New Intel CPU: Candidate for next iMac?

Wednesday, 05 August 2015

For the last few years Apple have been waiting Intel to deliver better CPUs for use in iMacs, Macbooks and Mac Pros. Today saw the launch of their Skylake series of chips.

Today's launch of the Skylake archirecture doesn’t point to a big update for the Mac Pro, but it might be good news for iMac fans.

Ars Technica

Many people are still using a PC [e.g. 27" 2011 iMac] with a Sandy Bridge chip such as the Core i7-2600K, which will still hold its own in just about any desktop software or gaming[…]

For them, Skylake might be tempting. Four years of modest yearly CPU performance improvements add up to a fairly big overall gain. The new additions in the chipset are definitely welcome, with super-fast M.2 solid-state storage, improved DDR4 memory, native USB 3.0, and the option of USB 3.1 ports on many retail motherboards. Throw in a decent cooling solution, an M.2 SSD, and do a little overclocking, and you’re getting a PC with next-generation technology and very strong performance.

That would suggest that the next iMacs will have USB C, and that SSD read/write rates will be measured in low GB/s instead of high MB/s.

Although editors would rather have dedicated GPUs in their Macs, the integrated graphics part of Skylake CPUs have some post-relevant improvements such as hardware support for UHD/4K decoding and encoding. According to Anandtech:

Skylake gets a full, low power fixed function HEVC decoder. For desktop users this shouldn't impact things by too much - maybe improve compatibility a tad - but for mobile platforms this should significantly cut down on the amount of power consumed by HEVC decoding and increase the size and bitrate that the CPU can decode.

[…] Intel is also hedging their bets on HEVC by also implementing a degree of VP9 support on Skylake. VP9 is Google's HEVC alternative codec, with the company pushing it as a royalty-free option.

Ars Technica:

There’s no doubt that in terms of single and multithreaded and performance, Intel’s Core i7-6700K is the best quad-core chip on the market. In a high-end consumer PC, particularly for gaming, there’s nothing better. If you’re shopping for a new desktop PC, get one with a Skylake chip.

As regards what most editors need in a future Macs, instead of faster CPUs perhaps we should be looking for faster CPUs that are able to connect to more devices using higher bandwidths.