Power play

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If you’ve been paying attention to the latest tech news circulating around, you would have been informed about some new goodies that Apple has on the horizon, but most importantly how much power the new Nvidia RTX cards are going to need to operate. Some of the more powerful ones alone need enough power to run a standard PC from a few years ago, which is an insane amount of energy.

But, this isn’t a new trend, and it’s not limited to Nvidia either. As the demand for more processing power increases, so does the need for more energy to operate the processors that do the computing. This includes all of your computer’s components. More power means more performance. Of course, that’s bad news for a country that’s in the middle of an energy crisis.

However, there is a caveat to this, which has become evident in the new 12th Gen Intel processors in both laptops and desktop computers. Although the 12th Gen certainly delivers considerable CPU performance and does a great job at being competitive with what AMD and Apple Silicon have to offer, the laptop CPUs specifically drain more power, affecting battery life.

Which brings the big question that I’m sure tech manufacturers are trying to solve; how do we deliver more performance, without affecting power consumption? Because let’s be real, the energy we use isn’t all that clean, and the more efficient we are with how it’s used, the better.

There have been multiple attempts at solving this issue. One of which is the 12th Gen’s decision to use both efficiency and performance cores. Much like a mobile phone, the processor switches to using only lower-powered, more efficient cores when less intensive tasks – such as writing word documents, browsing the web, or watching videos online – are undertaken, firing up the beefier ones when running intensive tasks like coding or content creation instead.

But, at most these are just patchworked moves. Apple Silicon and the new M1 and M2 processors might show a better alternative.

If you didn’t know, Apple’s latest processors for their computers operate using ARM-based processors, instead of X86 ones like Intel and AMD. Apple’s M1 and M2 chips are more similar to what we have in our Android phones for the most part.

In the simplest of explanations, ARM-based chips are by far, more power efficient compared to modern computer processors which use the X86 architecture, giving more performance while consuming very little energy. As a result, very little heat is created as well, meaning using them is a lot more comfortable too.

But if ARM chips are simply better, why didn’t Intel or AMD try to move to ARM based processors in the first place? The truth is, they actually tried, using their Intel Itanium processors back in the early 2000s. But with little support in terms of software, things fell apart. In more recent times, ARM based windows laptops sporting Qualcomm Snapdragon chips, similar to the ones found in Android phones have appeared, but were horribly buggy when they first started out.

Nevertheless, things are starting to smoothen out, and with the way computing technology has developed in the past handful of years, it won’t be long before the switch to ARM processors starts to take the world. The only question is when.

By Shanuka Kadupitiyage