Big macOS leak hints at future switch to AMD chips

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Could Apple be preparing to make a surprise switch to AMD processors in a future Mac? References to a number of new AMD microprocessors have been spotted in the latest macOS 10.15.4 beta, which rolled out to developers Wednesday.

The clues hidden in Mac code suggest Apple’s lengthy relationship with Intel could be on the rocks.

Apple joined forces with Intel back in 2005, when Macs made a high-profile switch away from the PowerPC chips adopted in 1987. The two companies enjoyed an incredibly successful relationship, but there’s long been talk of a change.

It has been widely rumored that Apple will one day start using custom ARM chips — like those it designs for iPhone and iPad — in its Macs. But before that happens, Apple could ditch Intel and cozy up with AMD instead.

Apple could put ARM chips in a future Mac

One Mac user uncovered a bunch of references to AMD chips in the latest macOS beta. There are mentions of Navi, the company’s upcoming GPU architecture, as well as Picasso, Raven, Renoir and Van Gogh.

Apple already uses AMD GPUs in some machines, including Mac Pro, so it’s not at all surprising that we might see references to Navi. But the other codenames are for AMD Accelerated Processing Units, or APUs — packages that combine both a CPU and GPU.

This suggests Apple could be preparing to use AMD APUs in at least one future Mac. It’s not the first time that macOS has hinted at future support for AMD processors, with references to Van Gogh first spotted in November.

An APU would not be combined with another CPU, so if Apple used one, Intel would have to be pushed out. It could mean a future in which the entire Mac lineup is powered by AMD — and that could be great for consumers.

Why Apple might want to ditch Intel

It’s no secret that Apple has its issues with Intel chips. They’re expensive, power-hungry and have a tendency to get hot under heavy loads. It’s one of the reasons why Apple is forced to throttle Intel chips in its notebooks.

In addition, Intel chips have been falling behind their AMD counterparts in a number of areas in recent years. The latter’s Ryzen lineup is famous for delivering outstanding performance at an incredibly competitive price.

With that being the case, many have wondered whether Apple would look to AMD for more than just GPUs in the future. It’s a move that would make a lot of sense — but what does it mean for potential ARM-powered Macs?

What would AMD mean for the Mac?

Swapping AMD chips for Intel chips wouldn’t be a completely simple task for Apple, but it also wouldn’t be as difficult as the switch to Intel from PowerPC. AMD and Intel chips use a very similar architecture, which means the same operating systems and software can run on either.

In fact, computers builders are already making their own macOS machines, dubbed “Hackintoshes,” powered by AMD chips. Only a few, relatively simple modifications are required to encourage the software and hardware to play nicely together.

Using AMD chips in one or several Macs doesn’t necessarily mean Apple would use them in all its machines, then. It also doesn’t mean that Apple has given up on designing custom ARM chips for its desktops — or that those chips are still many years away.

This is all speculation for now

Of course, Apple may not be planning to use AMD chips at all. It could be that the company is testing them internally with no plans to actually build them into a final product. References in its software don’t necessarily mean anything, and there’s no guarantee AMD could solve the problems Apple has with Intel.

Those references are certainly exciting for Mac users, though. They’re a reminder that Apple hasn’t forgotten about the Mac — as some suggest — and that it is at least exploring ways to push the platform forward.

Via: Digital Trends