Apple Shooting for the Stars: x86 Incumbents Beware

The previous pages were written ahead of Apple officially announcing the new M1 chip. We already saw the A14 performing outstandingly and outperforming the best that Intel has to offer. The new M1 should perform notably above that.

We come back to a few of Apple’s slides during the presentations as to what to expect in terms of performance and efficiency. Particularly the performance/power curves are the most detail that Apple is sharing at this moment in time:

In this graphic, Apple showcases the new M1 chip featuring a CPU power consumption peak of around 18W. The competing PC laptop chip here is peaking at the 35-40W range so certainly these are not single-threaded performance figures, but rather whole-chip multi-threaded performance. We don’t know if this is comparing M1 to an AMD Renoir chip or an Intel ICL or TGL chip, but in both cases the same general verdict applies:

Apple’s usage of a significantly more advanced microarchitecture that offers significant IPC, enabling high performance at low core clocks, allows for significant power efficiency gains versus the incumbent x86 players. The graphic shows that at peak-to-peak, M1 offers around a 40% performance uplift compared to the existing competitive offering, all whilst doing it at 40% of the power consumption.

Apple’s comparison of random performance points is to be criticised, however the 10W measurement point where Apple claims 2.5x the performance does make some sense, as this is the nominal TDP of the chips used in the Intel-based MacBook Air. Again, it’s thanks to the power efficiency characteristics that Apple has been able to achieve in the mobile space that the M1 is promised to showcase such large gains – it certainly matches our A14 data.

Don't forget about the GPU

Today we mostly covered the CPU side of things as that’s where the unprecedented industry shift is happening. However, we shouldn’t forget about the GPU, as the new M1 represents Apple’s first-time introduction of their custom designs into the Mac space.

Apple’s performance and power efficiency claims here are really lacking context as we have no idea what their comparison point is. I won’t try to theorise here as there’s just too many variables at play, and we don’t know enough details.

What we do know is that in the mobile space, Apple is absolutely leading the pack in terms of performance and power efficiency. The last time we tested the A12Z the design was more than able to compete and beat integrated graphics designs. But since then we’ve seen more significant jumps from both AMD and Intel.

Performance Leadership?

Apple claims the M1 to be the fastest CPU in the world. Given our data on the A14, beating all of Intel’s designs, and just falling short of AMD’s newest Zen3 chips – a higher clocked Firestorm above 3GHz, the 50% larger L2 cache, and an unleashed TDP, we can certainly believe Apple and the M1 to be able to achieve that claim.

This moment has been brewing for years now, and the new Apple Silicon is both shocking, but also very much expected. In the coming weeks we’ll be trying to get our hands on the new hardware and verify Apple’s claims.

Intel has stagnated itself out of the market, and has lost a major customer today. AMD has shown lots of progress lately, however it’ll be incredibly hard to catch up to Apple’s power efficiency. If Apple’s performance trajectory continues at this pace, the x86 performance crown might never be regained.

From Mobile to Mac: What to Expect?


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  • mdriftmeyer - Saturday, November 14, 2020 - link

    The word is deprecated, not depreciated. Reply
  • Zerrohero - Friday, November 13, 2020 - link

    ”no upgrade or servicing or any reuse/recycling at all, extremely bad for environment.”

    Apple does repair MacBooks, including battery replacements. Apple recycles your Apple products for free.

    I’m pretty sure that the average lifespan of a MacBook isn’t any shorter than it is for Windows laptops.

    Also, Mac volumes are way, way smaller.

    If you truly care about the environment, think of the Windows laptops and especially Android phones and their ridiculously short SW support. They are filling the landfills, not Apple products.

    I’m also pretty sure that your interest in the environment strangely stops at Apple. Do you eat meat? Do you drive a car? Do you ever fly?

    By the way, take a look at Greenpeace’s Green Electronics Rankings. Care to guess which brand is number one of all the big names?

    Hint: it starts with an A.
  • Tomatotech - Friday, November 13, 2020 - link

    I don't have a link to hand, but I've seen figures indicating that Apple devices are used for approx 3x longer than Windows devices. Comparing the used prices for Android phones vs iPhones, Macbooks vs Windows laptops, seems to bear this out.

    A 5 year old 2015 Macbook Pro still fetches high prices, but try selling a 5-year old Windows laptop...

    This indicates that the daily use base of Apple laptops could be 2x to 3x higher as a proportion of total laptop daily use than their sales figures indicate.

    (That's consumer market only. For business many staff suffer using 5-10 year old windows desktops and laptops that won't get replaced till they break down.)
  • Oxford Guy - Sunday, December 6, 2020 - link

    "A 5 year old 2015 Macbook Pro still fetches high prices"

    Because it's the last one with a good keyboard and no need for dongle hell?
  • Oxford Guy - Sunday, December 6, 2020 - link

    Also, it has MagSafe and no T2, afaik. Reply
  • ex2bot - Friday, November 13, 2020 - link

    Stick with Microsoft and Google. They’re pro-consumer. They love you. They want what’s best for you, not just your money. They’re your corporate mommy. Embrace the sweet, sweet Windows ecosystem (and Android, too) that’s made to nurture you. Because they care about you. They love you and are proud of you. Momma Microsoft. Papa Google. Reply
  • ex2bot - Friday, November 13, 2020 - link

    (Some of the above may be /s.) Reply
  • GeoffreyA - Saturday, November 14, 2020 - link

    Well, we're living in Brave New World almost. For my part, *all* these companies are rotten eggs. Their job is to make money out of us, so whatever they do is shaped to that end. How kind soever their words are, no matter how sweet, it's with a motive. I think the ones I hate the most are Google and Facebook. Don't be evil indeed. When the dollars start rolling into Mountain View's coffers, when the immoral power over people's lives grows, then it's "do the right thing."

    I won't defend Microsoft either. I grew up with Windows, so will always have a fondness for it, but Microsoft went off the tracks from the Windows 8 era. As for Apple, I just don't like them. Perhaps it's how they paint themselves as this big humane company, of great heart and greater ideals---but at the bottom, what is it all about? They're just making money, and a lot of it too. Apple's products are not cheap. And I'd say, Microsoft is impotent and too silly: Apple is the one to be alarmed about. They've got genius and a relentless focus, and worst of all, a despotic streak running through them.
  • Oxford Guy - Sunday, December 6, 2020 - link

    "For my part, *all* these companies are rotten eggs."

    Corporations are soulless non-living financial inventions. They're designed to have no morality so amoral behavior on the part of the owners' class can be rationalized away.

    They are financial shields against culpability. The Justice Department, according to insiders on MSNBC, has long had a policy of finding corporations instead of jailing executives when laws are broken.
  • Oxford Guy - Sunday, December 6, 2020 - link

    fining, not "finding" Reply

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