Surface Laptop

Microsoft reputedly is vetting out an AMD processor for its new Surface Laptop. This is likely a result of the tech giant’s somewhat shaky relationship with Intel, precipitated by problems associated with Surface products powered by the Intel Skylake chip. Incompatibility between Windows and Skylake chips caused hardware issues and damaged Microsoft’s reputation. The Redmond-based software company has not yet regained its confidence in its long-time partner.

Following these events, Microsoft is flirting with non-Intel chips for in its new devices. Another Surface Pro prototype is being tested with an ARM chip. It’s important to understand a bit about the difference between the AMD and Intel chips to fully appreciate how big a change the company faces.

Long time Toronto-based Microsoft support partner, Sysoft offers insights into Microsoft’s new direction.

What Are the Performance Differences Between the AMD and Intel Chips?

For someone building a gaming PC, a discrete graphics card or GPU is ideal. Otherwise, you have to rely on the CPU’s integrated graphics to run graphics-intensive games. You can also run games on an integrated GPU, for processors that have one. AMD is the hands-down winner, especially considering its latest offering — the Ryzen 5 2400G. This chip comes equipped with powerful discrete Vega graphics, which blow away Intel’s onboard tech by miles. AMD is the better choice for integrated graphics, but gamers willing to invest in a GPU may prefer Intel. Meanwhile, AMD also does a better job of processing multiple requests at once.

What Are the Considerations with Availability and Support?

The Coffee Lake Refresh forms the core of Intel ‘s mainstream processors. Coffee Lake Refresh and AMD Ryzen (2nd Gen.) are both readily available. However, Intel is experiencing supply shortages. Analysts have downgraded the company’s stock due to delays in two of Intel’s products — the 14nm and Cannon Lake. The resulting confusion and price increases caused a defection to AMD, which gained significant market share. You can find chips from both companies, but premium chips such as the Intel Core i9-9900K are pricier. The AMD Ryzen 3 2200G is a good option for those on a budget.

Are We Going to See an AMD-powered Surface Laptop?

Microsoft chose the12nm AMD Picasso SoC for its testing with Surface Pro. This system-on-a-chip is targeted to mobile devices and incorporate a Vega GPU, and contain four cores with eight threads. Microsoft has been pretty quiet about the testing. The software company isn’t likely to completely sever ties with Intel, which still has brand recognition and a strong reputation, despite recent setbacks. Intel’s reputation for quality and performance have been helpful in pushing Surface devices off the shelf. Perhaps Microsoft just wants to keep its options open.

What About the ARM Chip?

ARMs are 32-bit RISC processors, it’s built using reduced instruction set computer technology and instruction-set architecture, or ISA. ARM microprocessors are used in as many as 98% of mobile phones. Microsoft is testing a Surface Pro device using the Qualcomm Snapdragon processor as well.

Snapdragon system on chip processors contain a GPU, GPS and a cellular modem on a single packet. Microsoft is testing this on its Redmond campus, whereas previous devices were outsourced. Microsoft is working with Qualcomm to create a chipset that integrates with Window 10 better.