Computers based on new Intel chips coming this holiday season - including Macs?

Computers based on new Intel chips coming this holiday season - including Macs?

Intel says Broadwell-based computers will ship in time for the holidays. Is a Mac among them?

Intel offered details Monday about the rollout of their next generation of Core processors. Intel says that the first computers based on its "Broadwell" processor will be out in time for the holiday season. What is the likelihood Macs will be among them?

Intel's new generation of Core processors are the first to be manufactured using a 14 nanometer (nm) manufacturing process. Getting that process started has been something of a trial for Intel. The company had to delay the launch of the new Broadwell chips because of it, but the net result should be worth it: It means new chips will run cooler and require less power but will have the same performance.

But Broadwell isn't just a new manufacturing process, it's a new chip design all together. And that means other under-the-hood improvements, like faster graphics processing. That's one of the reasons that it's been speculated that Apple is waiting until Broadwell gets released before offering a MacBook Air with Retina display - today's Haswell chips just can't deliver the combination of power efficiency and graphics performance that Apple needs to drive a Retina display.

Intel says, in fact, that it's been able to reduce the maximum amount of heat generated by Broadwell chips by a more than a factor of two, while offering the same processing performance as current designs with even faster graphics. That bodes well for quieter machines that can be designed even thinner, with no need (or at least reduced need) for fans.

On Monday Intel said that the first machines that use Broadwell will be out in time for the holiday season. Those machines will use Intel's Core M series processors, the first generation of Broadwell chips mainly designed for low-power systems like tablets and two-in-one systems that act like tablets and notebooks.

Even with Broadwell's impressive efficiency, these low-power processors probably aren't the chips most suitable for Apple to use in new Mac designs. That puts us into 2015 before we see new Macs with Broadwell processors inside.

There's been speculation that they as-yet-mythical MacBook Air with Retina display might be a low-power, very low-profile fanless system equipped with Broadwell. It could, I suppose, be outfitted with a Core M chip. But again, at this point, it's mythical — Apple hasn't confirmed that such a beast exists outside the fevered imaginations of Mac pundits, as much as many of us would like to simply will it into existence right now.

So far Apple's updated its MacBook Air and MacBook Pro with Retina display lines with modest processor bumps and some price and configuration restructuring to help keep consumers interested in the new models. That strategy worked like gangbusters for Apple over the summer — it posted terrific Mac sales in its most recent quarterly earnings statement, buoyed in part by strong institutional sales of the MacBook Air, specifically.

Apple might shake that tree a bit more in the coming months for the iMac, too. The Mac mini is long overdue for a refresh — it was last refreshed in 2012, the year before Apple began shipping Macs equipped with Haswell processors.

And the Mac Pro, which began shipping last December, sports Intel's Xeon hardware based on the Ivy Bridge-E architecture. Intel began shipping Xeon E5 chips based on Haswell to manufacturers last month; the new chips support faster DDR4 memory, which could make for a very nice refresh for the Mac Pro, if Apple decides the new processor is a good match.

What say you? Are you planning to buy a new Mac at this point? Or are you waiting to see what 2015 holds?

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Peter Cohen

Managing Editor of iMore, Mac and gaming specialist and all-around technologist. Follow him on Twitter @flargh

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Reader comments

Computers based on new Intel chips coming this holiday season - including Macs?

13 Comments

I couldn't wait anymore. I needed a new Mac for college so I went with the late 2013 MacBook Pro 15 inch. Which I got for $1800 including taxes and 3 years apple care.

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I would like to replace my aging 2011/2012 i5 Macbook Pro with a Retina unit, but they need to get the price down on the larger memory/disk units. If they can get the price down for an equivalent unit to what I have (500 GB SSD, 16 GB memory) then I would probably get one when the new processor/gpu combo appears.

Couldn't wait anymore. Ordered a new 15" rMBP today. It will replace my 2010 MBP, which has developed a super annoying fan noise that I haven't been able to fix.

First they said May,
And I waited but nothing appeared,
Then they said June,
And I waited but no Broadwell laptops,
Then they said back to school,
And I waited but to no avail,
Then they came out in the holiday with better battery life and improved graphics,
And I said to myself 'I should have waited'

I still have not decided weather or not I should wait to get a new Broadwell MacBook Pro with retina or get a haswell based model now. It's going to be at least the end of August or September when I'm going to purchase it so I have begun to imagine myself waiting for the holidays for the Broadwell based macs if any even come (which also is a risk for waiting when I can get a great machine earlier).

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They're definitely not going to be out before 2015. If you are buying a 15" model with the dGPU, I'd wait. If not, just get the Haswell model when you can.

Sent from my Galaxy S4 running SlimKat 4.4.4

I currently have a 11" mid 2011 Macbook Air. I want to upgrade to a MBP 15" but want to wait until it gets refreshed.

The recent refresh and price drop was enough for me pull the trigger on the high end 15" MBR while the Back to School promo is still going on. Plus it means I got to sell my late 2011 15" with 3 months of AppleCare still left, so effectively a 90 day warranty.

I would love to see an update for the Macbook range to Broadwell but Apple may wait and have a huge update after the new year when they are able to boast better battery life because of the eradication of fan cooling for the chipset and the loss of more weight (admittedly not much but every gram of weight saved is a boasting point for Apple) and I am sure they will want to make sure that the design changes slightly allow for a reduction in the thickness of their devices.

Of course it is the Surface Pro range of devices from Microsoft that may benefit from Broadwell. Their Haswell based tablets suffer from hot spots on the back where the processor is seated and fan noise, if this chipset eliminates that noise and heat it may make the range more desirable to those that, ahem, desire such a device. For me, I'll stick to an iPad and a Mac.

It all still relies on Intel actually launching the Broadwell chipset and the number of times they claim that it will hit the market and they put back the date at the last second or rather just fail to launch does not bode well. I think the number of people that have posted above me that have commented that they finally got sick of waiting for Broadwell to launch and ergo an updated Mac range to take advantage of those chips and 'pulled the trigger' and just bought a perfectly adequate Mac.

Will be waiting until broadwell with quad core retina MacBook Air, though not sure I should recommend or personally buy any machine to upgrade to that doesn't have an Ethernet port or a fast migration method that doesn't involve a mandatory £25 adapter cable purchase - fapple. On ios 7 imore app - comment text doesn't scroll, typing behind on screen keyboard is common?

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