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Apple is reportedly evaluating its own A5 system-on-chip (SoC) for laptop computers. Moreover, at least one person claims that he/she had already seen a prototype of a Macintosh ultra-thin notebook powered by the ARM-based microprocessor.

In a bid to test capabilities of its A5 chip in notebook environments, Apple created a version of Macbook Air notebook featuring its latest system-on-chip, according a source of Macotakara.jp web-site. No actual details are available at this point, but it is said that the machine performs "better than expected" and that it has Thunderbolt interconnection.

It is unknown whether the notebook used a version of Mac OS used on Macintosh personal computers or iOS used on gadgets like iPad, iPhone or Apple TV. It is also unknown whether the Apple A5-based system was actually a notebook test unit, or a system to develop software for various iOS-based devices.

Apple A5 is a 1.08GHz system-on-chip that has two ARM processing cores providing two times higher compute performance compared to the A4 as well as a new PowerVR SGX543MP graphics engine that is said to be nine times more powerful compared to that in the A4 SoC.

Earlier a number of web-sites reported that Apple was looking forward switching its ultra-thin notebooks from Intel Corp.'s x86 processors onto its own ARM-based system-on-chip solutions. Given the fact that Apple is already selling more devices powered by its own chips rather than by Intel chips, this does not make a lot of strategic sense from diversification point of view. Moreover, since ARM-based SoCs offer tangibly lower performance than x86 microprocessors and Apple needs to maintain compatibility with current software, transition to ARM would bring more harm than good to the company and its customers.

Chipmaker Intel also does not believe that ARM will be able to compete against x86 in terms of performance.

"Go look at the performance of those platforms. They are taking our latest and high-end end versions of second-generation core, and ARM does not even come close to any capability there," said Thomas Kilroy, senior vice president and general manager of Intel's sales and marketing group.

Apple did not comment on the news-story.

Tags: Apple, macbook, A5, PowerVR

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