The Apple M1 SoC has shown from the beginning a performance that should be worrying Intel and AMD, where they squeeze the ARM architecture very well. Now the latter is rumored to be planning a direct response, with an ARM-based SoC as well. Is it possible for this to happen? Would it make any sense? Let’s analyze it.
AMD is rumored to be trying to resurrect its K12 architecture to compete with the Apple M1
The rumors come from the well-known leaker Mauri QHD. According to him, AMD already has a prototype of what will be a competitor to the M1, “almost ready”, having a version with integrated RAM and another without it.
AMD has an M1 competitor in prototype stages, one version with integrated RAM, and one without it
he said "almost ready"
but -imo- idk
leak is only a few days old, the chip idk
— Mauri QHD (@MauriQHD) November 28, 2020
As always, a rumor like this should always be taken with a grain of salt, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t make sense. The point is that many will be surprised to see AMD making a foray into the ARM market, considering that together with Intel they are the only ones using the x86_64 instruction set, which ARM “threatens”. However, we have to remember that AMD had already announced its K12 microarchitecture years ago, which used the ARM instruction set.
This architecture, in which Jim Keller, “father” of Zen, worked, never reached the market, but precisely a few months ago we knew that it was not ruled out. In fact, a recent leak of the AMD roadmap indicated the arrival of an ARM-based “ K12 FFX ” line between 2017 and 2022, plus AMD has patents related to CPUs with hybrid cores, similar to the design “ big.LITTLE ”from ARM.
Clearly, such a launch would be a SoC for laptops that integrates a good part of the connectivity (with or without RAM, in addition) on the same chip, thinking about the highest possible energy efficiency. This would be a full-blown competitor to the Apple M1, and it makes sense – this SoC is challenging, both in CPU and GPU performance, so there’s no question that AMD should be ready to fight back.
Everything will depend on the future of ARM on computers, and x86 emulation
The final conclusion we can reach is that basically, the rebirth of K12 or not depends on how strong ARM gets in computers. And it is that as much as its use is generalized in Apple computers, this will not happen in PCs unless developers begin to prepare their applications to work under ARM, or Windows 10 gets a potable x86_64 emulation, something that for now does not work well, unlike Apple with its Rosetta 2.
One reason to think otherwise is the fact that NVIDIA, one of AMD’s biggest competitors, is in the process of buying Arm. But this does not have to stop the company, which already integrates this type of nucleus in a small security coprocessor. Just like NVIDIA uses AMD EPYC CPUs in some of its supercomputers.
Who says we won’t start to see Qualcomm SoC mainstreaming in notebooks soon? It is clear that, if that happens, traditional manufacturers will have no choice but to move. What do you think? Do you think it will be possible to see a new AMD SoC in the future?