CM – Apple will introduce the M1X chiplet technology on Monday

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Apple is about to enter the “chiplet” era for its Apple Silicon – solving core and memory scaling challenges with advanced packaging technology such as TSMC’s new integrated SoC system and 3D fabric technology .

Tomorrow’s Apple event will be all about the Mac. However, it will also showcase the broader Apple silicon chip strategy the company will deploy over the next several years. Apple’s introductory graphic should be familiar to all Star Wars fans. It’s the moment when a spaceship makes the leap to the speed of light.

This graphic is a tell-tale sign that Apple is looking to overtake the entire industry in chip performance. So how are you going to do that exactly? That is what we will focus on in this article. We’ll summarize first and then provide details for those who want to understand the technology behind the story.

Apple’s A- and M-series chips are SoCs, also known as « system on a chip ». Its latest SoCs incorporate the CPU, GPU, Neural Engine, and memory, and more, right on the same piece of silicon.

However, Apple will almost certainly move to a SoIC-type semiconductor product tomorrow. SoIC stands for « System on Integrated Chips ». This technology is also known as “chiplets” and AMD is already the first on the market with chiplet technology (SoIC) with its Ryzen 5000 series CPUs.

Chiplet technology is a new way of packaging a processor . If you were wondering how Apple was going to upscale the unified memory on the M1 processor to meet the memory needs of its future professional Mac computers, chiplet technology is the way to go. It’s also the way to many more cores.

On Monday, Apple will likely introduce the M1X (our name not Apple’s) as a chiplet. In one version, the expected 10-core M1X will sit on an interposer layer in a SoIC package. The interposer is an electrical interface for routing between different components of the SoIC. Take a look at the patent graphic above.

Apple will likely enter the Chiplet Era (SoIC) for Apple Silicon tomorrow. Manufacturing challenges at smaller nodes are forcing the industry towards chiplet, and wafer yields favor small chips anyway. AMD has already led both Apple and Intel with a chiplet CPU implementation.

When the M1X is doubled in chiplet design, you can double both the GPU and CPU cores. If you place four M-series chiplets on a larger SoIC package, you have the processing power you need for the new Mac Pro towers. However, we expect the Mac Pro will include the M2 chip in a chiplet package.

Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman is one of the most reliable sources for the future of Apple products. In May of that year, Gurman wrote that the new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro would be powered by two new chips, code-named Jade C-Chop and Jade C-Die. Each will consist of 10 cores (8 high performance cores and 2 energy efficient cores). Both chips will be available in 16 and 32 GPU core variants with up to 64 GB RAM.

However, these are not other chips, but TSMC chops off half of the GPU cores to create a smaller chiplet obtain. Or they are bound chips that had defects by Apple deactivating GPU cores or simply switching off good cores, as in the M1 MacBook Air with its 7-core GPU.

Smaller chips are superior for better wafer yields. All wafers usually have a small percentage of defective or underperforming chips – see red and purple squares. If a defect occurs on a large monolithic CPU chip, as in the recent Intel chips, the overall wafer yield is far less than if the same number and type of defects occur on a wafer with a much larger number of smaller chips. The chiplet strategy will enable Apple to achieve optimal chip yields from every TSMC wafer. And « binned » chips can still be used to throttle M1X performance options, which allows Apple to use many CPUs when they actually only make one.

Therefore, the M1X can have multiple binned chip variants that it can Allow Apple to maximize wafer yield by offering versions of the chip with defective cores deactivated. The M1X can come in 10-core and 8-core versions, with the latter still performing better than the M1 as Apple switches to the TSMC 5NP process node (P stands for the power version of the 5nm node) . Variants of the Jade C-Chop can come with 10, 12 and 14 GPU cores. We believe the Jade C-Die Chip is a chiplet (SoIC) package with two (2x) M1X chips. Again, Apple can offer deactivated binned variants with versions for the larger 16-inch MacBook Pro that offer 20, 24 or 28 GPU cores and possibly a 16-CPU core option.

With the new modularity of the chiplet -Designs (SoIC), Apple can offer the market a seemingly plethora of chip and pricing options while only designing and manufacturing a single M1X chip. The flagship version for the new MacBooks would probably be the Jade C-Die with 20 CPU cores, 32 GPU cores and 64 GB of unified memory.

Gurman also writes that the new Mac Pro will have new chips called Jade 2C- Die and Jade 4C-Die will have 20 and 40 core variants. The fascinating thing about these code names are the numbers 2 and 4. Do they mean a doubling and quadrupling of the basic M1X chip? That would be the most logical idea. But what would be the performance difference between a Jade 2C-Die and a Jade C-Die? The answer may lie in the chip frequency.

Since the Mac Pro has a completely different thermal, as the case is considerably larger than all other types of Mac computers, Apple could afford to increase the clock frequencies of the M1X. Another explanation could be that Jade 2C-Die and Jade 4C-Die are chips that will be built on the next 4nm or 3nm TSMC process. With the next Mac Pro coming up next year, I think that the Jade 2C-Die and 4C-Die will not be built from M1X chips, but from M2 chips. This is my guest colleague based on the timing of the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) 4nm node process.

Bottom line? The new chiplet era for Apple Silicon is expected to begin tomorrow. You are following in AMD’s footsteps and the entire industry will ultimately have to go in that direction too. But just imagine how much faster the M1X will be in its base binned version, not to mention its 10-core CPU / 16-core GPU and 32GB of unified memory.

A basic note is the speed increase of the A-15 Bionic compared to the A-14, both on 5 nm cores. However, the A-15 was built with the TSMC N5P node and in the end achieved a greater increase in performance than initially assumed. This iPhone 13 chip is faster than the M1. The M1X benefits from the same TSMC N5P node improvements over the M1. It will also be bigger than the M1 with around 30-40 percent more transistors. It will likely give a 25-35 percent increase in single-core performance. The real performance story, however, is the use of two of these M1X chiplets on a single die. As a result, the multicore performance is scaled dramatically to the north of 200 percent compared to the M1. And later with the M2 chiplet in 4x formation, we could see that Apple’s next Mac Pro will be by far the most powerful workstation computer in the world. That seems to be possible now.

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