Apple working on MacBooks with ARM chips for low-power mode

JC Torres - Feb 1, 2017
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Apple working on MacBooks with ARM chips for low-power mode

No, Apple isn’t working on ARM-powered MacBooks that will take on Chromebooks and 2-in-1 convertibles in the lower market segments. The report coming from Bloomberg, instead, highlights the addition of an ARM processor working alongside an Intel one. This ARM chip, however, will only kick in when the MacBook goes into low-power mode, thereby prolonging the laptop’s battery life. And while Apple may not have any short-term plans to ditch Intel’s chips, it still doesn’t bode well for Intel’s image in the power efficiency department.

New MacBook Pro owners and those following recent events in Apple land might see this insider tip as a continuation of Apple’s struggles in maintaining the MacBook’s image of an energy-efficient portable computer. It has recently taken a lot of flak, justified or not, over the battery life of the late 2016 models. While this development might not significantly improve the MacBook’s life while in use, it could at least increase longevity when on standby.

ARM chips are quite popular for their energy efficiency, in contrast to Intel’s more powerful, but also more power-hungry, equivalents. But for performance and technical reasons, Apple won’t be able to easily create an ARM-based MacBook. What it will be doing instead is have a second processor that takes over functionality when the MacBook is in low-power mode. That means it will still be able to check e-mail, sync calendar, etc. even while the display is turned off.

Actually, there is already an ARM chip inside the latest MacBook Pro model, specifically the one with a Touch Bar. That chip’s sole purpose is to manage that new functionality and nothing more. Apple’s experience with ARM and its ties with ARM Holdings could help it expand the chip’s role and give it access to more system functionality.

Just like with the ARM T1 chip for the Touch Bar, Apple is unlikely to explicitly advertise this “Power Nap” feature as being ARM-powered. While the company has been reported to be mulling over moving away from Intel chips, but that has never come to pass. Like it or not, Intel, or the x86/x64 computer architecture in general, is still the go to for most computers. They just aren’t always as power smart as Apple would like them to be.

SOURCE: Bloomberg


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