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Apple May Start Selling Macs With AMD CPUs

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Although Apple offers Radeon graphics cards in its Macs, the company has yet to use AMD's processors. However, multiple lines of code reported by hardware leaker @_rogame as being from the latest macOS Catalina 10.15.4 operating system (OS) beta suggest that Apple might shift over to AMD chips in the future.

There's no evidence that Apple will completely ditch Intel for AMD. However, if the lines of code are real, the inclusion of AMD processors in Apple's OS implies that the U.S. tech giant is open to the possibility of offering its products with AMD processors. It's also possible that Apple is already testing AMD's offerings at this moment. 

The code inside macOS Catalina 10.15.4 beta references several AMD APU codenames, including Raven, Picasso and Renoir. There is even mention of Van Gogh, the rumored codename for AMD's upcoming APU.

(Image credit: _rogame/Twitter)

AMD recently announced the Ryzen 4000-series Renoir APUs based on the Zen 2 microarchitecture and built on the TSMC 7nm FinFET manufacturing process. The Renoir lineup spans from four up to eight cores, so there is some diversity to appeal to Apple. 

Other bits of code refer to a plethora of unreleased AMD Navi silicon, including  Navi 12, Navi 21, Navi 22 and Navi 23, that also previously appeared in a Linux driver. The latter three are rumored to feature the new RDNA 2.0 architecture and TSMC's enhanced 7nm+ node. It's not hard to imagine Apple jumping on the Navi bandwagon, considering AMD Polaris and Vega-powered graphics cards are commonly found inside Apple products.

Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) starts on June 3. If the company is preparing any new products, it'll likely announce them there. We'll keep our eyes peeled to see if there are any AMD chips in them.

  • spiketheaardvark
    What are the odds this is just vestigial code in the graphics driver for the AMD cards already in use?
    Reply
  • spdragoo
    spiketheaardvark said:
    What are the odds this is just vestigial code in the graphics driver for the AMD cards already in use?

    First off, they're talking about the MacOS code, not the graphics driver code. Although it's possible that Apple's coders might include everything in the OS code, since even Apple has numerous hardware options available across the different hardware generations that work with each version of MacOS, I strongly suspect that they handle this the same way that Microsoft, Linux, & other OS vendors do, & the graphics driver is a stand-alone set of code.

    But even if not...you're talking about graphics processors vs. CPUs. The graphics drivers put out by AMD have nothing to do with the CPUs -- you can run an AMD GPU in an Intel-based system, remember, just like you can run an nVidia GPU in an AMD-based system -- so they wouldn't reference AMD's CPUs in the graphics driver code.
    Reply
  • hftvhftv
    Hopefully this is true, I would like to see more choices when it comes to CPUs in Macs. Wonder when they'll talk to Nvidia again so Macs can have top tier GPUs once more.
    Reply
  • spiketheaardvark
    spdragoo said:
    First off, they're talking about the MacOS code, not the graphics driver code. Although it's possible that Apple's coders might include everything in the OS code, since even Apple has numerous hardware options available across the different hardware generations that work with each version of MacOS, I strongly suspect that they handle this the same way that Microsoft, Linux, & other OS vendors do, & the graphics driver is a stand-alone set of code.

    But even if not...you're talking about graphics processors vs. CPUs. The graphics drivers put out by AMD have nothing to do with the CPUs -- you can run an AMD GPU in an Intel-based system, remember, just like you can run an nVidia GPU in an AMD-based system -- so they wouldn't reference AMD's CPUs in the graphics driver code.

    Second off,
    I was talking about graphic because the common denominator for everything in the list(at least the ones I recognized) appears to be graphics. Whether this sits in a AMD coded driver bundled with the OS or Apples coded OS is kind of immaterial to my point.

    The image from the article appears to be an alphabetic list of GPU and APU. It goes from the next Navi iteration back to at least pitcarn. Since Navi hasn't been put into any APU and Vega 20 is obviously a stand alone graphics. While we have not context to tell where this snippet came from, it would seem an odd way to arrange things to mix information about CPU and stand alone GPUs. But it makes perfect sense for this be a list of graphics options.

    It is possible that Apple is considering using the newest AMD APU. But I'm pretty sure the chances are 0 that they'll ever use a years old Raven ridge chip which is also in the list. Hence my question as to the possibility that this is a piece of code that isn't used in it's entirety (vestigial). I could imagine a situation where Apple asks AMD for a list of device IDs and just used the whole thing rather than trying to thin out only the ones Apple supports now and in the future.

    My point was to question whether we can really make any reasonable guesses about what Apple will be doing next year based on some text searched out from a beta build of an OS. The presence of Nvidia code names on the other hand would be more meaningful since they're currently not used in anything.
    Reply
  • RodroX
    IF its only APU's then it may be only for cheap Home related systems, and not for profesional use.
    Which is really bad and sad cause, even the best Apple has to offer right now from Intel has become obsolete by the new Zen 2 CPUs. Unless you're a sound engineering, using propietary software theres no much point to go for Apple, thats if you're searching for the best performance, not to mention the all-migthy high entry level cost of thier systems.
    Reply
  • joeblowsmynose
    I think Apple should just make a MacOS for the PC, and sell it for $50 a pop. That way they can make some additional revenue, expand their ecosystem, and give Bill gates a swift kick in the nuts for gouging us so bad over all these years ... (I know that would be easier said than done)

    But Apple is just as greedy, so if they did release such a product, they would launch it at $200, and consumers would get the kick to the nuts - just the way Apple and Micro$oft like it.
    Reply
  • joeblowsmynose
    spdragoo said:
    ...
    But even if not...you're talking about graphics processors vs. CPUs. The graphics drivers put out by AMD have nothing to do with the CPUs -- you can run an AMD GPU in an Intel-based system, remember, just like you can run an nVidia GPU in an AMD-based system -- so they wouldn't reference AMD's CPUs in the graphics driver code.

    We're only talking about APUs here ... The CPU needs specific graphics drivers to use the GPU inside the CPU. Else whats the point of the APU?

    I'm quite certain that these drivers are not what gets installed for your discrete GPU drivers either ... but someone with an AMD APU can correct me - I think the APUs require their own special graphics drivers, as opposed to the standard "adrenaline" discrete driver package.
    Reply
  • spiketheaardvark
    joeblowsmynose said:

    I'm quite certain that these drivers are not what gets installed for your discrete GPU drivers either ... but someone with an AMD APU can correct me - I think the APUs require their own special graphics drivers, as opposed to the standard "adrenaline" discrete driver package.
    My understanding was integrated graphics connect to the CPU through the PCIe bus in a very similar to a descrete card. (I could be wrong it happens from time to time). On the same silicon but it's still through the PCIe controller. So there may be shockingly few differences between the drivers for the integrated vs the dedicated graphics of the same architecture other than the integrated doesn't have dedicated memory.
    Reply
  • bloodroses
    I thought Apple was switching to ARM? (I know the article is from Feb last year)
    https://www.tomshardware.com/news/apple-mac-arm-cpus-2020-intel,38668.html
    The only product line I could see them switching to with an AMD processor is their Mac Pro line if the above article is true. AMD isn't that common though with production based computers where Xeons still dominate; sales wise. Chances are Apple is just preparing in case a change does happen in the market.
    Reply
  • jimmysmitty
    spiketheaardvark said:
    What are the odds this is just vestigial code in the graphics driver for the AMD cards already in use?

    I would say extremely high since Apple is not known to keep multiple options hardware wise to limit what they have to actually write for and keep issues down. If they ever moved to AMD I would expect it to be an all or nothing. I am sure they hated moving to Intel and I would guess they would move to their own CPU before moving to AMD.

    joeblowsmynose said:
    We're only talking about APUs here ... The CPU needs specific graphics drivers to use the GPU inside the CPU. Else whats the point of the APU?

    I'm quite certain that these drivers are not what gets installed for your discrete GPU drivers either ... but someone with an AMD APU can correct me - I think the APUs require their own special graphics drivers, as opposed to the standard "adrenaline" discrete driver package.

    APUs use the same drivers as a dGPU does.

    https://www.amd.com/en/support/apu/amd-ryzen-processors/amd-ryzen-7-mobile-processors-radeon-rx-vega-11-graphics-0
    Not only the link but I have had AMD for my HTPC for a while and the APU uses the same driver the dGPU I had from AMD was using.
    Reply