AMD could follow Intel and switch to hybrid CPUs

AMD Ryzen 7 5800X CPU close up showing pins
(Image credit: Future)

AMD could be planning on bringing in hybrid processors – chips that mix different types of cores in the same vein as Intel’s Alder Lake – or that’s the suggestion prompted by recently unearthed clues.

The possibility of AMD taking this direction is not a new development – we’ll come back to that – but the latest from the grapevine was spotted by, and consists of changes wrapped up in updates to the SMCA (Scalable Machine Check Architecture) driver code for future AMD CPUs.

The patches applied add new SMCA bank types (and error descriptions), and also make layout changes, noting that: “Future AMD systems will have different bank type layouts between logical CPUs. So having a single system-wide cache of the layout won’t be correct.... Future AMD systems will lay out MCA bank types such that the type of bank number may be different across CPUs.”

While this is obviously pretty technical stuff, all you really need to know is that these changes could make some sense in terms of AMD paving the way for a hybrid architecture, with the fresh tinkering being put in place to help deal with the mix of cores (big and little, or performance and power-efficient) used with hybrid CPUs.

The broad idea of a hybrid CPU is to use the efficiency cores when idling (or for undemanding tasks), and keep power consumption to a minimum which is great for laptops and battery longevity – but the efficiency cores can also make a contribution to overall performance levels when needed, making them useful in desktops PCs as well.

Analysis: Patently obvious that AMD needs a reply to Intel’s hybrid success?

It’s far from certain that these SMCA configuration and layout changes are related to work on AMD’s transition to hybrid tech for Ryzen CPUs. We don’t know that, and this is all guesswork ultimately – AMD doesn’t give any reasoning behind the changes in its patch explanation.

However, it is a possibility, and as mentioned at the outset, we’ve now heard a few nuggets from the rumor mill suggesting that this is the course AMD has set. That includes patents from AMD for using two types of cores in a processor, and speculation about Zen 5 APUs which could go hybrid and might arrive in 2024.

Previously, AMD has thrown cold water on the idea of adopting hybrid tech, or rather, the speed at which Intel has gone for the mix of performance and efficiency cores. So, while it’s something of a waiting game to see when Team Red might make its move, it seems likely that such a shift won’t be too far off – particularly seeing as Alder Lake has been very well-received on the whole in its initial desktop incarnation.

Via PC Gamer

Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).