• Robert E Barry III

With all the new cpu's like Apple's M1 what should you get?

Should we just get rid of our Intel P.C.'s and switch to Apple? Is Apple silicon that good? What about AMD?

One thing I think gets confusing for customers is the various types of technology and terms used to describe cpu performance. You have the frequency of the cpu, the amount of cores, and finally the architecture. A lot of times people will focus on only one metric and then buy something that is either too much or under powered. In my personal experience if you can't get all three then core count and architecture are more important than frequency and if you can only do one then architecture is most important. There are caveats to the statement which is what are you using the cpu for.

If you go to Best buy and look at a bunch of Windows 10 laptops very often it will say Intel core i5 or i7 but until recently they did not specify the generation. So you could pay more for an i7 but it may be 8th gen instead or 11th gen and wouldn't know of your mistake. There are other factors like wifi 6, thunderbolt support and more.

Now if you ask me before we get too deep into it what cpu is best? Not so fast Sherlock....again what are you doing with it? If you want simply brute power on mobile then AMD is probably best. If you want brute power and battery life and compatibility is not an issue then Apple's M1 can't be beat. The thing is right now there are three different architectures being used in the most advanced versions of Intel, AMD, and Apple Silicon at least for the moment. Intel is on a 10nm node. AMD is on a 7nm node. Apple is on a 5nm node. Silicon die size or architecture is very important. Every time you reduce the size from say 14nm to 10nm you get two main benefits. One is IPC or instructions per clock go up so the cpu can do more in less time and the second is a reduction in thermal temperatures and wattage. This is a very conducive combination and there are times when an architecture difference can beat a frequency difference. So basically you want a cpu with the smallest architecture. There are other differences like instruction set type. AMD and Intel use a different instruction set than Apple to handle information flow. Apple uses a mobile ARM architecture based on RISC while Intel and AMD use x86. The difference basically is ARM processors do less to compute than Intel and AMD which makes them work a bit harder to do the same tasks as ARM in a very laymans term. So ARM architecture is more efficient in some ways but less powerful and less useful in some cases.

That was a lot and I am not sure I made basic understanding better but basically if you want the most advanced architecture in a cpu then Apple silicon is it for now because they are using TSMC most advanced process node which is 5nm. This smaller architecture (5NM) offers two advantages which is higher IPC and lower thermal and wattage usage. On top of that Apple is using an ARM RISC instruction set for its cpu's which make it even more battery efficient but may cause compatibility issues for some. So just in terms of the most advanced technology Apple is it. However, that doesn't make it the best for everyone. Intel may be stuck on 10nm but they are working on 7nm and once Intel chips are made on 7nm process they will be much more competitive than right now. 7nm seems to be a sweet spot between IPC gain and thermal temp reductions. Any process above 7nm runs hot and burns battery and anything below runs even better. So once Intel hits 7nm I don't think the difference will be as great as now.

One thing I can say for certain is that I would not buy and older 10th gen or below Intel cpu. Don't count Intel out just yet. Intel for all of their mistakes the past few years is still a company that manufacturers it's wafers and cpu's mostly in the USA. I have no problem with TSMC as long as Taiwan remains Democratic and independent of China. I have nothing against China in terms of it's people but it's government is another story. They have a bad track record of spying on everyone and using their cheap technology as bait to do it. Since I am an American and believe very strongly in the principles of our Constitution and Democracy in general I like to have a choice of buying a cpu not made in China. Semiconductor business in Mainland China is several stages behind the tech of the West but they will catch up and offer a foundry for cpu's that will be competitive probably in the next 5 years or so. It is a nation security issue for China as well so they will certainly build a foundry capable of producing cutting edge dies for cpus. It is only a matter of time. AMD and Apple are using TSMC mostly to product their chips which is fine for now but still there is a lingering security issue in the back of my mind.

This is a bit off topic but mark my words, the next war will be over Taiwan. TSMC is a multi billion dollar industry that has the worlds most cutting edge architecture in terms of CPU die size. If China were to take over Taiwan tomorrow they would gain TSMC as their own. The boon of technology that China could glean from TSMC would be a game changer for them. Plus the CCP could simply nationalize TSMC and would overnight be the worlds leader in semiconductor tech. Let that idea set in for a second. The implications politically over Taiwan are serious and far reaching. I have a hard time seeing an outcome where China does not try to take control over Taiwan in the next five years or so. I also have a hard time thinking the USA will just let that happen. It is just as much in our national security interest as it is China's to keep Taiwan free and independent of China. US will not let China take over Taiwan as it would be a serious Nato violation and we would look weak in front of the world and our alliances would crumble. So technology is going to intersect Politics in interesting ways in the next few year. Mark my words!!

So if you are a 95% of people even a power user then Intel's 11th gen u series chips will be good enough for you for a wide range of tasks and standards and would be my recommendation as would Windows 10 and a 2 in one. It is an odd time right now. Intel may still be on 10nm on their next series of chips. They are going to rework the core design to be more like mobile devices with power cores and efficiency cores. I hope they can also go to 7nm in the next gen but I have strong doubts. If the next chip design from Intel had both a core redesign with added cores and reduced die size of 7nm they could dominate again.

If you are a gamer then AMD is looking better and better and this year there may be a good choice of AMD based gaming Laptops going into the high end as well. 2020 and 2019 were game changing years for AMD APU's because of the leapfrog architecture and chiplet designs. AMD still can't beat Intel on single core scores but AMD has a different advantage which is thermals. AMD APU will not throttle as much as Intel counterpart even if both have decent cooling. This means AMD will maintain a higher frequency across all cores under heavy load over long periods of time. Lower fan noise and better battery life are also benefits of AMD's 4000-5000 series mobile processors. The 3000 series was okay but 4000 was the game changer.

If you like Macs and have an iPhone then the new M1 macs are awesome. I can highly recommend them to most people although they may want to wait until fall/winter of this year for major design upgrades to 14" and 16" offerings. The 13" m1 MacBook pro is a great machine as it is and if you don't mind the older design and two thunderbolt ports only then I would get it. However I don't see anyone who would not want the 14" with the proposed design upgrades. Apple silicon is amazing. Super powerful for power users while being super efficient at the same time. Apple has made a monster in it's very first iteration and I suspect further releases will be equally impressive! So I would highly recommend waiting for the next release of Macbooks but also highly recommend the M1 processor!

What if you are an average user but prefer AMD? Then AMD u series APU's are very good. They generally have more cores and slightly better battery life and thermals. A Ryzen 5 4600u for example is very powerful but also has great battery life and integrated graphics. However, Intel tiger lake cpus may have less cores but an i5 11th gen u series is slightly faster than the 4600u. AMD is releasing new 5000 apu but unless you get the top of the line model it will basically be the same as last years but we will have to wait and see. So at this point if you want AMD again I would wait for the new 5000 series processors to hit a few different laptops before I would make any purchase unless you find something on sale for a really good price. Unfortunately, it has been my experience that most AMD based laptops have some compromise in the components and design. Hopefully now that AMD has proven themselves that will change. I actually love AMD and would love to see more manufacturers use them on all of their PC designs and not just a few. However my personal choice is Intel right now. We will see in the next few months if that changes. Intel has narrowed the performance gap and in some cases beat AMD with a less advanced architecture and less cores which say a lot. Intel has a lot of room for improvement and AMD is using it's ipc and architecture advantage to the fullest against Intel but that can't last forever as silicon is coming to it's limits in terms of how much more you can shrink the die. 5nm is now, 3nm is next maybe 1nm afterwards and then what?? There is a point where you can't shrink it anymore unless you use another material like graphene or something. It is physics. Intel is at 10nm now so if they move to 7nm they will be competitive with 5nm and then they move to 5nm and will compete with 3nm and so on they still have at least one step of IPC gain over AMD when it comes down to the limit at least at this point. AMD's lead may come to bite them!

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Are you a Mac fan? Are you an Android fan? Are you a Windows fan? How about Linux or BSD? Then you have come to the right place where all technology can get along! My name is Robert Barry and I have b