Apple's Intel & ARM Mac 2-yr Release Timeline Explained!

Apple's Intel & ARM Mac 2-yr Release Timeline Explained!
7 min read
27 July 2020

We all know that Apple’s custom ARM Silicon-based Macs are coming soon, but since they mentioned that there are more Intel-based Macs in the pipeline, it’s really hard to tell which Macs will get released and when during this 2-year transition period that Apple gave us. So in this article, I’m going to gather all of the leaks and rumors we currently have to try and figure out what Apple’s Mac release timeline will look like over the next 2 years. Now it’s very important to realize that the 2-year transition does NOT mean that Apple absolutely HAS to update every single Mac before the 2 years are up, it simply means that after 2 years, we shouldn’t expect to see any new intel-based Macs.

First, I’m gonna start with the last few Macs that will ship with Intel processors. As you probably already know, Apple’s 27” iMac is in a REALLY weird spot right now because current delivery dates are all the way out into September which is absolutely ridiculous.

This points to a refresh coming VERY soon, and I personally think it’ll be within the next couple of weeks. And recently, we saw new leaked benchmarks of an iMac with a 10-core i9 Intel processor and a new Radeon Pro graphics chip, so this gives us further evidence that an Intel-based Mac is coming soon! And by the way, don’t expect there to be any major design changes, since Apple will most likely keep any redesigns for their ARM-based Macs.

There’s also a chance that Apple will also update the iMac Pro just one more time at the end of this year with an Intel processor, most likely a new Big Navi graphics card, and a Mini-LED Display, which will give Apple more time before they have to update it again with an Apple Silicon chip in the future.

As far as the MacBooks, the only one that might get a refresh with an Intel chip is the 16” MacBook Pro, but it fully depends on when Apple plans to release the ARM-based model next year, which I’ll get to in a minute. But there is a chance that this fall, Apple will quietly update the 16” MacBook Pro with a 10th-Gen chip and minor updates like the possibility of Wi-Fi 6, but don’t expect any major design changes. Now as far as the lower end Macs like the Mac Mini, the MacBook Air and the 13” MacBook Pro, I don’t expect those machines to get refreshed with Intel chips anymore. I’m almost 100% positive the next models will get Apple Silicon.

The only Mac left is the Mac Pro, and what I think Apple is going to do is release an Intel-based Mac Pro right before the 2-year transition period is over, and then they’ll wait another 2 years before finally updating it with Apple Silicon, giving them more experience and time to optimize it for high-end users.

Moving onto the release timeline of Apple Silicon Macs, the first one we should expect is the fully redesigned 24” iMac to come this year, and rumors are pointing to the release date being between October and the end of the year. I personally think Apple is going to host an online-only October event where they’ll release some Apple Silicon Macs and potentially other Apple products like a new Apple TV 4K and an iPad Air 4.

Alongside the 24” iMac, we should also expect a new Apple Silicon MacBook. Most rumors are pointing to it being a 13” MacBook Pro, which will most likely replace the current $1300 base model. This makes sense because it was the only model that didn’t get updated to a 10th-Gen intel processor, sticking to the outdated 8th-Gen chip. As far as the Apple Silicon MacBook Air, the reputable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo thinks that it’ll either come in either the 4th quarter of this year, or the first quarter of next year, and either of those dates would make sense.

So the lower-end Macs which are aimed at the more casual market of users will be released first, giving Apple and developers more time to optimize performance before the higher-end Macs get updated, so let’s get into those.

It’s now pretty clear that the long-awaited 14” MacBook Pro redesign is going to pack Apple Silicon, and it’ll most likely be released alongside the 16” MacBook Pro with Apple Silicon, and they’ll both probably come with new Mini-LED displays. As far as the release date, rumors are pointing to them getting released anywhere from June 2021 to the end of September, but it may even be released at Apple’s 2021 October event.

As far as the Mac Mini, it’s in a pretty weird spot since it’s on the cheaper side, but it’s also used by professionals. And then there’s also the fact that Apple used it for their Developer transition kit, but since we haven’t heard any rumors about the Apple Silicon version coming any time soon, I’d place my bets on it getting released sometime late next year since that’s when the last 3 Mac Mini models were released.

Now as far as the higher-end 5K iMac, there’s a chance that Apple might not even update it with an ARM-based chip until 2022, past the 2-year transition period, since it’s used by a lot of high-end professionals. But it would definitely be weird for the 24” iMac to be using Apple Silicon for 2 full years while the 27” is still on Intel, so for that reason, I think we’ll see a full redesign with a Mini-LED display and ARM-based chip in the Spring or Summer of next year.

And then there’s the iMac Pro, and I personally think Apple could potentially wait until 2023 to finally update it again with Apple Silicon, since they need the extra time to get it optimized before bringing it to the high-end market.

And the only Mac left is the Mac Pro, and since that Mac is meant to be upgradable, I think Apple won’t update it with an ARM-based Chip until at least 2023 or 2024, and at that point, they’ll either come out with their own Apple dedicated GPUs, or they’ll find some sort of way to have ARM-based add-in cards that are replaceable.

One of our readers mentioned something about CCIX, allowing you to interconnect the main central chip and various dedicated accelerator cards without losing much bandwidth. I don’t really know much about this, but it would totally make sense for Apple to use this in their ARM-powered Mac Pro.

So there you guys have it, that’s how I think Apple will handle their future Mac releases.

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Alex 9.7K
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