Future Macs: Intel's Road Map

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by Val-kyrie, Oct 1, 2016.

  1. Val-kyrie macrumors 68000

    Feb 13, 2005
    In order to assist those who would like to better predict Apple's upgrade paths for its mobile lineup, I am offering some comments and links. Please feel free to add information or correct errors.

    Starting with Kaby Lake, Intel is offering three (or four if you distinguish by TDP) classes of CPUs: H (45-35W), U (28-15W), U (15W), and Y (4.5W). These processors are suitable for the MBP 15", MBP 13", MBA, and MB, respectively.

    Below is a chart from another site which shows Intel's general release schedule:


    Unfortunately the chart is only a general platform release schedule and misrepresents specific CPU and SOC releases. For example, Kaby Lake H-Processors are going to be released but only as 2+(GT)3e and 4+(GT)2. Thus there is no Kaby Lake release slated for the 4+(GT)3e that Apple prefers for its MBP 15".

    A more detailed chart of Intel's planned release schedule from the same site is below:


    This chart is more accurate and reflects the anticipated quarterly release dates, including more specific CPU and SOC releases. However, this is only what Intel anticipated releasing. Actual release dates for specific CPUs and SOCs are found on the Skylake Wiki.

    Before commenting on processors and SOCs, it is important to understand some of the nomenclature Intel uses with regard to GPUs and SOCs. For Skylake, and presumably Kaby Lake, Intel uses the label GT2 to denote Intel integrated GPUs (called Intel HD), GT3e to denote Iris GPUs, and GT4e to denote Iris Pro GPUs. The "e" denotes embedded DRAM cache which adds (64MB for Iris / 128MB for Iris Pro) on package EDRAM memory to boost GPU performance.

    Now that we have that out of the way, let's break down the charts and parts.

    MB - Y Processors
    Annual updates: Skylake released and in current lineup. Kaby Lake released in Q3 2016. Cannon Lake releases in Q4 2017.

    MBA (if continued) - U (15W) Processors
    Annual updates: Skylake 2+(GT)2 released but not in current lineup; Kaby Lake released in Q3 2016. Cannon Lake releases in Q4 2017.

    MBP 13" - U (15-28W) Processors
    Annual updates (?): Skylake SOC 2+(GT)3e released but not in current lineup. Kaby Lake 2+(GT)3e releases in Q1 2017. Coffee Lake 2+(GT)3e releases in Q2 2018.

    MBP 15" - H Processors
    18 month updates (?): Skylake SOC 4+(GT)4e has not released (due to Intel?) and is not in current lineup. "Kaby Lake" SOC has been renamed "Coffee Lake" and releases in Q2 2018.

    Unfortunately, as can be seen, after the 4+4e Skylake release which is due immanently, there is no other quad-core SOC update suitable for the MBP 15" until Q2 2018, when Coffee Lake is introduced. A quick note on Coffee Lake: Coffee Lake is simply the Cannon Lake architecture on a 14nm node. Apparently Intel will be unable to achieve enough yield at 10nm to produce a suitable quantity of the more complex SOCs, so Intel is going to continue to use its 14nm process for the more complex SOCs with Iris (GT3e) and Iris Pro (GT4e) GPUs while the less complex production of standalone CPUs which can be paired with Intel iGPUs or Nvidia or AMD dGPUs will progress to the 10nm node. In sum, there is one architecture (Kaby Lake) which will be produced on two nodes: 10nm (Kaby Lake) and 14nm (Coffee Lake). It is hoped that the architectural improvements (called Ice Lake) which will follow Kaby Lake will all be produced at the 10nm node.

    It is also worth noting that there are indeed CPU-GPU combinations which Apple has chosen not to utilize. For example, many MR members point to the inclusion of Skylake CPUs in current systems produced by companies such as Dell. As is shown in the chart above, the Skylake 4+GT2 combination has been available and is being utilized by companies such as Dell. Likewise, systems makers which choose to use only integrated GPUs from Intel or only discrete GPUs from Nvidia or AMD will have access to quad-core Kaby Lake CPUs starting Q4 2016 when presumably Apple will only just be receiving and shipping Skylake SOCs in its lineup.

    One other down note: Coffee Lake is set to introduce hexa-core (6 core) CPUs into mainstream mobile computing; however, hexa-cores will only be paired with Intel's GT2 GPUs or with a discrete GPU from Nvidia or AMD. There are no known options for a Coffee Lake 6+(GT)4e SOC which would be used by Apple, so there is little hope for a six core system from Apple in the near future.
  2. tubeexperience macrumors 68040

    Feb 17, 2016
    For anyone that is confused with the terminology:

    GT4e: Iris Pro Graphics
    GT3e: Iris Graphics
    GT2: HD Graphics

    Intel is discontinuing Iris Pro Graphics after Skylake
  3. Zenithal macrumors G3

    Sep 10, 2009
    Sorry, what? Can you provide a source? Quad core i7s in mobile systems were available in mainstream mobile just four years ago and then disappeared due to their high price and people simply opting for a multi-threaded twin core i7, which was much cheaper than the quad variant. I sincerely doubt hexa-core is going to go mainstream unless Intel can really lock down the per unit binning price and pass the savings onto the consumer, or if by some miracle AMD's next processor and its mobile counterpart shake the computer world up and Intel is forced to slash their prices. Fat chance at either of those happening.
  4. tubeexperience macrumors 68040

    Feb 17, 2016
    It's in the image.
  5. Zenithal macrumors G3

    Sep 10, 2009
    Yes, but the article states it'll be used in mission critical applications. That doesn't necessarily mean mainstream laptop computing. Mission critical would be workstation grade laptops, the ones that cost several thousand. Furthermore, this article and ones like it are based on mere speculation. Intel hasn't come forth with confirmation unless I seem to be missing something here. I'd place very little faith in "leaked roadmaps," especially ones that revolve around rumors that began floating around the end of July.
  6. Val-kyrie thread starter macrumors 68000

    Feb 13, 2005
    Here are three links, from least to most recent. It is stated in at least one of the articles that the hexagon-core is going mainstream but only for GT2 or dGPU systems.

    This article states the hexa-core is going mainstream.


    --- Post Merged, Oct 2, 2016 ---
    Yes, the articles are based on leaked road maps and speculation, but these road maps are fairly consistent with leaks over the past year. This is a rumor site, so I post it for your consideration. Take it for what it's worth.
  7. Samuelsan2001 macrumors 604

    Oct 24, 2013
    I understand Intel getting rid of the IRIS pro graphics, only apple ever bought them in any numbers, they have proved difficult to manufacture and they have been the last release on every generation since Haswell.
    A pity really they really are a good solution for mobile workstations, but with the 2 big dGPU manufacturers getting some serious efficiency and performance in their mobile chips this year, intel knows it is beat at the top end.
  8. Val-kyrie thread starter macrumors 68000

    Feb 13, 2005
    If it is related to manufacturing, I'm not sure why Intel is planning to release SOCs with GT3e and not GT4e. The latter has an extra 64MB eDRAM, but are there other differences that negatively impact production?

    I do like the choice Apple made to use SOCs, especially if paired with TB3. With Intel apparently abandoning their SOCs with Iris Pro, it appears that Apple may use AMD APUs starting with the release of Zen next year (according to another rumor).
  9. tubeexperience macrumors 68040

    Feb 17, 2016
    Laptops that use U-series processors don't generally have discrete graphics cards, so having Iris Graphics is beneficial.

    Laptops that use H-series processors generally do have discrete graphics cards, so having Iris Pro Graphics is redundant.
  10. Val-kyrie thread starter macrumors 68000

    Feb 13, 2005
    That is a good point, but I was asking more about the statement by Samuelson2001 that the GT4e has proved more difficult to manufacture (than anticipated).

    I think the the question you raise is whether the low prioritization of the GT4e is more related to ROI (Return on Investment) than to difficulties in the manufacturing process.
  11. leman macrumors G3

    Oct 14, 2008
    I think that Intel's seeming disappointment in Iris Pro is at least in part motivated by the incredible GPU advances by both Nvidia and AMD. Intel had built a really decent GPU with Iris Pro — it was very fast and efficient compared to the competitors and could deliver reasonable performance within a low thermal envelope. It allowed Intel to enter a competition in the lower-mid-range mobile market. However, since then both Nvidia and AMD have dramatically improved the efficiency of their GPUs. Under these circumstances the fight does not make much sense for Intel...
  12. Freyqq macrumors 601

    Dec 13, 2004
    Agreed. And, Intel never really gave it the same level of support. When a new game came out, there was almost immediately a new driver from Nvidia and AMD to optimize for it. Not so for Intel. Also, both the CPU and GPU have a similar thermal envelope on rMBP. Combining the two meant a single hot chip, so cooling was more challenging and throttling happened more often.
  13. leman macrumors G3

    Oct 14, 2008
    I do still firmly believe that integration is the future. I am curious about what will happen. Maybe we will see some sort of between-company collaboration to design a CPU/GPU/RAM package (e.g. Intel/Apple/Nvidia?). If AMD turns out to be lucky with their new CPU architecture, they might find themselves a step ahead of the competition.
  14. duervo macrumors 68020


    Feb 5, 2011
    Why can't it be both? ROI takes a dump due to difficulties in manufacturing process which in turn increases cost to manufacture, causing a lower ROI.
  15. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    That's been Intel's intent from the get go. I do think the for the most part iGPUs have come a long way since the early days and they're sufficient for most typical consumer tasks

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14 October 1, 2016