Portable Power: Your Next Laptop Will Be Insane

Andrew Elysee, Writer/Editor

A picture of two computer processors
AMD and Apple are getting huge performance gains from their newest processors.

As the host of the Techwave segment on DubTV and the Co-founder of the Computer and Keyboard Club, I dedicate a lot of time to researching and understanding the latest technology. Last year, in technology, CPUs and GPUs got a whole lot faster with the releases of Apple’s M1 SoCs (System on a Chip), Ryzen Zen 3, RTX 3000 series, and Radeon 6000. Throughout 2021, this trend is likely to continue because technology is always getting slightly faster year over year but we are unlikely to see the gains we saw last year. AMD is beginning to take up a larger portion of the CPU space, but Intel is still holding on to its position. Hadrian Sobota ’22, said, “I don’t think companies like Intel are that far behind.” Looking at the releases of Apple’s M1 and AMD’s Ryzen Zen 3 CPUs, though, I predict that we will see a drastic change in the mobile computing space.

Not long ago, Intel was the king of the mobile and desktop processor space, but over the past four years with the release of increasingly more powerful AMD processors, they have lost their footing in the desktop space. Computer manufacturers like ASUS and Dell have begun to increase their AMD offerings for pre-built desktops, and this year at CES we began to see these same companies use AMD’s mobile processors to replace all of their intel offerings. Jason Guo ’21, a new AMD laptop owner, said “I feel like it’s an important transition in the industry that’s delivering much-needed improvement in laptop technology. Regardless of who actually makes the fastest mobile processors (it’s AMD btw), this kind of competition is making laptops faster and more power-efficient at a breakneck pace I’m totally surprised by. While dominant (intel) laptop chips got maybe 30% faster between 2011 and 2017, we’ve seen chips (from both vendors) double or even triple in performance since 2017” 

Even worse for Intel, just last year Apple committed to switching to their own ARM-based processors. Apple’s switch to ARM processors has been a long time coming. Apple was practically forced to ditch Intel as their processors had extremely poor efficiency and performance, especially in the thermally limited Macbook chassis. Year

over year, Macbooks saw nearly nonexistent performance gains, despite adopting the newest processors.  Apple has proven in the iPad lineup and the iPhone lineup how powerful and efficient their processors are. In the reviews of these devices, Apple’s claims of 18 hours of battery life for the Macbook Air and 20 hours of battery life for the Macbook Pro are supported, all while out-performing their Intel-based counterparts. Apple was also able to nail the transition from x86 to ARM with early support for developers to write ARM apps and an extremely efficient x86 emulator in the form of Rosetta 2. Following Apple, I think we will see a lot more Windows laptops attempt to adopt ARM processors especially as Microsoft finally begins to develop previews for x86 emulation for Windows 10 on ARM. When asked about his opinion on the state of the mobile space, Stephen Luo ’24, said, “I don’t think that the average consumer will really notice the performance difference between x86 and ARM, but they will notice the huge increase in battery life.” 

Assuming that Windows is able to pull off emulation just as well as Apple, I don’t think it will be long before we see ARM laptops everywhere replacing power-hungry x86 laptops. I look forward to seeing what other companies bring to the table in the form of ARM CPUs.