The tech world is arguably the most competitive it has ever been.
Computers are always getting better, faster, and more powerful. This is thanks to tech companies constantly working to bring out the next best thing.
The heart of a computer is its processor and some may argue that the processor makes the device. With that said, where can we see the future of processors heading?
The future is definitely bigger and brighter, with exciting and powerful computers on the horizon. Processors are constantly evolving and growing in terms of speed and power.
What is a Processor?
A processor, or CPU, is the brain of a computer. Within the processor, any instructions that drive the computer are processed and responded to. A CPU has four main functions: these are to decode, execute, fetch and write back.
All processors have four main elements, each with its own specific task.
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The arithmetic logic unit, or ALU, is featured on all processors. This works to carry out both logic and arithmetic operations, based on the given instructions.
Another feature of processors is the floating-point unit or FPU. Here is where all the mathematical transactions are processed. Sometimes known as the numeric or math coprocessor, this unit specializes in manipulating numbers very quickly.
All the instructions, along with any other data, are held in registers within the processor. Registers communicate with the ALU, sending instructions and operands. Once the operation is complete, registers will also store the result.
L1 and L2 Cache Memory
Having L1 and L2 cache memory within a processor speeds up the process of collecting data from the computer's RAM.
What Processors Looked Like in 2021
Nearly all processors in 2021 were multi-core.
Having a multi-core processor improves the performance of a computer and reduces power consumption. With improved performance, a multi-core processor can easily and effectively process several tasks at the same time.
A multi-core processor works the same as two or more single processors would. However, as a multi-core processor only uses one socket within the system, there is a much faster connection between the processor and computer.
The majority of mainstream personal laptops and computers come with either a dual-core or quad-core processor.
More powerful processors are usually found in gaming computers: these are typically 4-core or 6-core.
There are two main competitors in the processor market, Intel and AMD. Both companies are battling to get ahead in terms of value and efficiency.
However, Intel definitely holds a much stronger market presence. Intel’s portfolio is massive, almost saturating the market.
It seems that AMD has a lot of work to do in terms of gaining popularity.
Looking at the best processors of 2017-2019 there are some great options from both Intel and AMD. Intel’s Comet Lake range of processors offers insane core counts. One of their most basic in the line is the Core i9-7900X, which has a phenomenal 10 cores.
The power continues to grow, however, with their most powerful processor to date, the Intel Core i9-10980XE. This mighty processor features an unbelievable 18 cores.
However, AMD will continue to give Intel some serious competition.
They released their Ryzen Threadripper range, which comes with a great deal of power too. The line features 8, 12, and 16-core processors, respectively.
While there have been incredibly powerful releases from both Intel and AMD, these come at a price. Processors with over 8 cores cost a small fortune and are not practical for mainstream computer users.
These processors are definitely targeted at a small cross-section of the computer market.
What Can We Expect of Processors in 2021?
AMD and Intel are both working towards developing and improving their processors further for 2021. In both camps, the main improvement we expect to see is an even bigger increase in cores.
As we see the ending of Moore's Law, we will see processors' core counts continue to increase in 2021.
Intel appears to be developing the speed and power of its processors. We may also see a shift in price to make them more accessible to the mainstream computer market.
If this level of processor goes mainstream, all users will benefit from the extra speed and power.
Looking at the future of AMD future, they will continue to give Intel serious competition with their Ryzen 9 series.
AMD is also developing a 16-core processor that is compatible with its AM4 socket. It is looking likely that 16-core processors will be a central feature of the mainstream AMD market in 2021. This new set of specs will see a 10-15% improvement in inter-process communication and overall speed.
AMD is not going to stop there. There is talk of them working towards processors that are up to 36-core. With such a powerful processor in the pipeline, there are no doubt users, looking for high computing power, who will be lining up to get one.
Overall, it appears that the number of cores within a processor will keep on growing. 2021 will see more powerful processors become a more mainstream option within computers too.
For these processors to be more accessible to mainstream consumers, the price needs to be more competitive than it is at the moment.
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The Future of Processors Beyond 2021
Intel and AMD both have different and exciting things in store for the future of processors.
During Intel’s keynote at CES 2018, they highlighted that there are two key areas in their focus for the future. They see quantum and neuromorphic computing as the real future for computing.
During the same keynote, they revealed two processors that have been designed specifically for these areas of computing. Their neuromorphic processor features a total shakeup in terms of architecture.
Intel has designed this processor to mimic a human brain, with an ability to learn and grow independently.
This revolutionary approach features artificial neurons and pathways to mimic the circuits and functions of our brain. Krzanich, Intel’s CEO, highlighted that their prototype chip, Loihi, had learned basic object recognition, independently, within a matter of weeks.
Intel will be sharing this prototype chip with different research institutions and universities to advance development. We do not know how long it will take for a usable processor like Loihi to be available on our laptops. However, with the right development, it won’t be long before this kind of processor will be part of our everyday computers.
Looking at Intel’s other main prediction for future processors saw Krzanich reveal “Tangle Lake”. Their latest quantum computing revelation is a powerful 49 quadbit test chip. A quantum bit chip has the ability to hold more information than other chips.
With a much larger storage capacity, these bigger processors will have the ability to process a lot more data. However, it will take a few years before this kind of chip will be ready for mainstream computers.
AMD’s future has some equally revolutionary ideas on the horizon. They have been working with Qualcomm to develop high-performance processors for mobile devices.
This type of development is arguably something the consumer market will see sooner than Intel’s developments.
With the world becoming ever more portable and mobile, this is a key development for the consumer market. 2-in-1 devices, as well as portable and lightweight laptops, are at peak popularity.
AMD may really be on the right track for instant success by targeting this section of the laptop market. This will also help to make extremely powerful computers accessible to the mainstream consumer.
With such powerful processors already available on the market and in production, it raises the question of where Intel and AMD can go next.
The future of processors will see a continued increase in size and power. A feature that will only be met by continued growth in the number of cores within the processor.
With that said, there are arguably more revolutionary changes on the horizon for processors. With Intel’s focus on changing its approach for the future, we could see a totally different kind of processor soon.
Depending on how long it takes to develop processors like Tangle Lake and Loihi, the market may soon be full of unrecognizable CPUs.
As with most things in the tech world, with high power comes a high price. There is continuing growth and variety of processor powers and speeds, but for a high cost. High power and multi-core CPUs are definitely not marketed to the mainstream user yet.
This may not be the case for long though, as more powerful multicore processors will become the prerequisite in personal laptops. The future of processors really will mean more power for everyone.We predict that, when it comes to their processors, 2021 will bring upgrades in power to all kinds of computers and mobile devices.