The 13-inch MacBook Pro calls itself a “pro” device. But with just a quad-core processor under the hood, you don’t expect it to help you out much in the world content creation. What if it was, let’s say, twice as powerful? That’d be nice.
But it’s not just a fantasy. AMD’s new Ryzen 4000 processors would allow a device like the 13-inch MacBook Pro to get up to eight cores and sixteen threads, all without increasing 15-watt power draw.
That got me thinking: What if Apple decided to ditch Intel and go with Ryzen for its MacBook Pro in 2020? Could this be the answer to the MacBook Pro’s well-publicized processor woes?
Losing patience with Intel
It’s no secret that Apple has been largely dissatisfied with Intel in recent times, and not just in terms of MacBook parts. The chip maker has struggled to deliver its processors on time to Apple, leading to Macs launching with last-generation parts in order to just get the products out the door.
And that’s not the only problem — the MacBook Pro 13 is still stuck on quad-core chips, likely because Intel can’t get its more powerful processors to run cool enough in such a small enclosure.
The power alone isn’t enough for an Apple product. Over the years, Mac users have also come to expect a near-silent experience with their laptop. That means Apple has more stringent heat requirements for its processors than other laptop makers. It’s also one reason why the MacBook’s enclosure is 100% metal — the whole chassis acts as a giant heatsink, minimizing the need for spaceship-grade cooling fans.
The jump from a quad-core Intel processor to an eight-core, sixteen-thread AMD chip could be monumental.
All of this is why AMD’s new processors are potentially so exciting. They offer up significantly more power than the Intel chips in the current MacBook Pro 13, while maintaining the minimal power draw levels that Apple so often demands. That means they could be the processors to take the MacBook Pro to the next level, especially in tasks that can use those extra cores like video editing.
The MacBook Pro is meant to be a pro-level device — the clue is in the name, after all. Merely being on par with other premium laptops isn’t good enough for a company that touts the MacBook Pro 13 as a “portable powerhouse.”
The jump from a quad-core Intel processor to an eight-core, sixteen-thread AMD chip could be monumental. You’d be able to get a genuinely powerful machine that’s small enough to chuck in your backpack, and getting pro-level performance would no longer require shelling out over $2,000 for the MacBook Pro 16.
Speaking of the MacBook Pro 16, Apple’s latest laptop came with an all-new cooling system that allowed its internal components to truly shine. If Apple decided to pair that with a low-power, all-performance AMD 4800U chip in the MacBook Pro 13, we’d have a fantastic little machine on our hands.
AMD or ARM?
Dan Baker/Digital Trends
All of this is just fantasizing of course. There’s no indication that Apple would make such a move. Yes, Apple has been looking for alternatives to Intel — but the rumor mill has been pointing more toward Apple creating its own ARM-based processors for its MacBook line.
Apple uses ARM-based A-series chips in its iPhones and iPads, and these have already proven to be by far the best mobile processors on the market, so it knows what it’s doing when it comes to making its own chips. Doing everything in-house would also eliminate the frustrating need to rely on a delay-prone company like Intel. So, that means the AMD speculation goes out the window, right?
Well, not exactly. Apple may find it tough to convince pro users to ditch the high-end Intel Core i9 processors they’re used to for relatively unproven ARM chips, but this is precisely the area where AMD’s latest processors could pick up the slack. If Apple were to put its own ARM chips in its entry-level and mid-range laptops and reserve AMD’s finest for the MacBook Pro, it could score wins on both fronts.
It’d still be relying on a third-party company to provide the guts of the MacBook Pro, but Apple and AMD already enjoy a very close and fruitful relationship. AMD provides all of the discrete graphics cards for the MacBook Pro and iMac, so it wouldn’t be a particularly big step for it to provide the CPUs as well. With new 5600m and 5700m mobile GPUs on the way (with impressive benchmarks, if the leaks are to be trusted), the future could be bright for an Apple-AMD partnership.
Right now, this is all speculation, so take it with a grain of salt. But with AMD on the rise and Apple in desperate need of better processors for the MacBook Pro 13, this could be the perfect time for it to make the switch.
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