With Apple’s recent announcement of their newest luxury processor — the M2 Ultra — people are already speculating on when we might see the next evolution in Apple’s silicon chips. Since the industry leader’s swap from Intel processors to their own proprietary Apple Silicon ones, customers have been anxiously waiting to see how the new chips might push the boundaries of power.
Hot off the heels of an announcement of the M2 Ultra, some rumors are saying that the M3 chip is already in early testing stages with the potential to see a release in 2024. What does that mean for Apple customers, and how is the new chip expected to stack up to previous iterations? Here’s all you need to know:
What is Apple Silicon?
Apple Silicon is the newest processing architecture to hit the computing world in recent memory. After the groundbreaking news from WWDC 2020, Apple announced its departure from Intel and all further use of Intel processors. In tandem with this, the tech giant also announced what it would replace the Intel chips with, Apple Silicon.
This was a pretty momentous move on Apple’s part, and while some met this news with apprehension, early adopters were quick to praise the switch. From a business perspective, it made sense for Apple to make the change to create its own processing infrastructure. It primarily gave Apple developers more control over the processing chips. Therefore this allowed them to make them more compatible with their products. Additionally, it was cheaper to build in-house than to purchase from an outside source. Along with the announcement of the new architecture came the announcement of the actual chips that would use that infrastructure: the M1.
The M1, Apple Silicon’s First Chip
The first to appear in Apple’s family of computer processors was the M1 chip. The announcement of Apple Silicon in June 2020. The first computers to come equipped with the new architecture came in November of the same year. Along came the 2020 Macbook Pro with the M1 launching with it.
The performance of the M1 chip in the Macbook Pro was impressive to many. It immediately seemed to outperform the previous Intel processors. While it did not come without its flaws, consumers were quick to accept the new chips as standard. The major shift in power came due in large part because of the new united memory architecture. Instead of having to expend energy swapping between pools of memory like on the Intel processors, Apple’s chips were now connected through one channel of data.
Apple would later go on to release the M1 Pro, the M1 Max, and the M1 Ultra. Each of these are larger, more powerful versions of the original M1 processor.
The M2, a Step Up
If the M1 was the first step into proprietary processors, then the M2 was where Apple began to hone its chips. First appearing in the 2022 Macbook Air and Pro, the M2 chip was a standard iterative upgrade to its predecessor. Boasting about a 20% increase in processing speed, the M2 was also more battery efficient than the previous M1.
Some months after the M2’s release was the introduction of the M2 Pro and the M2 Max. These followed the development line that the M1 began, each at a higher strength capability than the previous.
The most recent addition to the family of M2 chips was the announcement of the M2 Ultra. As of the June 5, 2023, Apple press release on the matter, the M2 Ultra is the highest power processor the company has released to date.
“M2 Ultra delivers astonishing performance and capabilities for our pro users’ most demanding workflows, while maintaining Apple silicon’s industry-leading power efficiency,” said Johny Srouji, Apple’s senior vice president of Hardware Technologies. “With huge performance gains in the CPU, GPU, and Neural Engine, combined with massive memory bandwidth in a single SoC, M2 Ultra is the world’s most powerful chip ever created for a personal computer.”
What to Expect for the Silicon M3
Most of the conversation about the M3 is speculative, but some have been granted exclusive access to information about the chip. Mark Gurman of Bloomberg’s Power On wrote about the data collected from an App Store developer
“The company has begun putting next-generation Macs with the M3 chips through their paces, testing them with third-party apps to ensure compatibility with its software ecosystem,” said Gurman.
Power On’s also included information about the anticipated specs we can expect from the M3 compared to the previous editions. After reports of a tested M3 Pro processor, it’s going to host 12 GPU cores, 18 graphics cores, and 36 GB of memory. As expected, this eclipses the previous 10 GPU cores, 16 graphics cores, and 32 GB of memory of the M2 Pro as well as the 8 GPU cores, 14 graphics cores, and 32 GB of memory of the M1 Pro.
While all three processors are impressive, it’s clear that Apple is implementing their iterative evolution in their chips as well. It’s through this iterative evolution that we see the next step in Apple Silicon’s processors.
So when can we expect the shiny new M3s? Gurman’s expectation places it near the end of 2023 or into 2024.
“My belief is the first Macs with M3 chips will begin arriving toward the end of the year or early next year,” said Gurman. “While the first 15-inch MacBook Air with an M2 chip is set to arrive this summer, the company is already working on M3-based iMacs, high-end and low-end MacBook Pros, and MacBook Airs, I’m told.”