The news of Apple’s iMac Pro release date wasn’t even a day old before we learned some juicy details about the firm’s most powerful all-in-one computer ever. App developer Cabel Sasser has confirmed on Twitter (opens in new tab) that the rumored T2 coprocessor is indeed inside the device.
For those out of the loop, it’s been reported all year that Apple has been working on the next version of its Mac-line coprocessor chips, the T2, in time for a computing device to be released this year. It was widely expected that said device would be the iMac Pro first unveiled in June 2017, and now those expectations have been realized.
Sasser was one of likely few individual creative professionals to receive an iMac Pro in advance, to which he wasted no time in spreading the news, sharing images of the hardware and his own impressions of how it performs rendering 3D graphics. Naturally, the most important of which are his insights regarding this T2 chip.
What is the T2, and what does it do?
Simply put, the T2 is the evolution of Apple’s T1 chip, a processor designed on ARM architecture for the 2016 and 2017 MacBook Pro models that handles basically everything there is to do with the Touch Bar and Touch ID. This allows the main, Intel-made processor inside that much more headroom to handle all other tasks.
There’s no Touch Bar on the iMac Pro, but the concept is largely the same with the T2, according to Sasser’s revelations. In a tweet, Sasser lists exactly which tasks this coprocessor handles that would otherwise be managed by the Intel Xeon CPU inside.
④ New Chip. This seems big. The iMac Pro features new apple custom silicon: the T2 chip. It integrates previously discrete components, like the SMC, ISP for the camera, audio control, SSD control… plus a secure enclave, and a hardware encryption engine.December 12, 2017
Let’s break down those two acronyms one at a time. The ‘SMC’ Sasser is referring to is a System Management Controller, which commonly manages thermal and power management, video mode switching, sleep and wake, hibernation and LED indicators. The ‘ISP’ is the Image Signal Processor, which in this case will largely handle the FaceTime HD webcam found on the iMac Pro.
In incorporating these two components in addition to the others Sasser lists, the Xeon processor inside can devote that much more of its power to core computing tasks, like video and graphics rendering, namely.
Better yet, for enterprise applications, this T2 chip serves as a secure enclave for the iMac Pro that offers hardware-level encryption of passwords and system keys that never leave the silicon in their use. This is used in a new Startup Security Utility feature that allows firmware-level passwords to be set for ensuring that other bootable drives cannot be used on the system without said password.
The new T2 chip inside the iMac Pro is a strong hint toward previous reports of Apple’s interest in developing more and more of the processing power behind its Mac computers in-house, reducing its dependence on providers like Intel and AMD. Here’s to hoping we see a T3 chip inside the next MacBook Pro.