In context: Weak demand for consumer electronics has seen MacBook sales drop almost 40 percent in recent months. Apple needs to revive its Mac business, and the recent surge in rumors around M3 silicon development suggests the company isn't planning to slow down the release cadence for new products.
Back in March, we learned that Apple was working on new 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Air models as well as a new entry-level MacBook Pro. These would come equipped with a new M3 chipset built on TSMC's 3nm process technology for up to 15 percent more performance and 30 percent lower power draw.
The base M3 chipset is expected to debut before the end of this year, though Bloomberg's Mark Gurman reports that Apple may delay launching the new Macs by a few months. The Cupertino company is said to have booked 90 percent of TSMC's 3nm capacity this year for making A17 and M3 chipsets, but the yields are still low at the moment.
According to the most recent estimates, TSMC has been able to achieve a yield rate of around 55 percent for its N3 node, which is pretty good for this stage of development but not satisfactory for mass production. The base M3 die size is expected to be around 135 to 150 sq mm, meaning there are around 450 dies per wafer, and almost half of them are discarded due to defects. Right now, Apple is only willing to pay between $16,000 and $17,000 per wafer, so TSMC aims to improve yields by around five percent every three months.
Gurman says Apple is also testing an M3 Pro prototype with 12 CPU cores, 18 GPU cores, and 36 gigabytes of RAM. For reference, the M2 Pro maxed out at 10 CPU cores, 16 GPU cores, and only 32 gigabytes of RAM. We expect the same increases to apply to the M3 Max and M3 Ultra, but Apple will likely wait for TSMC to perfect its N3E node before it starts trial production of those two variants.
Meanwhile, the company is reportedly still on track to launch the long-rumored 15-inch MacBook Air with an M2 chip at WWDC in June. It's also possible we'll get the first glimpse at the mysterious AR/VR headset that Apple CEO Tim Cook can't wait to show off despite objections from the design team.