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Look out Apple M1: AMD reportedly developing ARM silicon chip

Apple M1 chip
(Image credit: Apple)

The Apple M1 chip is stealing a lot of headlines given its Intel-beating performance, but it could soon face competition. 

That’s because AMD could be making its own ARM-based chip. According to hardware leaker Mauri QHD, Intel is working on two M1 competitor chips. And these are apparently “almost ready.” 

Like Intel, AMD makes chips and processors based on IBM’s x86 architecture, which has long underpinned laptop and desktop silicon. But over the past couple of years, the likes of Microsoft have been working on getting operating systems designed to work on x86 architecture to run on ARM’s RISC architecture, which underpins pretty much every smartphone chip. 

In Microsoft’s case, this involved working with Qualcomm to develop custom Snapdragon chips that could run Windows 10. We saw these pop up in the likes of the Microsoft Surface Pro X. But problems with performance and software compatibility, meant these devices weren't true alternatives to Intel and AMD-powered machines. 

But Apple’s M1 chip showed that true desktop and laptop performance, via the new Mac mini M1 and MacBook Air M1 respectively, can be had from ARM-based chips. So it’s not a huge surprise that AMD should be looking at doing something similar in order to keep its silicon competitive in this part of the chip arena. 

Mauri QHD’s leak shed no more light about AMD’s ARM chip plans, other than Team Red is working on them. 

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But, as our colleagues over at TechRadar pointed out, ARM isn’t a stranger to flirting with ARM-based chips.

It apparently had a chip called the K12 Core that used a 64-bit ARM v8 design. While it never made it to market, it would show AMD has some knowledge of working with ARM architecture.

Why should you care about AMD’s ARM-based chip work? Well it could yield a Windows competitor to the M1-powered Macs, meaning slim and light laptops and mini desktops that punch above their weight in terms of performance. And AMD has often provided chips at competitive prices, so that could translate into cheaper ultraportable laptops that don’t compromise on performance.

All this is educated guesswork at the moment. And a lot would depend on Windows 10 app compatibility developing further for RISC architecture.

Mauri QHD said that AMD CEO Dr Lisa Su will have a presentation at CES 2021 on January 12, so we could hear more about AMD’s next chip reasonably soon.