MacBooks may soon get AMD processors, striking a blow to Intel

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

It seems that it’s not just PC gamers that are making the switch to AMD, but so might be Apple. 

Codenames of AMD APUs (accelerated processor unit) have been uncovered in macOS Catalina code suggesting that a switch is incoming. These codenames include Picasso, Raven, Renoir, and Van Gogh. 

Apple already made the switch from Nvidia to AMD for its graphics processors back in 2016. At the moment, MacBook laptops ship with an Intel processor and, for higher end 16” units, an AMD GPU. But if Apple does make a switch entirely to AMD, that would be a big hit to the blue processor manufacturer.

The advantages by utilizing an APU, a chip in which the processor and GPU are on the same die, is greater power efficiency and potentially better code optimization. 

If Apple does switch to the Renoir APU for example, which is the upcoming Ryzen 3 4300U chip, users could see a modest upgrade in performance. According to leaked benchmarks, the Ryzen 3 4300U is 3% faster than the eighth generation Intel Core i7-8565U. It’s not an insane bump in power, but the real advantage could come in graphical performance. 

Intel’s integrated graphics have always left a lot to be desired. If AMD can put out an APU with modest increases in graphical performance, it would be a major jump in the thin and light laptop category. It should be noted that AMD’s silicon does lag when compared to Intel’s new 10th generation Core i5-10210U chip, which is 6% faster.

The other advantage is that AMD’s top of the line APUs will have a max core count of eight cores and 16 threads. Even when compared to Intel’s high-end 10th generation Core i7-10710U with six cores and 12 threads, AMD handedly beats it. 

This discovery comes a month after rumors of Apple making a $5,000 gaming PC started making the rounds. If Apple does indeed have a high-end gaming machine in the works, it's possible that it could turn to AMD processors and GPUs. 

While these are promising rumors for upcoming Apple machines, this change wouldn't necessarily make Macs into viable gaming laptops. Apple’s video game support continues to waft and wane, with Psyonix announcing last month that it was dropping macOS support for the highly popular game Rocket League. 

Imad Khan

Imad is currently Senior Google and Internet Culture reporter for CNET, but until recently was News Editor at Tom's Guide. Hailing from Texas, Imad started his journalism career in 2013 and has amassed bylines with the New York Times, the Washington Post, ESPN, Wired and Men's Health Magazine, among others. Outside of work, you can find him sitting blankly in front of a Word document trying desperately to write the first pages of a new book.