Was Apple’s M1 chip the first to have a “mobile” CPU in a “desktop” computer? Not by far. Actually, Chinese manufacturer Lenovo has presented its Yoga 5G a year ago, powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8cx SoC. The laptop was a bit “lackluster”, as the media put it. With just a 14-inch display, 8GB of RAM, and up to 512 GB of storage. Lenovo promised 24 hours of battery life and 5G connectivity. While the laptop itself is still not available, it does count.
Apple, in turn, is a trendsetter – when the Cupertino giant takes a decision, others tend to emulate it. Just think of the lack of headphone jack on the iPhone or the decision not to put a charger in every box. We can expect the same to happen on the laptop market in the near future; we’ll likely see a surge in computers powered by energy-efficient “mobile” chips.
Are ARM CPUs any good for desktops/laptops?
Yes, they are. Or better said, it depends on what you’re planning to use the computer in question for. A few years ago, smartphones have made their first step toward becoming a “desktop” platform with innovative approaches like Microsoft’s Continuum; (a device plus interface that could turn a Windows 10 phone into something like a desktop computer) and Samsung’s DeX (which did pretty much the same, only with Android).
Ultimately, none of these was successful – but it wasn’t the hardware’s fault. The processing power of a Galaxy Note 10 (an octa-core SoC, 8GB of RAM, and 256 GB of storage – does it sound familiar?) was more than enough for activities like: streaming, browsing the web, and office-type tasks, in general. The idea of turning a phone into a PC somehow didn’t take off, even if there were quite a few interesting concepts built around it (just think of Razer’s Project Linda that would’ve turned a Razer Phone into a 13.3” gaming laptop, complete with RGB).
The thing is, smartphone SoCs are good for way more than just running hyper-casual games at the JackpotCity online casino. Of course, the games at JackpotCity are built to run on any platform; from old smartphones to M1 MacBook, and they indeed are among the most-played games on smartphones, they are far from using the phones’ hardware to its capacity. This is not a mistake, as these games are built to run on pretty much every platform, from years-old smartphones to the latest gaming rig.
Actually, the vast majority of today’s smartphones can run games that are much more complex and hardware-hungry; CoD, PUBG, Fortnite, and Vain Glory are just a few examples of amazing games running on our pocket-sized supercomputers.
A new approach
Apple’s M1 powered MacBook Pro is as much a proof of concept as it is a new and exciting product to try: it has shown the world that there’s life beyond x86. Not to mention that it has been proven that energy-efficient hardware does have its place among the beasts boasting brands such as: Alienware, ASUS ROG, and Lenovo Legion.
According to reviewers, the new M1 MacBook Pro works better than an Intel-based MacBook Air and, most importantly, it has far better battery life; up to 50% better according to some sources; which means up to 10 hours of work. The reviews are more than convincing. And this will likely translate into brand new products delivered by other companies too.
Huawei is among the first to follow the trend; at least if we can believe the leaks from late last year. The Chinese telecom giant is working on its own ARM-powered desktop PC and/or, using one of its in-house Kirin chips. At the same time, Chinese chipmaker MediaTek has launched two new; affordable 5G chips, initially aimed at Chromebooks: the MT8192 and MT8195. Both of them are more than capable of handling Windows 10 for ARM, the company says, the only obstacle being the availability of DirectX drivers for the Mali GPU.
Featured image from The Verge.