Apple is making a processor pause: In the “normal” iPhone 14, the Apple A15 chip, which will be presented in 2021, will continue to calculate. Only the iPhone 14 Pro and the top version iPhone 14 Pro Max get the newer A16. Apple hardly went into its advantages during the iPhone 14 presentation – which is not surprising: Because the A16 connects faster LPDDR5 instead of LPDDR4 memory and comes from the TSMC N4 manufacturing process (instead of N5). Otherwise, not much has changed compared to the A15 – and even that was very similar to its predecessor, the A14. So since 2020, the iPhone chips haven’t really made much progress. But with smartphones, components such as the display, camera and other sensors are more important than the processor.
In 2023 AMD wants to sell five CPU series for notebooks, namely Ryzen 7020, 7030, 7035, 7040 and 7045. Only the strongest and most power-thirsty types get Zen 4 technology.
Small steps, big margin at Apple
On the one hand, Apple can now sit back and relax, because the CPU part of the A14 is already faster than any other previous ARM CPU for smartphones; Qualcomm, Samsung and Mediatek lag far behind. On the other hand, Apple likes to boast about its chip design skills and the A16 is the second small disappointment after the M2. After the full-bodied announcements from TSMC in 2021, N3 production was expected for the “Apple Silicon” of the year 2022. N4 is more of an optimized N5 scheme, similar to N6 closely related to N7.
It is not possible to find out whether Apple is pausing voluntarily or whether TSMC’s N3 process is actually significantly late, as has been speculated. Since both companies make tons of money, it doesn’t really matter. In any case, Apple is turning the iPhone price screw even further. If the expected recession dampens iPhone demand, then at least the margin is right.
Mobile processor offensive at AMD
AMD also achieves record sales and does not always need the fastest products to do so. Although the Epyc processors for servers are far ahead of Intel’s Xeons, the situation is different for mobile processors. There, Intel provides strong competitors to the Ryzen 6000U with the twelfth Core i generation. And the latter can only be found in a few notebooks so far, at least in this country. Nevertheless, AMD reported large gains in mobile processors – so these must be Ryzen 5000U and older chips.
The CPU generation is therefore playing an ever smaller role in notebooks, and the majority of buyers seem to be making decisions based on other criteria. AMD apparently assesses the situation this way and is only planning a refresher for the coming year 2023 in the best-selling mobile processor family – i.e. the “U” types with 15 watts: The Ryzen 7035U series is codenamed Rembrandt-R, with the “R” probably stands for “Refresh”, because the current Ryzen 6000U are called Rembrandt. The new Zen 4 technology only comes with the more powerful types Ryzen 7040 “Phoenix” and Ryzen 7045 “Dragon Range”, which belong more to the “H” class with 35 watts and more.
AMD announced the “Mendocino” for cheap notebooks in May, which is to be sold in 2023 as the Ryzen 7020. It combines fairly fresh TSMC-N6 manufacturing technology with detached AMD microarchitecture: Zen 2 CPU with four cores and RDNA 2 GPU. And in the Ryzen 7030 intermediate category, the “Barcelo” introduced in autumn 2021 will be relaunched as the Barcelo-R, after all it has Zen 3 cores.
Chip shortage plagues Raspi
The semiconductor industry is stuck in a paradox: on the one hand, orders are falling, on the other hand, some chips are still scarce. The popular single-board computer Raspberry Pi, which is still only available at crazy prices, is hard hit by the lack of chips. A few weeks ago, the Raspberry Pi Foundation published its annual report, which also includes figures from the Raspberry Pi Ltd trading and development division. This could not increase the number of Raspis sold, just like in 2020, around 7 million Raspis were sold in 2021. But then there was the Pico and the Raspi accessories, in any case sales rose by 30 percent from 77.6 to 101.3 million British pounds, the equivalent of almost 117 million euros. The number of employees grew by ten percent and some salaries rose: The unnamed top earner of the Raspi Foundation earned over 480,000 euros plus pension. Good staff is expensive.
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In c’t 21/2022 you will find out everything you need to know about fast, stable and energy-efficient Internet via fiber optics. We will also introduce you to mini drones and explain how the small aircraft are to be classified legally. We test notebooks, graphics cards and smartphones and investigate classified ad fraud. You can read that and more in the current issue of c’t.
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