Evolution of ARM: From ARM6 Processor to Dot 1 Mini PC
Apple and ARM6 Processor
ARM chips were specifically designed to keep up with the demands of Apple. Apple wanted the ARM processor to have endian-ness support, 32- bit addressing, a better video controller, and a floating-point processor. The specified features were found in ARM600 and the processor later evolved into the ARM610 that was used in Newton.
Growth of ARM
It is important to remember that the ARM Ltd company was a small one. The company needed partners to work with. Apple was already collaborating. The next partnerships came from Texas Instruments TI and then later Samsung.
The additional funds led to the further development of the RISC system. The Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) license helped the ARM to start using ARM10 (StrongARM).
The uses of ARM devices have been vast in recent years. We have grown from an era of needing faster computers to computers that will require less energy to work.
Over the years ARM has become a favorite amongst the more complex working devices for its power-saving quality. ARM has also developed designs for different accessories to its main ARM designs. These designs include media processors, encoders/decoders, and accelerators; all of these work well with ARM-designed chips to help them function better.
Big Little Chip
This variation allowed the RISC processor to work with a heavy power requiring chip. In this setup, ARM designed the system to save energy as usual but added another powerful chip for different power-consuming functions.
As per the design, the power-consuming chip would only work once it is decided that the function cannot be done by the less power-consuming chip. Once the work is done, the power-consuming chip would go dormant.
System on a Chip (SoC)
ARM became the best thing to use with mobile phones. Mobile phones need processors to have lower energy requirements. Generally, a CPU runs the functions of a system, however, ARM developed a plan to work the whole system from a single chip.
SoC has different components for the different needs of the system on a single chip. This design helped in making the previous systems of using multiple chips for a single device obsolete.
The SoC has increasingly been seen in smaller devices today. Microsoft, Apple, and Qualcomm have famously been using the SoC designed by ARM.
Google home mini, as well as Amazon Echo, are great examples of SoC.
Apple’s Switch From x86 Intel to ARM SoC
ARM SoC got famous for the number of functions it could perform. Apple adopted ARM SoC while discontinuing the use of x86 Intel for their devices. Interestingly, the functions performed by M1 are considered at par with their previous laptops and phones. Apple has made its iOS work on an ARM processor.
The M series consists of SoC and have all been developed by Apple. The designed SoC includes a neural engine, CPU, GPU, Secure Enclave, image signal processor, encode/decode engines, unified memory architecture (RAM), SSD controller, USB 4 support, and Thunderbolt controller.
The M1 SoC comes with an 8-core CPU, 8-core GPU, 4 cores for better performance, and 4 cores for better efficiency. While M1 Pro has a 10-core CPU and 16-core GPU with 2 high-efficiency cores and 8 cores for better performance. M1 Ultra has a 10-core CPU and 32-core GPU. M1 Max comes with even more power with a 20-core CPU and 64-core GPU. The M1 series chips have unified memory, 16-core Neural Engine, and other numerous features working together to give the best performance.
The problem of running Intel apps on the M1 was solved with the help of Rosetta 2, a translating process that runs in the background to provide a seamless experience.
The switch ultimately came about because Apple wanted its high-performance devices to run in an energy-efficient manner. In a presentation, Apple even said that they are saving up to 70% energy when using these ARM-based chips as compared to Intel. Apple products produced from late 2020 and onwards, all contain M1 chips.
ARM-based Mini PCs on the Rise
ARM processors provided the most ideal features for mini PCs. These processors were enabling mini PC manufacturers with high performance at low energy requirements. This led to a sudden increase in the number of mini PCs with ARM processors. Working on the ARM-based SoC were different operating systems including Linux, Ubuntu, Mac OS, and Windows.
However, it turned out that M1 chips were unavailable to run Windows on ARM chips that they were using. There is a certain exclusivity regarding the use of Windows on ARM. Ubuntu and Linux can work with Apple’s M1 chips within certain boundaries.
Qualcomm Partners with Microsoft for ARM PC
Qualcomm has always been in a close working relationship with Microsoft. You would find Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processors in all Windows phones out in the market. It is worth remembering that Windows working on an ARM processor was a result of collaboration between Qualcomm and Microsoft. Previously, the ARM processor was running another operating system.
Hence it is not surprising to find that there is a deal between the 2 companies whereby only Qualcomm’s ARM-based SoC Snapdragon processors can run with Windows on ARM.
This duo has historically created lightweight, energy-efficient, and high-performance devices.
Apcsilmic and Qualcomm Launch Dot 1
Dot 1 Mini PC was launched in April 2022, a mini PC produced through the combined efforts of Apcsilmic’s technical team and Qualcomm.
The Dot 1 Mini PC comes in three variants that include 4GB + 64GB, 6GB + 128GB, and 8GB + 256GB. The device, Dot 1 Mini PC, is based on an ARM-based Qualcomm SC7180 processor. The GPU for this Mini PC is Qualcomm’s Adreno 618. Dot 1 Mini PC can easily connect to the internet via WiFi or cellular SIM card supported 4G network.
Dot 1 Mini PC provides seamless functionality without the need for extra learning as it runs Windows 11 on ARM SoC. You can easily carry Dot 1 Mini PC around in your pocket because of its small size, currently the smallest mini PC. You can easily run movies and different software on the Dot 1 Mini PC as it runs on measly 5 watts.
The Qualcomm Snapdragon works amazingly with ARM as the combination has produced the most energy-efficient mini PC in the current market.
ARM processors have evolved slowly but steadily over the years into the giant industry behemoth that they are today. Back in 1983, when they started with the first ARM processor, no one would have guessed that this would be the ARM processor’s future.
From an ARM processor where nothing would work with it to an era where industry giants are running their operating systems on ARM processors; ARM has come out on top. Whether it is Mac OS on an ARM processor or Windows on an ARM processor with Qualcomm Snapdragon, ARM processors are leading us into a new era of computing.
The future will comprise devices like Dot 1 Mini PC running Windows on ARM while being the most energy-efficient device.