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ARM Processors

Apple is moving to its own silicon chips for some of its Mac hardware and begins a two-year plan to dump Intel processors.

What does this mean for Apple?

You will be able to run native macOS apps alongside native iOS apps side by side for the first time. Apple is also promising new levels of performance and far less power consumption with its move to in-house processors. The common ARM-based architecture across Apple’s products will now make it easier for developers to write and optimise apps across all Apple devices.

ARM vs Intel – What are the key differences?

The CPU: At the highest level, the first difference between an ARM CPU and an Intel CPU is that the former is RISC (Reduced Instruction Set Computing) and the latter is CISC (Complex Instruction Set Computing). On RISC processors, the instruction set operations and the microcode operations are very close. On CISC, the complex instructions need to be translated into smaller microcode ops. This means that the instruction decoder (the bit that works out what the CPU needs to do) is much simpler on a RISC processor, and simpler means less power and greater efficiency.

Also worth pointing out, ARM has only ever designed power efficient processors. ARM’s goal is to design low-power usage processors. However Intel’s goal is to design super high performance desktop and server processors. And it has done a good job. Intel is the industry leader in desktops and servers.

The average Intel i7 processor produces around 45W of heat. The average ARM based smartphone SoC (including the GPU) has a maximum peak power of around 3W.

64-bits

Did you know that Intel didn’t even invent the 64-bit version of its x86 instruction set. Known as x86-64 (or sometimes just x64), the instruction set was actually designed by AMD. The story goes like this, Intel wanted to move into 64-bit computing, but it knew that to take its current 32-bit x86 architecture and make a 64-bit version would be inefficient. So it started a new 64-bit processor project called IA64. This eventually produced the Itanium range of processors. In the meantime AMD knew it wouldn’t be able to produce IA64 compatible processors, so it went ahead and extended the x86 design to include 64-bit addressing and 64-bit registers. The resulting architecture, known as AMD64, became the de-facto 64-bit standard for x86 processors.

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