What it is: The A-series processors are Apple’s custom designed ARM processors for mobile devices.
Back in January, ExtremeTech compared Apple’s A9X processor with Intel’s M processor used in the MacBook. Although the A9X processor has now been supplemented by the A10 processor used in the iPhone 7, you can still find the A9X processor in the iPad Pro.
Comparing the two processors shows that the A9X processor actually beats the Intel M processor in some benchmarks, but loses others by drastic amounts. Yet this shows that the A9X processor is still powerful and getting closer to desktop processor performance with each generation. If the A9X processor can beat Intel’s M processor in some benchmarks, what might the latest A10 Fusion processor do?
The big trend is that Apple’s A-series processors are getting more powerful while retaining energy efficiency. In comparison, Intel’s processors are still more powerful, but struggling to approach the energy efficiency of ARM-based processors such as Apple’s A9X. It appears that ARM-based processors such as Apple’s A-series processors are getting more powerful faster than Intel’s processors can improve in energy efficiency.
Eventually that means ARM-based processors like Apple’s A-series processors will be equal and eventually surpass Intel’s processors in power while still retaining a clear lead in energy efficiency. As soon as ARM-based processors are just as powerful or even more so than Intel’s processors, what’s the advantage of using Intel processors any more?
The short answer is there won’t be any in the long term. For the short term, it’s easier to stick with Intel processors for desktop computers because so much software has been written for Intel processors. Yet as ARM-based processors get more powerful with greater energy efficiency, this dual advantage will eventually steer people away form Intel processors and into the more powerful and energy efficient ARM processors.
Unless Intel can dramatically increase energy efficiency while also retaining their performance lead, Intel processors are eventually doomed.
Apple will eventually release ARM-based computers that will replace Intel processors with their own A-series processors. When this occurs, Apple’s computers will soon be faster and more energy efficient than anything generic PC manufacturers could make relying on Intel processors. This will simply further the shift away from traditional Windows PCs to ARM-based devices such as smartphones, tablets, and new computers running ARM processors instead of Intel processors.
Intel processors will be around for a while. They just won’t be dominant any longer until they finally disappear altogether like floppy disks, dial-up modems, and monochrome monitors.