An anonymous tipster has bad news for the Mac Pro: Apple apparently has no plans to keep working on the scrapped chip that would have doubled the machine’s power. Development on Apple silicon is reportedly set all the way through the M5 generation.
There’s a beacon of hope, though. Multi-die packaging — technology being developed that could see the light of day around the M8 chip — eventually might give the Mac Pro the power it deserves. However, at Apple’s current pace, that’s at least six years away.
Insider information on the Mac Pro
This news came from an anonymous source writing in to the Upgrade podcast, a weekly Apple news show co-hosted by Relay FM co-founder Myke Hurley and Six Colors editor-in-chief Jason Snell. The segment begins 3 minutes and 35 seconds into episode 468.
“I am an Apple engineer working on the GPU team,” the leaker wrote. “The quad chip has been canned with no plans to return […] The quad chip was only ever specced for M1 and removed late in the project.”
Whither Apple’s M1 Extreme chip?
Similar to how the M1 Ultra was comprised of two M1 Max chips interposed together for double the power, when the tipster talks about “the quad chip,” he or she is referring to the rumored M1 Extreme that would have been comprised of four M1 Max chips.
Some people hold out hope that while the M1 and M2 generation of chips came and went without this quad chip, perhaps it would arrive for M3. Alas, the tipster wrote, “There are no plans to create a quad chip through at least the M7 generation.”
This leaves the Mac Pro in a weird place, and people have noticed. Compared to the Mac Studio with M2 Ultra, you pay an extra $3,000 for a computer with PCI slots that isn’t any faster. Apple doesn’t tune up the Mac Pro’s performance at all, despite the computer’s larger cooling system and power supply.
Quad-chip could arrive in M8 series
While Apple is still selling M1 and M2 computers, it’s time to jump ahead to M8. According to the anonymous informant, the M8 may be manufactured with multi-die packaging.
“This allows the CPU and GPU parts of the chip to be fabricated on different dies and packaged together, much like how two Max chips make an Ultra,” the tipster wrote. With Apple’s current technology, an entire chip needs to be fabricated in one piece — CPU, GPU, neural engine, the whole gambit.
Apple gave up on the rumored quad-chip before because it proved too big and too hard to manufacture. However, assembling chips out of even smaller components could put such a beast back on the table.
“With this design, it is conceivable that we could have three, four or five or more GPU dies with one or two CPU for a graphics powerhouse or vice versa,” according to the source.
While “no such plans exist yet,” the M8 remains a long way away — even on Apple’s internal timeline. So don’t count out this possibility just yet. The source says that Apple is “actively developing what will presumably be the M5 chip” right now.