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?