Does it make sense to wait for an ARM-based MacBook Pro?

fabriziocost

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Nov 6, 2019
1
0
Italy
Hi everyone, I'm new to this forum. I was looking for some advice to buy a new laptop, although I actually need it for next year, so I can totally wait. I recently read about Macs abandoning Intel cpus, and I was wondering whether this change is going to happen anytime soon or not. I would be really disappointed if I bought the last intel based mac, especially given the fact that I'm planning to keep my laptop for a long long time (that's why I'm currently looking at macs). I am also hoping that they will improve the keyboard. Thank you for your help.
 

Red Menace

macrumors 6502
May 29, 2011
394
55
Littleton, Colorado, USA
Those articles are hypothetical, as in "maybe", "they might", or "we predict". If you can wait, then wait and see what happens (at least you can read about it), otherwise it is a losing battle to try and guess what Apple is going to do.
 

theluggage

macrumors 601
Jul 29, 2011
4,199
2,921
Intel cpus, and I was wondering whether this change is going to happen anytime soon or not.
Short answer: nobody here knows if or when it will happen. If you want wild mad guesses, read on...

The rumoured date is "starting in 2020" which I think came from an Intel report earlier this year (which might have been just Intel worst-casing as part of their due diligence). The waters are slightly muddied by the fact that most new Macs do have at least one ARM chip - not as the main processor, but in the form of the T2 security/disc controller/etc chip, and that probably will be in all Macs by sometime in 2020 (just the iMac to go, once the new Mac Pro comes out). Its possible (speculation) that a future version of the T2 could implement USB4 and thus replace Intel's Thunderbolt controller chips in Macs. Also, bear in mind, it would be strategically very good for Apple not to let Intel take them for granted...

I'm quite enthusiastic about the idea of an ARM Mac. However, my feeling is that the possibility receded this summer - first with the advent of "iPad OS" with more laptop-like features, it looks like they're throwing their weight behind the iPad as a serious alternative to the MacBook Air and lower-end MacBook Pros- but those would also be the obvious first machines to be replaced by an ARM MacBook and Apple don't usually like competing with themselves.

Second - they've announced a new Mac Pro which is very much designed around the Intel Xeon. If they announce a transition to ARM a few months after that actually launches (it still isn't available) then... well, that's really not a good look.

Also - they didn't announce ARM at WWDC which is primarily a developers conference. An ARM Mac is going to require developers to at least re-compile and test their Apps for ARM, and more complex apps with specific Intel dependencies will need more substantial changes. (I'm sure there will be some sort of emulation layer - but that's second best to a native App). My guess that any switch to ARM will be pre-announced at least 6 months in advance, along with some sort of developers-only prototype, just as happened with the PPC to Intel switch in 2005/2006.

An ARM Mac would also, probably, need to implement USB4 to replace Thunderbolt 3 and that's unlikely to happen in the next few months.

So, if you want my guess (and that's all it is) there will be another 'round' of x86 MacBook Pros before any switch to ARM. Also, remember, the early worm gets the bird (a.k.a. the second mouse gets the cheese). You might be grateful to have one of the last generation of Intel Macs while the early adopters enjoy the teething troubles of ARM.

Just on timescale - the PPC-to Intel switch was announced at WWDC in June 2005 (with a prototype developers-only machine), the first Intel Macs went on sale at the start of 2006, the complete range was switched (ahead of schedule) by summer 2006. However PPC was supported by the latest Mac OS until the release of OS X 10.6 three years later, and 10.5 received updates until about 2011. So if history repeats itself, an Intel Mac bought today, before any announcement of an ARM switch, should be good for 4-5 years. If history doesn't repeat itself and Apple push the change faster then you'll probably wish you'd bought a PC...
 

Fishrrman

macrumors P6
Feb 20, 2009
17,663
5,777
No.
It makes no sense at all, because no one knows when or even IF there will be ARM MacBooks.

If you need a MacBook Pro now, BUY one now.
If not... well... jes' keep on waitin' ... ;)
 

RedTomato

macrumors 601
Mar 4, 2005
4,018
314
.. London ..
Hi everyone, I'm new to this forum. I was looking for some advice to buy a new laptop, although I actually need it for next year, so I can totally wait. I recently read about Macs abandoning Intel cpus, and I was wondering whether this change is going to happen anytime soon or not. I would be really disappointed if I bought the last intel based mac, especially given the fact that I'm planning to keep my laptop for a long long time (that's why I'm currently looking at macs). I am also hoping that they will improve the keyboard. Thank you for your help.
Buy a used mac laptop, anything from 2013 onwards is just as fast as a new mac laptop. Sell it after a couple of years, and buy a slightly newer used mac laptop, rinse and repeat.

Intel has made almost no progress in cpu speeds in the last 5 years, but to be honest nowadays most cpus are 'fast enough' for everyday tasks. Not a lot of difference in everyday driving between a car that can do 105 and another one that can do 110mph, when for normal driving 70-80mph is enough. At that point, you start looking for nicer seats, better radio etc.

Also, the first generation ARM macs are likely to be buggy, best to wait for the second generation, which may not come till 2021 or so. In other words, buy now, no point waiting.
 
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Breaking Good

macrumors 65816
Sep 28, 2012
1,191
787
I consider it unlikely that there will be an ARM-based Mac in the next two years.

I understand that Apple is much better at hardware and software design than most of its competitors. However, Qualcomm announces an ARM-based chip for Windows on Snapdragon (WOS) back in December of 2018. It is called the Snapdragon 8cx. To date, no one has released a computer using the 8cx.

In spite of what you may see in Geekbench scores, I think that ARM-based chips just can't go the distance yet the way an Intel Core chip can.

I'm sure that will eventually change, but that change is still several years away.
 
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iluvmacs99

macrumors 6502
Apr 9, 2019
295
138
An Arm based Mac would probably make sense starting with the Air as most people looking to use the Air mainly use it for cloud computing. Whereas the Pro model continue using Intel until such time that the basic Pro model will be Arm based and the more higher end Pro will continue to be Intel. CISC chip (Complex Instruction Set Computer)has some advantages over ARM (Reduced Instruction Set) in certain scientific applications where power efficiencies aren't a major cost factor of operation and battery life.
 

RedTomato

macrumors 601
Mar 4, 2005
4,018
314
.. London ..
CISC chip (Complex Instruction Set Computer)has some advantages over ARM (Reduced Instruction Set) in certain scientific applications where power efficiencies aren't a major cost factor of operation and battery life.
All modern chips, even Intel, are now RISC and have been for some time. The Intel chips in your mac gear have a frontend that accepts x86 or x64 CISC instructions, then translates them into RISC for internal processing.

x86 (32 bit) and x64 (64bit) have been virtualised for some time now. This allows Intel and others to radically change out internal mechanisms as needed in their chips while still accepting the same set of incoming instructions.
 

Velin

macrumors 68000
Jul 23, 2008
1,557
1,014
Hearst Castle
Apple's silicon is fantastic, as is the marriage between silicon, hardware, and software. It's why Apple devices remain supreme. But there is no solid understanding whether, or when, their portable and desktop computers will have ARM-based CPUs. The answer is: don't wait. Buy what you need, and buy it now.
 

WebHead

macrumors regular
Dec 29, 2004
195
30
They'd need to wait till there was a critical mass of Catalyst apps, including all the mission-critical titles, which is probably a few years off yet.
 
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kirbystar

macrumors newbie
Nov 16, 2019
2
0
I don't think you have to wait in this case since you are looking for still not official Mac. Just get one now.
 

BigBoy2018

macrumors 6502a
Oct 23, 2018
936
1,754
As the consensus here is suggesting, to wait for an ARM Mac is folly.

4 reasons I can sum up:

1) We don't know when, or if, an Arm Mac would be released
2) The first iteration would likely be buggy
3) The first iteration or two would likely have a dearth of software, especially high end software (and not just dinky iOS stuff)
4) ARM is rocketing in development now, but has anyone considered that progress may slow and Intel would leapfrog them again in performance? Then we'd be stuck with an ARM Mac with all the other issues, and also SLOWER than an Intel counterpart
 

Strelok

macrumors 65816
Jun 6, 2017
1,297
1,481
United States
No. This would be a huge shift for Apple and developers. I think we will see more Apple chips in laptops taking over various functions, but I don’t expect ARM only anytime soon.
 
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