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AMD SMCA patches could point to hybrid Alder Lake-like CPUs

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Intel’s hybrid core Alder Lake CPUs are currently kicking butt and taking names in the gaming space. The Intel Core i5 12600K and i9 12900K reviewed very well, and top out our best CPUs for gaming lists. Plus the big DRM compatibility issue is nearly at an end. But AMD are right on their tails with well performing CPUs of their own, though none feature the same hybrid architecture. Of course, after all this, it’s no surprise there have been plenty of signs suggesting AMD is moving towards similar hybrid chips.

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A recent set of three Scalable Machine Check Architecture (SMCA) driver patches released by AMD (via Phoronix) point to a lot of new changes for the bank settings on chips. The first patch adds a new bank type to support systems that may need it. The second adds new bank types and error messages for unspecified future AMD systems, while the last makes changes to how SMCA bank information is cached. You can check out the notes in the kernel mailing list for yourself. 

The explanation for that third patch states “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.” So while AMD doesn’t go into the exact whys for the patches, it seems there are definitely some changes to look out for. 

These patches point to a hybrid architecture as a likely suspect. It would make sense that designs with different or unusual core combinations could require different bank layouts. It’s speculation for now, but it does seem likely enough. 

In the past AMD has been upfront about looking into hybrid architectures, but ultimately claimed the technology wasn’t worth it for the current software. That was back in 2020, and given it’s been about three decades since then, the company’s position has likely changed. Several patents have popped up over the past couple of years also indicating that hybrid architectures are in AMD's future. This plus these patch notes makes more hybridised CPUs a very likely forecast.

Hope Corrigan

Hope’s been writing about games for about a decade, starting out way back when on the Australian Nintendo fan site Vooks.net. Since then, she’s talked far too much about games and tech for publications such as Techlife, Byteside, IGN, and GameSpot. Of course there’s also here at PC Gamer, where she gets to indulge her inner hardware nerd with news and reviews. You can usually find Hope fawning over some art, tech, or likely a wonderful combination of them both and where relevant she’ll share them with you here. When she’s not writing about the amazing creations of others, she’s working on what she hopes will one day be her own. You can find her fictional chill out ambient far future sci-fi radio show/album/listening experience podcast at BlockbusterStation.buzzsprout.com. No, sadly she’s not kidding.