M1. Then M1 Pro and M1 Max. Now… M1 Max Plus? M1 Extreme? M1 Intel: Endgame? Whatever it’s called, it’s the latest rumor surrounding Apple’s silicon roadmap. Not a dual or quad M1 Max, like previous reports suggested, but rather another escalation in compute cores right on the existing die. But what does that even mean? Hit that subscribe button and bell to support common sense tech, and l’ll break it all down!
So, with M1, Apple silicon gave us up to 4 icestorm efficiency cores, 4 firestorm performance cores, 8 G13 graphics cores, and 8GB of RAM. M1 Pro dropped down to 2 e-cores, but escalated up to 8 p-cores, 16 g-cores, and 32 GB of RAM. Then… then… M1 Max gave the people more… not in terms of CPU, but GPU. Up to 32 g-cores and 64 GB of RAM. All with crazy memory bandwidth and fabric to keep it all unified and fed.
Now, previously, everyone from Bloomberg to the Information said Apple was working on dual and even quad die versions of M1 Max, maybe for the iMac Pro, more confidently for the Mac Pro. And yeah, dual die and quad die as in, basically 2 or 4 M1 Max chips working together like a… like a silicon Voltron… using even crazier fabric… to provide pretty much double and quadruple the CPU, GPU, and RAM performance potential as the already ridonkulously fast MacBook Pro. And I know, I know, ridonkulous is a made up word, but all words are made up and I’m using it here to stress just how far beyond ridiculous we’re getting.
And by going dual and quad die, Apple would address the one thing no previous M1 implementation has touched — more Neural Engine cores. Those have all stayed locked at 16 since… the A14, which is the IP foundation of M1. Now I don’t know who needs 32 or 64 ANE cores, outside… Google… or Ultron… not to be confused with Voltron. Because very different robots. But I do know somebody will want and use them. So there’s that.
But there’s also one potential problem with dual and quad M1 Max. See, doubling the silicon doubles the power draw, which isn’t a big deal on an always-plugged in desktop. I mean, the last half decade of Intel and Nvidia have taught us nothing if not that. But with great power draw comes great… thermals. And while that also isn’t a problem in the world of DIY Intel and Nvidia towers and liquid coolers, it is a problem for the very, very aesthetically conscious industrial designers at Apple.
I mean, they’ll do a cheese grater 2.0 if they have to… just for those big, hot Xeon and AMD cores, but the days of iMacs with junk in the back bump, even iMac Pros… yeah, those are over. So, while Apple could easily fit 2 to 4 M1 Max dies in the same thermal envelope as one overclocked Intel Alder Lake space heater, that’s probably not an option for anything that’s going to be as thin as a next-generation iMac, even iMac Pro.
2 maybe, at least many of us were hoping for that. But 4 was just never going to happen. That’s why Apple makes the Mac Pro after all. For maximum Pro Mac flex.
But now, what DylanDKT on Twitter says, is that Apple might be doing something… very different. I’ll get to the when in a minute, but the what is — Instead of doubling GPU cores the way they did from M1 Pro to M1 Max, they’ll be adding extra CPU cores on the same or similar single monolithic die. Not a dual or quad M1 Max, but an M1 Extreme, or whatever they end up calling it. Which, honestly, could just be the 12-core CPU M1 Max variant. Like there are already those 24- and 32-core GPU variants. Because, you can’t really out max the max except by further maxing it out, otherwise you’re just better off not naming it Max anyway, not unless it can be none more maxer. But I digress.
This new SKU wouldn’t double the CPU cores, not go to 20 we’d presumably get with a dual die, mind you. But 12 cores, which I’m guessing would break down to the same 2 e-cores but then escalating again with a full 10 p-cores. And then the same up to 32 g-cores, with RAM the being the only remaining wild card. 64 like the Max, or maybe double again to 128? What are the odds it would go… could go… to 256 like the previous Intel Xeon iMac Pro? Never mind the 1.5 TB on the current Intel Xeon Mac Pro… even 256 or 512 GB of unified memory feeding an M1 Extreme CPU and GPU — just all the compute engines — yup, I’m using that word again, it would be redonkulous I decided.
Sure, I’m only going to assume the same 64 GB as Max, maybe 128, and give 512 the same odds Marques gives Blue bubbles on Android, but, hey, we nerds can dream.
But that’s also the reason I think dual and quad die M1 Max still make the most sense for a full-on Mac Pro. Or half-on Mac Pro if reports of it getting smaller are accurate, you know after Apple rips and replaces all those Intel and AMD boards with relatively tiny M1 S O Cs.
But for an iMac Pro that’s supposed to look more like the current Pro Display XDR, and for workloads like audio plugins and compilers that are more CPU dependent, more CPU cores could be exactly what the composers and coders ordered.
Especially considering the current 10-core CPU in the MacBooks Pro don’t even get close to saturating those enclosures. Not even under full load for basically ever, not even in the smaller 14-inch enclosure. They can persist longer than a Book of Boba flashback. But an iMac will have an even bigger, if not much thicker, 27-inch enclosure. Lots of room for those two extra p-cores.
But also… possibly more? Which is why I know some of you are already saying… por que no los dos — as in dos die, dual M1 Max on the very top of the product line. M1 Pro, M1 Max, M1 Extreme, then Dual Die to just dunk on Xeon so hard it leaves a crater in the earth.
And I’d personally all-caps love to see that as well. But I’ll only expect it when and if I see it. Because it just doesn’t sound as likely at this point, at least not until that potential M1 Mac Pro teaser at WWDC in June.
And reports — and some full on fanfic — are saying we might get this M1 Extreme iMac Pro as soon as Apple’s spring event. Which would be March or April, like the M1 iMac last year. Maybe depending on when the iMac Pro can three-point land. Though, it could slip to June, which is when the OG iMac Pro was announced in 2017.