Apple might be designing its own A-series chipsets for iPhones and iPads, but ultimately it licenses the ARM v7 instruction set from ARM. Since designing a CPU is an expensive and tedious job, ARM also releases reference CPU designs that other OEMs can base their CPUs on.
ARM has so far primarily released its CPU designs for mobile devices and tablets. However, the company’s latest roadmap points to release of reference CPU designs that will directly take on Intel processors used in laptops.
This is the first time that ARM has released a forward-looking CPU IP roadmap along with performance projections. As per the roadmap, ARM expects its CPUs to deliver greater than 15 percent performance improvements year-on-year until 2020. ARM says that this is its compute roadmap for 5G devices and it believes its next-generation CPUs will “liberate the PC industry from reliance on Moore’s law.”
ARM is unveiling a new micro-architecture with the A76 later this year which can be adopted for the 10nm and 7nm fabrication process. In 2019, it will offer its ‘Deimos’ CPU design that will be built on the 7nm fabrication process which will further refine the A76 design. Later in 2019, the company expects to release ‘Hercules’ that will be its offering until 2020 which will be based on the 5nm fabrication process.
With Cortex-A76, ARM expects to offer performance level similar to Intel’s Core i5-7300U CPU with a 15W TDP at a TDP of just 5W and running at 3GHz.
ARM’s announcement here adds further credence to rumors of Apple working on a MacBook powered by an ARM chip. While the performance of ARM chips have improved by leaps and bounds in the last five years, they continue to trail Intel CPUs in terms of raw horsepower.
Apple designed A-series chips have always managed to post an impressive year-on-year performance gain and with ARM promising such huge performance improvement with its next-generation CPUs, we might see Apple also doing the same with its future A-series chipset.
In a bigger laptop-like device, Apple’s A-series chips will have a higher thermal constraint and a bigger power headroom thereby allowing them to flex their muscles even further for improved performance. Reports have claimed that Apple is working on a Mac with an ARM CPU for release in 2020.
Apple and ARM both also have the process node advantage with them this time around as Intel is currently still stuck with its 14nm node, while Apple and ARM are due to unveil their 7nm CPUs later this year. Intel is expected to unveil its 10nm based CPUs in H2, 2019 after multiple delays.