Apple’s smallest laptop, the 12-inch MacBook, depends heavily on improved Intel ultra-low-power processors to eke out performance gains. A new leak from Dell (via MacRumors/NextLab501) suggests that Intel’s upcoming Amber Lake Y-series processors will power a modest 2018 MacBook refresh, mostly improving single-core Turbo Boost performance across the lineup.
The 2017 MacBook comes in three variants on Intel’s seventh-generation Core architecture: m3, i5, and i7. They would likely be replaced by the following eighth-generation versions.
- Entry-level model: 2017’s 1.2GHz dual-core Intel Core m3 with 3.0GHz Turbo Boost would shift to a 2018 1.1GHz Core m3-8100Y with 3.4GHz single-core Turbo Boost. Dual-core Turbo Boost maxes out at 2.7GHz.
- Mid-range model: 2017’s 1.3GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 with 3.2GHz Turbo Boost would shift to a 2018 1.3GHz Core i5-8200Y with 3.9GHz single-core Turbo Boost. Dual-core Turbo Boost maxes out at 3.2GHz.
- High-end model: 2017’s 1.4GHz dual-core Intel Core i7 with 3.6GHz Turbo Boost would shift to a 2018 1.5GHz dual-core Core i7-8500Y with 4.2GHz single-core Turbo Boost. Dual-core Turbo Boost maxes out at 3.6GHz.
Moving to these three processors would be consistent with Apple’s general 12-inch MacBook strategy, which has seen the slender machine generally tread water each year rather than making major advancements. The new entry-level model would remain roughly on par with its predecessor in CPU power, while the mid-range version would do noticeably better under load, and the high-end model would improve under all usage conditions.
It’s not clear whether the MacBooks’ integrated graphics will improve in 2018. While MacRumors suggests that the Amber Lake chips will include Intel’s UHD Graphics 620, which would deliver roughly 20 to 35 percent superior performance over prior models, earlier details on the Y-series chips suggest that they will use Intel UHD Graphics 615 — a more similar GPU to what’s in 2017’s MacBooks. If that’s accurate, the 2018 MacBooks will remain weak for gaming, and noticeably underpowered for other graphics-intensive tasks.
Apple dramatically increased the processor performance of its 2018 MacBook Pro with Touch Bar models, moving its 13-inch laptops to quad-core processors and 15-inch versions to six-core processors. The new machines also included third-generation Butterfly keyboards, which would likely come to the MacBook, and an Apple-developed T2 security coprocessor, which might or might not make the cut in this year’s laptop.