor options: a 2.4 GHz i5-4258U, a 2.6 GHz i5-4288U, and a 2.8 GHz i7-4558U. All three chips are shown on a separate roadmap slide leaked by VR-Zone, and they show limited potential for updates in the near future.

Many potential buyers are looking forward to the next big jump to Intel's next-generation Broadwell platform, but that launch has been delayed and the latest roadmap shows that Broadwell chips appropriate for the 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro are not planned to launch until the first quarter of 2015, leaving questions about what upgrades Apple might be able to make in the interim. The roadmap hints that speed bumped versions of the current Haswell chips could appear in the fourth quarter but that appears to not be a certainty at this point and would only be a very short-term option heading into Broadwell.

Intel roadmap for 28-watt chips appropriate for 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro
The 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro also poses some questions, and the roadmap for those more powerful quad-core chips is not included in the most recent set of leaked slides. The 15-inch lineup currently offers three processor options: a 2.0 GHz i7-4750HQ, a 2.3 GHz i7-4850HQ, and a 2.6 GHz i7-4960HQ. Intel has in fact already announced a successor for the mid-range chip, a 2.4 GHz i7-4860HQ, with an i7-4760HQ upgrade for the low-end reportedly not arriving until the third quarter. The high-end chip remains in question, as we have not yet seen concrete signs of an upgraded version.

Intel is said to be accelerating its Haswell refresh launch in order to buffer against delays in Broadwell, with additional Haswell chips reportedly set to be announced within the next month or so. It is certainly possible that the company will announce chips that provide upgrade options for Apple as soon as the company's Worldwide Developers Conference likely scheduled for June, but specific information regarding a range of chips to fully satisfy Apple's needs remains limited.

As for Apple's desktops, the outlook is somewhat more clear at least in terms of the iMac. Intel's imminent Haswell refresh announcement is expected to include direct successors to most of the chips currently used in the iMac:

27-inch
- Current 3.2 GHz i5-4570 moves to 3.3 GHz i5-4590
- Current 3.4 GHz i5-4670 moves to 3.5 GHz i5-4690
- Current 3.5 GHz i7-4771 moves to 3.6 GHz i7-4790

21.5-inch
- Current 2.9 GHz i5-4570S moves to 3.0 GHz i5-4590S
- Current 3.1 GHz i5-4770S moves to 3.2 GHz i5-4790S

One exception is on the low-end 21.5-inch iMac, which currently uses a special i5-4570R chip enhanced with Intel's top-of-the-line Iris 5200 integrated graphics to allow that machine to forego a discrete graphics chip. We have yet to see confirmation of plans for Intel to launch a corresponding i5-4590R chip as part of the Haswell refresh.

The Mac mini remains a question mark for Apple, given that the line has not been updated since October 2012. Past history has seen chips from the 13-inch MacBook Pro making their way into the Mac mini a few months later, but that has not yet occurred despite the current Retina MacBook Pro having been introduced four months ago. Such a move could come at any time, and a placeholder at a Belgian retailer last month suggested that an updated Mac mini was due by the end of February, but such indicators are frequently unreliable.

Finally, while many early Mac Pro customers are still awaiting their orders and new orders are not shipping until April, there undoubtedly some customers looking ahead to the next-generation Mac Pro. These machines will likely use upcoming Haswell-E Xeon E5 chips, and few details beyond a release target of the second half of 2014 have surfaced so far.

So in summary, delays in Intel's Broadwell platform are causing uncertainties in the outlook for Apple's notebook lineup, with interim Haswell refresh chips trickling out over the remainder of 2014 to provide some possible upgrade paths for Apple. But the scattered schedule of chip upgrades leaves it unclear as to when each model line will have the appropriate chips available for Apple to release updated machines. Apple's desktop lineup is a bit more solid with a good set of speed-bumped chips for the iMac arriving in time for an update around mid-year if Apple so chooses, while the Mac mini will likely maintain tradition and launch with mobile chips at any time now unless Apple has more substantial changes in the store for the small desktop machine. Regardless, for most of Apple's lineup the 2014 chip updates will be fairly minor until Broadwell is ready to go late this year or early next year.

Article Link: Intel's Processor Roadmap Leaves Uncertainty for Apple's 2014 Mac Updates
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Old Feb 21, 2014, 03:44 PM   #2
Razeus
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If Apple does another CPU chip change to their own ARM, I'm going to be pissed.

But then again, so we really need faster chips at this point for the average Facebook, email, & Spotify consumer? Nope. We need more optimized software.
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Old Feb 21, 2014, 03:49 PM   #3
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Sideways upgrade to better power efficiency and a price cut would make sense given the shrinking market for laptops and desktops.
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Old Feb 21, 2014, 03:49 PM   #4
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'tis quite strange we've yet to see the Mac Mini make the jump to Haswell.

But as someone who recently got a late 2013 rMBP, I'm eagerly awaiting a Thunderbolt Display refresh. An iMac-like profile, reduced glare, Thunderbolt 2.0, and USB 3.0 would sure be delicious!
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Old Feb 21, 2014, 03:50 PM   #5
McEcki
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Was hoping for a spec bump soon on the 13" rMBP. I need to upgrade from my good old 2006 white MB.
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Old Feb 21, 2014, 03:50 PM   #6
yossi
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Perhaps Apple will surprise us with new MacBooks running an A14 processor.
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Old Feb 21, 2014, 03:52 PM   #7
wwchris
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Well, this is a timely article! I have been waiting to purchase a new, high end 15-inch retina Macbook Pro thinking there would be a minor upgrade next month. Like maybe a 755m graphics chip(over the current 750m) and a slight processor upgrade. Sounds like that is not going to happen. Guess I'll go ahead and buy one.
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Old Feb 21, 2014, 03:54 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Razeus View Post
If Apple does another CPU chip change to their own ARM, I'm going to be pissed.

But then again, so we really need faster chips at this point for the average Facebook, email, & Spotify consumer? Nope. We need more optimized software.
I agree. I strongly believe we can see HUGE performance gains with properly written, tested, and optimized software. I can honestly believe it'll be a performance gain similar from a Core 2 Duo to a current gen i5 or i7 chip speed.

Some software is so bloated and slow its absolutely amazing no one cares to re-write it.

----------

Quote:
Originally Posted by ScottishDuck View Post
Sideways upgrade to better power efficiency and a price cut would make sense given the shrinking market for laptops and desktops.
I could see Apple dropping another $100 going forward. Unless of course newer technology requires a price increase or ability to maintain current price.

----------

I'm personally holding off for Broadwell. I'm due for an upgrade early-mid 2015.
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Old Feb 21, 2014, 03:55 PM   #9
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No love for the Mini and where are the new Displays?
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Old Feb 21, 2014, 03:55 PM   #10
Nozuka
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Or they might just wait. Its no problem for Apple to still sell "old" Hardware and it's not like someone else is getting those Broadwell Processors before they do.
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Old Feb 21, 2014, 03:56 PM   #11
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apple is sad...just sad...
apple should have a big update for each year rather than minor spec bump.

Maybe need to focus more on MP.
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Old Feb 21, 2014, 04:00 PM   #12
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These delays always seem to be exactly at those times I'm in the market for an upgrade... :/

Either way, I'm waiting for a MacBook with 32GB RAM, cost be damned.
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Old Feb 21, 2014, 04:01 PM   #13
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Obviously it's time to switch to PowerPC, Intel is no longer meeting Apple's needs
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Old Feb 21, 2014, 04:01 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Razeus View Post
If Apple does another CPU chip change to their own ARM, I'm going to be pissed.

But then again, so we really need faster chips at this point for the average Facebook, email, & Spotify consumer? Nope. We need more optimized software.
There was an interesting conversation I heard a while ago and it was regarding speed on phones.

Does it need to get faster? Probably not, but that's not what it's about anymore. It's about battery life. The faster a user can get their tasks done, the more time the phone will theoretically spend in idle mode and save battery life.
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Old Feb 21, 2014, 04:02 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Razeus View Post
If Apple does another CPU chip change to their own ARM, I'm going to be pissed.

But then again, so we really need faster chips at this point for the average Facebook, email, & Spotify consumer? Nope. We need more optimized software.
+1 I've been watching house of cards...and honestly, the experience is so much better on my iPad than my macbook pro. despite the macbook pro having a quad core i7 vs. the A6x chip on the ipad
the macbook pro gets hot on my lap, runs out of battery much quicker and takes more steps to do what i want it to do.

the iPad is quickly becoming my main computer.
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Old Feb 21, 2014, 04:02 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by unplugme71 View Post
[/COLOR]I'm personally holding off for Broadwell. I'm due for an upgrade early-mid 2015.
When would you say is a good time to upgrade? Just curious, and partially looking for justification to upgrade.
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Old Feb 21, 2014, 04:04 PM   #17
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I just want a 13" retina Macbook Pro with a 2880 x 1800 screen
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Old Feb 21, 2014, 04:06 PM   #18
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One way or the other I am hoping to see the MBPr updated. They seriously need to double their internal SSD to 256 GB for the low end model and double the RAM to 8 GB. At that point, I'm happy enough paying $1300. Not pleased with paying $1500 for brand-new.
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Old Feb 21, 2014, 04:07 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Razeus View Post
If Apple does another CPU chip change to their own ARM, I'm going to be pissed.

But then again, so we really need faster chips at this point for the average Facebook, email, & Spotify consumer? Nope. We need more optimized software.
Faster processing is always welcome for processing home movies and games
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Old Feb 21, 2014, 04:07 PM   #20
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I don't know about Intel's roadmap. However, with the MBAs, rMBPs, and Mac Pro all using the PCIe SSD, I could see iMacs & Mac Minis getting them next update. Make both a little skinnier.

As for the ATD, it needs to get updated to TB 2, USB 3, made thinner like the current iMacs, and maybe up the resolution. It's weird that my 15" rMBP has a higher resolution than a 27" display. Maybe not a pixel doubling, but at least 4K resolution.

Plus, as I said before, I think Apple should really merge the MBA & MBP line. To me, there's not enough differentiation between the 2 lines. Have 11", 13" & 15" or maybe 12" & 14". Plus, if the MBA gets retina and Apple does its standard 2x the resolution, the 13" MBA will have a higher resolution than the 13" rMBP. That'll confuse a lot of people.
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Old Feb 21, 2014, 04:08 PM   #21
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The 'low end' MacBook Airs are pretty near perfect at the moment. Don't need more speed, battery run time is brilliant, I suppose a SDD capacity hike would be nice. Certainly not interested in retina.
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Old Feb 21, 2014, 04:08 PM   #22
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When would you say is a good time to upgrade? Just curious, and partially looking for justification to upgrade.
Whenever there is a shrink to a smaller microarchitecture. Broadwell will introduce 14 nm.
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Old Feb 21, 2014, 04:11 PM   #23
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I've said it before and I'll say it again. Apple's ARM chips will be in Macbook Air's.

That's one of the reasons for making the 64-bit chip.

Just watch. WWDC2014

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Old Feb 21, 2014, 04:14 PM   #24
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Whenever there is a shrink to a smaller microarchitecture. Broadwell will introduce 14 nm.
You prefer process over architecture when deciding when to upgrade? I'm the opposite myself. Unfortunately Intel has signficantly slowed down its tick-tock cycle, to more like 18 months from tick to tock rather than 12 as originally envisioned. Skylake is going to be very late.
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Old Feb 21, 2014, 04:16 PM   #25
Razeus
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If I wasn't into photography, shooting RAW, I wouldn't even have my iMac. Photography is the only reason I would need such a beefy machine.

I don't game anywhere near what I used to several years ago (I was on PC then obviously) so the need to have the fastest chips is lessened (what was worse is that even with the fastest graphics and CPU's, the games weren't optimized and STILL slow). If I do need to game, I have a console. Not the graphics fanboy I used to be.

That's my point, the average consumer (meaning a user who's main apps is a Facebook, email, Spotify, and a few casual games, maybe read a few books), an iPad and iPhone is all you need. Easily portable, connected, with all your media available to you, fast, and rarely needs to be rebooted.
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