Apple’s 2017 MacBooks May Employ Custom ARM Chip For Handling Certain Functions Over Intel CPUs

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Apple’s notebook computers aren’t exactly known as energy hogs — well, if we toss aside the Consumer Reports battery fiasco that was attributed to a Safari bug — but it’s always appreciated to eek as much battery life as possible out of a machine. Given that Apple has full control over the hardware and software stack of its products, it has always had an advantage when it comes to optimizing for power efficiency.

A new report indicates that Apple is taking an additional step in its efforts to increase Mac battery life by developing a custom ARM chip that will handle low-power tasks, easing the burden of the primary Intel processor. According to well-connected Apple insider Mark Gurman, the chip is codenamed T310 and will headline a new feature called Power Nap.

According to Gurman, Power Nap “allows Mac laptops to retrieve e-mails, install software updates, and synchronize calendar appointments with the display shut and not in use.” While Intel’s Core processor can enter a deep sleep mode to sip power and perform these same tasks, an ARM-based processor would be even more efficient in this role.

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Apple’s use of ARM chips in its MacBook Pro family is already widely documented. The company uses a custom ARM processor (which is apparently closely related to the SoC that powers the Apple Watch) to control the Touch Bar on the 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pro.

It appears that the new T310 will carry on the functionality incorporated into Touch Bar-equipped MacBook Pros and will add the networking, storage and power management functions necessary to perform its Power Nap duties.

However, it should be noted that this by no means signals the end of Intel processors appearing in Apple’s Mac hardware. While the folks in Cupertino probably haven’t been happy with how Intel’s processor roadmap has aligned with its own product roadmap over the years, Core processors still provide the horsepower necessary to meet Apple’s performance targets.

It remains to be seen, however, if Apple’s Skunkworks division is working on power ARM-based processors to one day lessen its reliance on Intel’s chips. The company surprised us all when it made the switch from PowerPC to Intel chips; it could happen again.