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Apple Reportedly Preparing 5nm GPUs For 2H 2021

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you think Apple was going to stop at producing its own CPUs, then you have another thing coming. As spotted by @chiakokhua, Chinese publication Commercial Times reported that the U.S. tech giant is presently working on its in-house GPUs as well with a planned launch in the second half of 2021.

The upcoming GPUs, reportedly codename Lifuka, is part of the Apple Silicon project and will leverage TSMC's 5nm process node as well. The report claims that Lifuka's development is going smoothly. The GPU reportedly promises higher computing performance and improved performance per watt over other GPUs, but a more detailed comparison wasn't given. 

Apple has always prided itself for its ecosystem. The tech giant already employs home-made CPUs in the majority of its devices, such as the iPad, iPhone or Apple Watch. Apple Silicon represented another step for Apple towards self-sufficiency and to stop depending on Intel for CPUs. While Apple was a fan of Intel CPUs, the company was more faithful to AMD in regards of GPUs. With Lifuka, it looks like AMD will ultimately lose some of Apple's GPU business.

According to Commercial Times' sources, Lifuka will come with Tile-Based Deferred Rendering (TBDR) technology. TBDR is the same technology that's present in Imagination Technologies' PowerVR GPUs, which Apple used in its A4 chip from 2010 to 2017. Earlier this year, Apple rekindled its relationship with Imagination Technologies with a multi-year deal that would allow Apple access to the British chip designer's intellectual property. It appears that the hookup between the two companies was part of Apple's plan to exploit Imagination Technologies' expertise for its own GPUs.

As per the report, development on Apple's A14X processor is done, and TSMC will start mass-producing them for Apple before the end of this year. The time frame coincides with TSMC's update on the 5nm process node on how it's currently in the process of high volume manufacturing. If Commercial Times' information is accurate, Lifuka will debut in the new iMac some time in the second half of 2021.

Due to the imposed U.S. regulations, TSMC stopped accepting orders from Huawei. Commercial Time asserts that the Apple has already gobbled up the vacated 5nm capacity that Huawei left behind. There's no doubt that some of that capacity is reserved for Lifuka.

  • watzupken
    I won't call it last step to self sufficiency here considering that they still need to buy a lot of components off the shelf and dependent heavily on their suppliers for a complete product. A company like Samsung is probably more self sufficient since they produce almost everything and run their own fab business. Of course they don't have an in house designed GPU, and no OS.
    Reply
  • Chung Leong
    I wonder if Apple will get out of the desktop computer business altogether. Mac represents less than 10% of the company's revenue, most of which is probably laptop sales. Developing workstation-class CPUs and GPUs for use in the Mac Pro can't be economical.
    Reply
  • jasonkaler
    Chung Leong said:
    I wonder if Apple will get out of the desktop computer business altogether. Mac represents less than 10% of the company's revenue, most of which is probably laptop sales. Developing workstation-class CPUs and GPUs for use in the Mac Pro can't be economical.
    Everybody's getting out of the desktop business - it's just a matter of time. and Apple is usually first
    Reply
  • danlw
    Yay! Now Apple users can pay Titan prices for 2060 performance!

    We'll see how it performs. But I'm skeptical about the performance of a first gen hardware product against companies that have been making GPUs for decades. If anything, Apple's proprietary software written specifically for their hardware could perform on par with current gen hardware. But the more likely scenario is the product gets delayed for years because it is not competitive like the Intel Larabee was not competitive.
    Reply
  • gg83
    watzupken said:
    I won't call it last step to self sufficiency here considering that they still need to buy a lot of components off the shelf and dependent heavily on their suppliers for a complete product. A company like Samsung is probably more self sufficient since they produce almost everything and run their own fab business. Of course they don't have an in house designed GPU, and no OS.
    Samsung uses their own OS for TVs. Just can't get them in cellphones though.
    Reply
  • spongiemaster
    danlw said:
    Yay! Now Apple users can pay Titan prices for 2060 performance!

    We'll see how it performs. But I'm skeptical about the performance of a first gen hardware product against companies that have been making GPUs for decades. If anything, Apple's proprietary software written specifically for their hardware could perform on par with current gen hardware. But the more likely scenario is the product gets delayed for years because it is not competitive like the Intel Larabee was not competitive.
    Nobody buys Apple products for the purpose of gaming so whatever Apple comes up with will be good enough for the overwhelming majority of their users. You don't need a 2080Ti for Adobe products or other content creation. Mac Pros are the only systems Apple sell that need any GPU horsepower and they can still outsource that, as it's a niche of a niche in their product stack and developing anything beyond IGP level performance for so few systems would be a waste of money.
    Reply
  • King_V
    jasonkaler said:
    Everybody's getting out of the desktop business - it's just a matter of time. and Apple is usually first

    I heard this prediction, about, what? Almost decade ago? Everything was going to be tablet/phone. Microsoft even released Windows 8, something that looked designed for mobile and touch screens far more than a desktop PC.

    Then they backtracked because people hated it. I'm not betting on any sort of desktop exodus.
    Reply
  • JamesSneed
    watzupken said:
    I won't call it last step to self sufficiency here considering that they still need to buy a lot of components off the shelf and dependent heavily on their suppliers for a complete product. A company like Samsung is probably more self sufficient since they produce almost everything and run their own fab business. Of course they don't have an in house designed GPU, and no OS.

    While I don't disagree, all the extremely complex parts Apple now design in house which is a huge leap from a decade ago.
    Reply
  • nofanneeded
    Well this could increase Apple software speed by ten folds in the next desktops , If they design their GPU to calculate their exclusive software on the hardware level ... it will not be as fast for third party software houses but for exclusives ? it will be ten folds , and this is what is important mostly for people who will buy iMac or Mac Pros ...

    Aperture , Logic Pro , Final Cut .. and i(stuff)
    Reply
  • techconc
    Chung Leong said:
    I wonder if Apple will get out of the desktop computer business altogether. Mac represents less than 10% of the company's revenue, most of which is probably laptop sales. Developing workstation-class CPUs and GPUs for use in the Mac Pro can't be economical.

    Just to add some context. 2019 Mac sales were $25.7 Billion. Even though that's a relatively small amount for Apple, it's still a fairly large and profitable business. Last checked, Apple had something like 90% marketshare for PCs costing more than $1000. Either way, the Mac is still a strategic part of Apple's business.
    Reply