CPU Options in Future Macs

Jason Snell, writing at Macworld:

The new $1,199 base-model MacBook Air comes with a 1.6GHz dual-core Core i5 processor with Turbo Boost up to 3.6GHz. If you max out all of its specs, on the other hand, you’ll walk away with a $2,600 computer… with the very same 1.6GHz processor. Apple will let you expand storage (to 1.5TB) and memory (to 16GB), but the processor you get is the processor you get. […]

And it got me thinking: This feels like the future of the Mac, certainly on the consumer end of the product line. With the new MacBook Air, Apple has picked a processor and stuck with it. Would any of us be surprised if it did the same with a future update to the MacBook? Or low-end iMacs?

I am convinced this is the future of the Mac. The thing to keep in mind is that Apple’s A-series chips — like the A12 and A12X — aren’t just CPUs. They each put an entire system on a chip. They are integrated wholes that include not just CPUs, but also GPUs and now machine learning neural engines, and all the IO communication lines between these components. It just doesn’t make sense to offer configurable CPU and GPU upgrades in an SoC context. Instead, you make a great SoC and offer configurable storage and RAM.

One reason the new MacBook Airs all share the same CPU is that it’s the only CPU from Intel right now that meets the MacBook Air’s power requirements. But count me in with Snell — I think configurable CPU options are going the way of removable batteries and optical drives. And I welcome it. I hate CPU options. I never know what to buy; how best to balance performance and power consumption. I want Apple’s system architects to do all the work to make the decision for me — to find the perfect balance.

Monday, 19 November 2018