Apple is Using a Custom Intel Ice Lake Processor in 13-inch MacBook Pro

2020 13-inch MacBook Pro vs 2019 13-inch MacBook Pro Specs, Features, and More Compared

Apple seems to be using custom Intel Ice Lake SKUs for its new 13-inch MacBook Pro with a higher base clock and base TDP. The high-end model of the new 13-inch MacBook Pro is the only tier that got the new 10th generation Intel processors.

Custom Intel Ice Lake CPU in 13-inch MacBook Pro Could Have a Base TDP of 20 - 25 W

As noted by AnandTech, Apple is using a custom Ice Lake SKU from Intel, which is not listed on the company’s website.

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The most significantly internal change is the option for a new 10th generation Intel Ice Lake based CPU, running at 2.0GHz base clocks and Turbo Boost to up to 3.8GHz. As always with Apple products, this likely is a custom SKU just for Apple’s line-up as there’s no matching public part with these frequencies – the closest part is an i7-1060G7 which features the same peak clock, but only a meagre 1.0GHz base clock. Apple here likely is running a higher base TDP of 20-25W. For a $200 upsell, you can choose a higher-end 2.3/4.1GHz CPU configuration.

There are two mobile Intel Core i7 Ice Lake SKUs that the company lists on its website:

  • Intel Core i7-1060G7 (TDP: 9 - 12 W)
    • Base clock: 1.00 GHz
    • Turbo Boost: 3.80 GHz
    • Iris Plus Graphics
  • Intel Core i7-1065G7 (TDP: 15 - 25 W)
    • Base clock: 1.30 GHz
    • Turbo Boost: 3.90 GHz
    • Iris Plus Graphics

Surface Laptop 3 and Dell XPS 13 are some of the laptops that utilize the Intel Core i7-1065G7, hence they have better performance than machines that utilize the 9W Ice Lake SKU. However, the 13-inch MacBook Pro outperforms both these machines by a considerable margin because of the higher TDP, speculated to be around 20 - 25 W. This higher TDP comes with thermal constraints though, as various reviews have reported that the machine heats up under heavy workload.

This exclusivity might also explain why only the high-end 13-inch MacBook Pro got the new processors, while the cheaper models only got the new Magic Keyboard. As reported by NotebookCheck, Intel’s production issues with 10nm might be the reason for Apple to stick with 8th generation processors in the base model 13-inch MacBook Pro. As the base-model 13-inch MacBook Pro is one of the most popular laptops that Apple sells, they would want to steer clear of parts that cannot be mass-produced by Intel.

Apple’s exclusivity on the two parts could be relatively lengthy given Intel’s well-documented woes with its 10nm node. Given that mass quantities of the 10th-generation parts available to other OEMs are currently capped at a based clock speed of just 1.3 GHz, it suggests that Intel may not yet have sufficient yields of the higher-performing chips to offer more widely. However, now that Apple has shipped the 13-inch MacBook Pro with the new Ice Lake parts, it will be interesting to see how long it takes for other makers to release notebooks with the new parts as well.

This is not the first time that Intel has supplied Apple with custom silicon. Apple often gets exclusive access to specific SKUs, before they become widely available for other OEMs.

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