An Exciting Q4 for Technology

While supply chain constraints related to the production of silicon shows no signs of abating, there is plenty to be excited about over the next few weeks. The Apple Unleashed event is less than twenty four hours away. The rumor mill around M1X, if true, may provide the resources and further compute uplift to entice potential buyers to part with their Intel-based Mac platforms for use cases which exclude the Mac Pro. The more recent assertions related to the baseline memory configurations of the new MacBook Pro involve an entry point that includes sixteen gigabytes of memory. Even with the improvements to memory management available in the Apple Silicon and macOS ecosystem, professional workloads will warrant more capacity. If the new max memory size is sixty-four gigabytes as the rumor mill has suggested, then the M1X-based platforms will be suitable for a wider degree of use cases.

The continued flow of information that is circulating around Intel’s Alder Lake platform has some good, some bad, and some ugly associated with the data. Leaked benchmarks, which should be taken with a grain of salt, indicate a greater-than-Zen 3 IPC per performance core. With eight cores and sixteen threads of this compute capability on tap, Alder Lake may finally be the first REAL upgrade for Intel’s customers since the transition to Sandy Bridge in 2011. The malaise that has plagued this organization under the leadership of Brian Krzanich may finally be passing. The bad news, which was recently published over at Tom’s Hardware, involves potential incompatibilities with DRM and comparable middleware used to protect software from piracy. If the rumored November launch is indeed real, there will be some scrambling to minimize the impact of Intel’s first take at a consumer-grade hybrid architecture.

Where it continues to remain ugly for Intel involves two fronts of their business: marketing and the to-be-launched graphics business. On the marketing front, Intel continues to display a lack of maturity or fact-based inspiration to promote their brand. Two-in-one laptops are not exclusive to Intel. There are plenty of AMD-based options to select from in the marketplace. Artistic workflows can definitely benefit from use of a pressure-sensitive stylus and it’s definitely more cost-effective to buy a two-in-one laptop with this capability. Compared to the alternative of an iPad with pencil and MacBook, the all-in-one approach makes a lot of sense with either the latest AMD or Intel mobile CPUs. Gaming has not traditionally been a viable use case for the Mac ecosystem. Apple’s all-in approach on Metal would involve considerable rework from developers that may garner a fraction of the total sales achieved via the Windows PC ecosystem plus applicable consoles. Conversely, Intel’s integrated GPUs are suitable for light or casual gaming at best. They have no answer at this time for the higher performance scenarios that are addressed by AMD and nVidia respectively.

Although we’re still waiting for the 2022 launch of the Arc series of GPUs, Intel’s apparently doubling down on acquiring further talent to enhance its capability to field a very competitive or market-leading GPU. Based on the noted timelines, Vineet (and many other engineers at AMD) were responsible for moving AMD away from Raja’s design (graphics core next (GCN)) to Radeon DNA (RDNA) and Compute DNA (CDNA) architectures. Traditional rendering performance in RDNA has been competitive with nVidia’s offerings at applicable price targets since the transition occurred. The CDNA solutions have scored some wins in upcoming supercomputers but are a bit more variable related to overall market uptake. While the rumored power consumption and TDP of the Arc Alchemist card is in line with the competition, the maximum configurations for the datacenter-focused Ponte Vecchio solutions will make Vega64 look incredibly efficient by comparison. Hopefully, Intel continues to invest in this area to break the graphics duopoly while further optimizing efficiency and performance.

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