Quite the year... for silicon



27 Nov 2020

We will remember 2020 for all the wrong reasons, but on a lighter note, 2020 has been quite the year… for silicon!

  • The incredible performance of Apple’s M1 and A14 (@ 5m).
  • AMD crushing Intel with its Ryzen 5000 series CPUs (@ 7nm).
  • The neck-and-neck race between the AMD Radeon (@ 7nm) and Nvidia RTX.
  • The launch of next-gen consoles from Microsoft and Sony.

IHMO, the clear winners are both Nvidia - which just acquired Arm - and AMD - which just acquired Xilinx (and their products and expertiese around Arm-based SoCs and Arm-integrated FPGAs).

These two are poised to be the giants in the upcoming wave(s) of next-gen computers (notebooks, desktops, servers), consoles (PS5 and XBox both use AMD, Nintendo uses NVidia Tegra), embedded devices (mobiles, TVs, cameras), AI/ML powered devices (IoT sensors, self-driving cars, face detecting cameras) and more!


  • November 2020: AMD Radeon RX 6000-series RDNA 2 architecture GPUs with SAM
  • October 2020: Intel Iris Xe, their first discrete GPU
  • September 2020: Nvidia RTX 30-series Ampere architecture GPUs (many people seem to refer to the RTX 3000 series instead)

Further reading:


  • October-November 2020: AMD Ryzen 5000-series Zen 3 architecture 7nm CPUs (supported by the X570 and B550 chipsets) - taking the performance crown from Intel
  • September 2020: Intel 11th Gen Tiger Lake for notebooks
  • July 2020: Intel Lakefield for mobiles (and next year’s Alder Lake for desktop’s - borrowing the hybrid architecture approach akin to Arm's “big.LITTLE”
  • May 2020: Intel Comet Lake Core i9-10x00K series - expensive and disappointing.

Further reading:


  • November 2020: Apple’s Arm-based M1 5nm SoC in the 2020 MacBook Pro, Air and Mini, incredible performance even with x86 emulation.
  • October 2020: Apple's ARM-based A14 in the iPhone 12 series - the first widely available, consumer 5nm chip!
  • May 2020: Arm Cortex A78 and Cortex X1, and Mali G78, like the Samsung Exynos 1080.
  • March 2020: Apple’s Arm-based A12Z from the iPad Pro (2020)
  • March 2020: AMD Ryzen Mobile 4000-series Zen 2 architecture APUs for notebooks

Further reading:


Launches within days of each other!

  • November 2020: Microsoft Xbox Series X and Series S use custom implementations of AMD‘s Zen 2 CPU and Radeon RDNA 2 GPU (@ 12.15 and 4 TFLOPS respectively).
  • November 2020: Sony PlayStation 5 again featuring - surprise! - custom implementations of AMD’s Zen 2 CPU and Radeon RDNA 2 GPU (@ 10.28 TFLOPs).

Further reading:

Other Stuff

Not to mention embedded / small form factor devices like Nvidia Jetson Nano, Raspberry Pi 4, and so on launched this year...

Plus a myriad of high-end and enterprise announcements at Hot Chips 2020 (August 2020), e.g. Arm Neoverse N1 and N2 for servers, e.g. as implemented in Amazon’s Graviton2 64-core CPU, Open Source RISC-V architecture as implemented by Alibaba Xuantie-910 CPU and IBM Power implementations as a result of the OpenPOWER initiative.

Updated 27 Nov 2020: Apparently AMD Ryzen 5000 CPUs, Radeon 6000 GPUs and Nvidia RTX-30 GPUs are not available seemingly anywhere. Well, in that case, 2020 is a year for sillicon announcements... but not availability!