When it comes to the performance of Mac laptops, it's safe to say that Intel is in the driver's seat. Unless Apple shows any signs of either switching to AMD or producing its own portable processors, the MacBook line will be inextricably linked to Intel's CPU releases.
That's why the launch of Intel's new 10th generation Core Processor (formerly known by the code name Ice Lake) is so important for Mac users. It is the company's first really high volume chip on the 10nm production process, and the first to use the new design process "Sunny Cove".
Our sister site, PCWorld, has a detailed overview of the entire 1
CPU: lower clocks but better performance
Intel launched eleven new 10th generation processors. Five are Y-series processors, with a nominal 9 watt TDP (thermal design power). Note that this is a 5 watt TDP increase from previous Y series processors, but the only MacBook currently using one, the MacBook Air, comes with a Core i5 8210Y that has an unusual 7 watt TDP. Still, if MacBook Air were to get a new processor, it would almost certainly be a Core i5 variant of one of these Y-models, with 4 cores and 8 threads.
There are six processors in the U series, with a TDP of around 15 watts (saving for the top-in Core i7 1068G7 model with a 28 watt TDP). These are the class of chips that come in 13-inch MacBook Pros.
Intel's new Sunny Cove CPU microarchitecture has a number of improvements over Skylake microarchitecture found in CPUs in recent years. It is designed to be "deeper and wider" with new instructions for speeding up cryptographic and large vector operations, as well as larger caches and buffers.
Intel says they expect a total improvement of 18 percent in instruction-per-clock (IPC) across a variety of tasks, but encryption, video compression and machine learning tasks should perform a much faster.
Before you get excited that the next round of MacBooks is 18 percent faster than those sold today (and much more in select tasks), get ready for bad news. The large IPC lift is somewhat offset by the fact that these 10th generation chips have significantly lower base and boost clocks than Amber Lake and Coffee Lake-U chips they replace.
It's hard to get an accurate picture of how well these chips will work in a MacBook Air or 13-inch MacBook Pro. So much of portable processor design is limited by thermal design and the nature of the workload; short and bursty so that high turbo speeds can be maintained, or long-lasting tasks that cause the processor to settle at lower clock speeds?
In PCWorld's tests, the new 10th generation processors perform just a few percent faster in many tasks, but short "bursty" synthetic tests like Geekbench show about 10 percent. better single-core performance and 20 percent better multi-core performance However, some areas stand out, Quick Sync video compression is more than 30 percent faster, and AES encryption and other tests are optimized for all broad vector operations.
If Apple adds these chips in a MacBook, we expect most daily tasks to feel about the same as the current generation, but compressing or decompressing large files and encoding video to Certain formats should be much faster.
GPU: Game Change Performance
On the graphics side, Intel's 10th-generation processors bring incredible gains. In several synthetic benchmark tests, the new Ice Lake chips around double the performance of the Whiskey Lake generation, and even managed to get close to the ultra-low-power GeForce MX 510 with a 10-watt configuration .
Real game tests with by Tanks Encore and Counter-Strike: GO do not show quite the same performance gap, but the new chips still deliver a more than 50 percent boost in graphical performance in reality .
Mac laptops are not exactly gaming machines (at least, not without connecting to an external GPU), but some light gaming is possible, and it should be much more fun with the new 10th generation Intel CPUs. Graphic acceleration is important in many applications beyond games, and they can feel much smoother.
Wi-Fi 6 and better view production
All new Ice Lake processors include Wi-Fi 6 support. It's the Gig + speed standard formally known as the 802.11ax, which home routers are currently letting out. If Apple doesn't replace Intel's own Wi-Fi hardware with a chip with its own network chip, we can expect high-performance, future-proof Wi-Fi.
MacBook's built with Ice Lake CPUs should be ready for the new Pro Display XDR display. The graphics engine has three screens that support DisplayPort 1.4 HBR3 and HDMI 2.08, plus HDR10 and Dolby Vision. You will be able to connect three simultaneous 4K displays at 120Hz, a pair of 5K displays at 60Hz, or a single 8K display at 30Hz.
Are you coming to a MacBook nearby?
The million dollar question is: When will Ice Lake processors be available on a Mac laptop? As is usually the case with Apple, we don't really know. Intel expects PCs with these chips to hit the market in the last quarter of this year, but Apple isn't usually in the first wave of laptops using a new Intel chip.
Often, a MacBook update with new Intel processors hits the market between three and six months after the first Windows laptops. If that's right, we can expect 10th-generation processors to arrive in MacBooks in the spring or summer of 2020.
The rumor mill says Apple will introduce a new 16-inch MacBook Pro this fall, possibly along with updated 13-inch models . Ice Lake processors are likely to be premature; If Apple releases these products this fall, they probably won't include 10th-generation Intel Core processors, and we have to wait for a product update next year.