Mobile Compute Platform​

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Mobile Compute Platform – A new processor not designed for smartphones but designed for laptops running Microsoft Windows. Hold on! a laptop running Windows that hasn’t got an Intel or an AMD processor in it. What’s all that about!

Let’s start with a bit of context. Now, when ARM designs CPU cores like the Cortex A76 for example, they’re designing the core in such a way that the power consumption is much more important than the performance because all these chips are going to be used in smartphones which come with a limited amount of power. At the other end, there are companies like Intel and AMD making processors for desktops that have the mains power, a cooling fan on it and the difference between the two is quite large. An ARM processor is designed in a most power efficient way and then it is seen how fast the processor can be. On the other hand, it doesn’t matter how much heat the processor emits, or how much power the processor uses, let’s just make it as fast as possible. Therefore, a processor in a smartphone uses 4.5 watts and a typical desktop processor uses 65 watts. Now, how to bridge the gap between these two big differences?! Well, the next thing up is a laptop. Intel and AMD make processors that bring down those power requirements to suit the much better needs of a laptop and generally, it goes down from 65 watts to 15 watts but wouldn’t it be interesting if the processor technology that we have in smartphones is picked and pushed it up to the level of laptops and rather than having a small battery that is in a smartphone, it will have a bigger battery from a laptop! I wonder how many hours of battery life it’ll give.

That’s exactly what Qualcomm did when they had the first always connected PC running Windows ARM two years ago with Always On Always connected Windows PCs running on an ARM processor having Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 and 850. It delivered 20 hours of actual battery life but the problem was it still had the same performance as a smartphone.

Now, with the announcement of the Snapdragon 8cx, the X standing for extreme, Qualcomm have gone back to the drawing board and designed a new processor specifically for the laptop sharing a lot of the technology of course and see whether it can re-boost the laptop performance while still giving those hours of battery life and the same kind of requirements as you would get from a smartphone and that’s what the Snapdragon 8cx is. The power specification of the Snapdragon 8cx is 7 watts as compared to 15 watts from Intel or AMD for laptops. It supports the latest Direct X 12 API because the processor had to deal with Windows. Also, Windows itself has been ported over to ARM, for example, Surface RT and Windows ARM. Every time an app is downloaded from the Windows Microsoft Store, it’s got the ARM code in it to run on the Qualcomm always-connected laptop.

Companies like Firefox are actually making their browsers available for Windows on ARM so that people have the full choice of software that they want. Lots and lots of popular important programs like Netflix, Norton, WhatsApp, Office suite and so much more are now available for Windows on ARM.

Apple recently launched iPad Pro with its new processor – A12X bionic. It is a mobile processor and the main motive of Apple to bring iPad Pro in the market is to bridge the gap between the mobile device and a laptop but what if the A12X Bionic beats the performance of the Core i7 processor from Intel in its MacBook pro?

Till today, Apple hasn’t made a move to manufacture laptops with a mobile processor like the Qualcomm has done in the past but scores popping up on Geek bench Benchmarks shows that Apple’s A12X Bionic (8-core) is at par with the Intel’s Core i7 (6/8-core) in single-core and multi-core performance scores. This indicates that the A12X mobile processor is way more capable than the chips from Intel running on laptops.

Earlier, Amazon AWS provided virtual instances powered by Intel Xeon processors which are made especially for servers requiring large racks and cooling fans for heat dissipation. Now, ARM has entered the server market and provides custom-made ARM server processors to Amazon as virtual instances based on Cortex A76, which are smaller, more efficient in design as compared to Intel processors. Amazon EC2 provides both options –  Intel and ARM processors as virtual machines and it is seen that ARM-based servers run a particular program in less time as compared to Intel-based servers and it’s cheaper than Intel (per hour cost).

Mobile-based processors have the capacity to overcome all the challenges faced by the Desktop and current server-based processors and even beyond. ARM already has the processors for smartphones and now, it has a faster server processor than Intel, based on mobile processors. Also, Qualcomm is bringing an Always On PC having ARM-based processors. Is this a truly worrying sign for Intel and AMD?


Shubham Jindal

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