Will Apple’s next-generation chips adopt the Chiplet design?

Apple seems to have kept its new M1 Max chip strictly confidential. But the latest new die shot photos show that it may actually have an interconnect bus that supports multi-chip module (MCM) scaling, allowing the company to stack multiple chips together in chiplet-based designs. This may allow the chip to achieve up to 40 CPU cores and 128 GPU cores. Apple has not confirmed the rules for changing the chip design, but M1 Max can theoretically be extended to “M1 Max Duo” or even “M1 Max Quadra” configuration, consistent with the continued reports of various chip-based M1 designs in the future.

Will Apple’s next-generation chips adopt the Chiplet design?

(Image source: Twitter @Frederic_Orange)

Apple has impressed the world more than once, and the company’s latest M1 Max chip itself is a force that cannot be ignored-the chip’s 57 billion transistors allows Apple to expand to 10 CPU cores and 24 or 32. GPU cores (depending on the configuration you get), all of this is implemented on a single 5nm chip. Adding adaptability to chiplet-based designs theoretically increases computing resources, thereby increasing performance.

The interconnect bus will allow Apple to expand its chips by “gluing together” the appropriate number of M1 Max chips. But, of course, this is not just a question of flipping one M1 Max chip and aligning it with the second chip; for chiplet-based designs, Apple still has to use specific interposers and packaging options.

Interestingly, Apple’s M1 Pro chip (applicable between M1 and M1 Max SoC) lacks an interconnect bus-it is actually in the extended part of M1 Max (the more powerful version of M1 Pro). This may mean that Apple only hopes to empower users who need additional graphics computing power in its M1 Max (such as graphics or TV studios), and to achieve the ultimate goal requires further expansion of performance through this small chip design concept.

Combining two 520 mm^2 Apple M1 Max chips in the “M1 Max Duo” chip can provide up to 20 CPU cores and 48 or 64 GPU units. It also needs to properly double the system memory to 128 GB. Memory bandwidth should also be expanded in such systems, up to 800 Gb/s. This seems feasible in the current M1 Max design, of course, although the 1,040 mm^2 Apple chip will be more expensive.

Choosing a “M1 Max Quadra” solution with 40 CPU cores and 128 GPU cores would be more complicated. Perhaps as the source suggests, adding an I/O chip is the correct solution, but the possibilities are everywhere. Apple can also maintain sufficient inter-chip bandwidth through I/O technology similar to AMD Infinity Fabric. Whether larger chips require I/O chips is still an open question, as other leaks indicate that the design will be expanded in a monolithic design.

It is not clear how Apple will choose to deal with memory bandwidth expansion. But what is certain is that any solution will greatly increase the cost of platform development. But then again, these theoretical “M1 Max Duo” and “M1 Max Quadra” products will cater to a market that cares more about performance and power efficiency rather than cost.

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