Intel now or keep waiting on M1X pro-level Macs?

Macbook Air M1
Macbook Air M1 (Image credit: Daniel Bader / iMore)

It's been.. one year since Tim Cook did it. Cocked his head at Intel and said, "get rid of it". Seven months since the launch of M1. Saying, "performance efficiency's why we're making Apple silicon". Three months since new colored iMacs. But still no pros, only Intel clap backs. WWDC had zero M1X time. But it's still another year until the deadline...

We got burned by all the rumors and now we're mad. And for my part, hyping M1X, I feel bad. So if you need a new Pro should you go Intel. Or wait for M1X, and… how long, well… You know me, I'm here for you. And here's what I'm going to do...

Efficiency first, performance... when exactly?

M1 let Apple take the existing MacBook Air chassis and… rip out the fan, let the Mac mini run on max… basically forever, and make an iMac almost as thin as an iPad. But those are all ultra-low power implementations of Apple silicon. The ones that put the efficiency in performance efficiency. One year later, and we still don't have any ultra-high power implementations. Any that put the performance first. Also, any with bigger displays, more ports, and higher memory and storage configs.

If you want any of that, you still have to buy an Intel Mac… for now, or keep waiting, probably until this fall at the earliest, next summer at the latest.

Now, you all know my advice. Wait as long as you possibly can to buy, then buy to best you can, enjoy the hell out of it, and have zero regrets, because there will always be something new and next. Always.

But if you really do need to upgrade, and soon if not now, now, now, I'm still going to break it all down for you. Including one of the newest, biggest reasons you may want to wait…

The next pro-level Macs

iMac Pro

iMac Pro (Image credit: iMore)

If it's a MacBook Pro you're waiting on — a high-end MacBook Pro — the 13-inch should be going to 14-inches, and both that and the 16-inch might be getting mini-LED displays for true high dynamic range output — HDR. 32 GB or 64GB RAM options, up to 8TB storage options. Also, rumor has it, more ports — MagSafe, HDMI, SDXC. Just all the ports. Except USB-A, that's dead to Apple. Beneath salted earth.

If it's a Mac mini — a high-end Mac mini — you'll have similar higher-end options, including an easier time hooking up more displays. You know, for you NASA… or Ozymandias types…

If it's an iMac — a high-end iMac — again, similar high-end options but maybe an even bigger display, up to 32-inches bigger. It probably won't work for Target Display Mode, RIP, but certainly will with the upcoming Universal Control and AirPlay to Mac features.

If it's a Mac Pro — the only Mac Pro — then, hopefully, everything the current Intel Mac Pro can do but in smaller, more massively multicore M-series package.

But that workflow though...

Now, if your Pro workflow is still Intel-bound, if the software or plugins you're using still haven't been moved over to Apple Silicon — Like the Canon XF AVC codec I'm using for these videos! — especially any in-house or in-studio custom code for your DIY Mandalorean Volume sets, or whatever, then you may actually want an Intel Mac that'll last you as long as possible, so you can transition to an M3 or M4 generation Mac when you and all your software are really good and ready to.

Especially a Mac Pro, which I was guessing would see at least one more update to the latest Xeon and Big Navi chipsets, but so far, so no joy. Though, since that's likely going to be the last Mac to go Apple silicon, maybe only right at the WWDC 2022 deadline, who knows?

The MacBook Pros, we could see as early as this fall. Typically, Apple holds an October event for Macs, but since 2021 is the… Joel Schumacher of sequel years, Apple can and will still hold mini-events any damn month they feel like it. So it could be earlier, could be November again like last year. With the Mac mini Pro and iMac Pro salted in somewhere from then on or in between.

macOS Monterey

Macos Monterey

Macos Monterey (Image credit: Apple / iMore)

Which also means they'll ship with macOS 12 Monterey… and with features that aren't coming to Intel Macs… never mind not soon but not ever.

Those are the features that depend on the M1's A14-generation silicon, including the 16-core Neural Engine and image signal processor. The first of which doesn't exist on the T2's A10-generation silicon, and the second of which is just four generations less capable.

That includes Live Text, which does real-time, all-the-time image to character translation through machine learning models running on the ANE without any hit to CPU or GPU performance, also Portrait Mode on FaceTime, on-device dictation… even stuff that's currently just too stuttery on Intel, like the big Google Earth globe animation.

The ability to bring new iOS features to the Mac, day and date, something Apple has been… just terribad — a teraflop of bads — about in the past, is a big reason for Apple's transition to the M-series. And that disparity or lack of feature parity— is something that's only going to continue — only going to increase — over time. So, it's absolutely something you should factor into your buying decisions going forward.

What I'm waiting on

For me, personally, I'm still on the 2019 16-inch Intel MacBook Pro, and I don't plan on upgrading until there's a 16-inch M1X MacBook Pro. I want the bigger display for Final Cut Pro. And I really, really hope it's a mini-LED display. Even after seeing some blooming on the latest 12.9-inch iPad Pro, the HDR experience is just so much better, I covet it on the MacBook Pro… Also because I'm considering moving these videos to HDR, now that the workflow for HDR videos is getting… if not easier, then more consistent.

I want more than 16GB of RAM as well. I don't think I really need 64GB, but 32GB at least, just to have some headroom for Final Cut Pro, Photoshop, iZotope RX8. That way, when I'm round-tripping the audio for the a-roll before I start cutting it, or I'm finalizing the thumbnail while rendering, I have plenty of headroom for them all.

But also the storage. Especially for a MacBook, especially when travel starts up again. I just want and need to be able to keep several large Final Cut Pro projects on the SSD at the same time. Without having to worry about external drives disconnecting or internal storage running low… on the go.

So, I'm waiting on that 16-inch M1X MacBook Pro, and then maxing it out. Yeah, I'm waiting on an M1X MaxBook Pro. How about you?

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.