Every year, Apple updates its smartphones with brand-new chips to bring in more performance and enable new features. However, according to a Commercial Times report that cites anonymous sources, the company will not update its future Macs that often as it is reportedly targeting an 18-month cycle for its larger PC chips. This means Apple's computers will lag behind smartphones in both processor microarchitectures and process technologies, so we won't see the new M2 processors until the Fall of 2022.
Apple's M1-series processors, including the latest M1 Max and M1 Pro, are based on last year's high-performance Firestorm and energy-efficient Icestorm CPU microarchitectures and are made using TSMC’s N5 fabrication technology. Meanwhile, Apple's latest iPhone 13-series smartphones use the A15 Bionic chips to take advantage of the latest high-performance Avalanche cores and energy-efficient Blizzard cores fabbed on TSMC’s N5P node.
While PC chips offer significantly higher performance than the A15, the latter is technologically more advanced. Apparently, this trend will continue, and Apple’s iPhones will get the company’s new CPU and GPU architectures and the latest nodes first.
Apple will reportedly use TSMC's N4 fabrication process for the next-generation M2-series chips, just like the company's next-generation A16 chips for smartphones and tablets. The M2 chips for mainstream PCs, reportedly codenamed 'Staten,' are rumored to hit the market in the second half of 2022. By contrast, higher-end M2 Pro/M2 Max, codenamed 'Rhodes,' chips are expected to be available in 2023.
Typically, CPU cores are developed for a very particular node to maximize their efficiency. Therefore, M2 chips will not adopt Avalanche or Blizzard cores but will rely on Apple's next-generation microarchitectures used by the A16. Meanwhile, the M2 Pro and M2 Max processors due in 2023 will use new technologies that Apple will introduce in 2022. Furthermore, it will not be made using TSMC's then leading-edge process technology, unlike Apple's A17 in 2023.
Keeping in mind that Apple's M-series chips are considerably larger than A-series chips, it doesn't necessarily make sense to use the latest nodes that tend to have a higher defect density (and thus lower yield and higher cost) compared to proven processes. This will somewhat limit the performance potential of Apple's next-generation M-series processors but will cut Apple's costs.
Previously we reported that Apple was prepping three chips based on TSMC's N3 fabrication technology. These processors will likely be launched in the 2024 ~ 2025 timeframe.