Intel and AMD have been the go-to CPU manufacturers for many years now, but the release of Apple Silicon has complicated matters.
Despite being exclusive to Macs, the new M1 chips come with big performance and battery life claims, and early indications suggest it has delivered for the most part.
Apple ditched Intel to make its own laptop chips after a 14-year association, but it looks like big rival AMD will be the first to add an ARM-based CPU to its lineup. The company looks to be coming out swinging, with the two different types said to be in the works. Here’s everything you need to know so far.
When will AMD release an ARM-based chip?
AMD’s intention to make ARM-based chips is relatively recent news, although we understand the company has been working on them for some time. However, as a result, we have little idea when they’ll be released.
The only rumour so far comes courtesy of prolific leaker Mauri QHD, who has tweeted that the chips are in the prototype stage. He goes on to quote one source saying they’re “almost ready”, but it’s unclear how long we’ll have to wait.
AMD does have a CES briefing scheduled for 12 January 2021, where it’s widely expected to reveal Ryzen 5000 Series laptop chips. Could ARM-based chips be a surprise announcement? Only time will tell.
Which devices will ARM-based AMD chips be used in?
The same Mauri QHD tweet from above suggests that there will be two different types of AMD CPUs:
AMD has an M1 competitor in prototype stages, one version with integrated RAM, and one without ithe said “almost ready”but -imo- idkleak is only a few days old, the chip idk
— Mauri QHD (@MauriQHD)
November 28, 2020
Integrated RAM is typically much faster than onboard RAM, which would be the “one without it” in this scenario. Despite this, we’d expect both chips to come to laptops initially. This would match Apple, which has initially launched the M1 CPU on the MacBooks and Mac mini.
Expect the available devices to loosely resemble what we see for the current Ryzen 4000 series. However, there may be more of a focus on OEM’s exclusively using ARM-based AMD chips for certain products.
It’s worth noting that the description here as ‘an M1 competitor’ is the only indication we have of an ARM-based chip in the works.
How will ARM-based chips be different to AMD’s current processors?
ARM is an entirely different family of processors to the x86 standard you’ll see on most laptops. In general, ARM-based devices have a focus on low power consumption and a simple set of instructions, making them well-suited to thin, light devices.
Their most notable inclusion on Windows hardware to date has been in the form of the Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8cx compute platform, which offers an ‘always on, always connected vision for the future. They can be found on devices like the Galaxy Book S, which offers truly staggering battery life, but compromises slightly in performance to achieve it.
There’s also the issue of software compatibility, which has plagued Microsoft’s ARM-based Surface Pro X. Hopefully, AMD will have ironed out some of these issues by the time it launches ARM-based chips.
AMD may already have an unreleased ARM-based chip in its portfolio, if reports are to be believed. The K12 Core chip, as it was known, may form the basis of the new ARM CPUs.
We’ll update this article as soon as we know more about the status of AMD’s ARM CPUs. To see what it’ll be up against, check out our guide to Apple Silicon.
You may also be interested in AMD’s upcoming Ryzen 5000 Mobile chips.