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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  • GeoffreyA - Saturday, December 12, 2020 - link

    I tend to agree. You know, these technology companies of today are wielding great power in this world, yet it's not very visible perhaps. They control with a smile on their face. Chains work best when people don't know they're shackled. Reply
  • alpha754293 - Thursday, November 12, 2020 - link

    With x86/x64 MacBooks, I can do more than just whatever Apple offers.

    Now, it's back to not really being able to do much with Macs again.

    (It took probably close to a decade before technical computing apps were ported to MacOS on x86/x64. And now with this switch to ARM, guess that I won't be doing THAT anymore on any of the new Macs (since the apps, once again, aren't available, and hopefully, it won't take ANOTHER 10 years before the companies that make those programs, port them over. But then again, at least with x86/x64, they already had it for other OS platforms. This -- I'm not sure what any of the existing software vendors are going to do with this.)
    Reply
  • samcolam - Friday, November 13, 2020 - link

    Such an interesting thread. Reply
  • Tomatotech - Friday, November 13, 2020 - link

    Lovely article. I read every word. Looking forward to actual reviews of the M1 soon.

    I think Apple has played a blinder here. Scores of millions of people have built up years of experience of using the iOS ecosystem to fill their wants. They are people who don’t mind paying extra for an iDevice. Now Apple is presenting them with the chance to transfer that experience to a laptop or desktop where they can run all their iOS apps (plus macOS apps.)

    Now they don’t need to learn both iOS AND Windows or both iOS AND macOS. At work I see many people struggling with desktop OSes.

    Apple has just said bye to all that. I’m old school IT, I can run 3 OSes on the same laptop without breaking a sweat, but that isn’t what the masses want, and it doesn’t help non-IT people achieve what they want. iOS & Android have done all that and more.

    Google are trying with their Android-based chromebooks but it seems stuck at the low end for mass adoption. If Apple can deliver on this and it looks like they are doing so, their sales will soar.
    Reply
  • MrCrispy - Friday, November 13, 2020 - link

    You're talking about people with disposable income who want and can afford Apple's premium $$$ devices. Its not 'the masses', far from it. 'people who don’t mind paying extra for an iDevice' are first world rich people.

    There's nothing special about iOS or MacOS. They are sold based on hype and because its tied to the hardware.

    btw Windows runs the same OS on everything from a wearable to a server and they did it years before anyone else. But Microsoft isn't 'cool' so no one talks about it.
    Reply
  • Joe Guide - Friday, November 13, 2020 - link

    There may be some truth to your comment. Apple's products can be more expensive, but if you match for performance to price, such as Dell's comparable computers, the difference becomes less.
    But now the game is flipped upside down. The new M1 chips seem unbeatable based on performance, efficiency and price. The base, cheapo, affordable MBA is proving to be world class.

    Geekbench seems to suggest top single thread performance, and now actual performance on Affinity Photo suggests it's not hype.
    https://twitter.com/andysomerfield/status/13268661...

    Your point about iOS or MacOS being no better than Windows may be right. But you can't put Windows these new machines yet.
    Reply
  • Silver5urfer - Friday, November 13, 2020 - link

    Lol, unbeatable, please go to Apple.com and then click on Mac and see what Macbooks are priced higher, you know why Apple prices their devices higher or any company for that matter ?

    Performance / Features.

    These new M1 Macs are not unbeatable dude, Macbooks running Intel are unbeatable because they compare with each other and not with Windows machines. Nothing is world class about this for many reasons

    - Software is beta phase, there's no Adobe software ready as Apple M1 is just shipping to consumers but Adobe needs time to optimize, Office is announced but it runs slow due to Rosetta2, 32Bit x86 is dead with past Mac OS release, that puts many users who want a desktop OS, then ARM translation means this machine is not going to have a VM, it discarded Bootcamp. Then the OS ecosystem, Mac OS software is not equal to iOS, running iOS apps on mac is nothing ground breaking, iOS has gated filesystem vs Mac nope it is open, still leagues behind Windows and Linux, many normies are not going to mess with the Gateway to change the applicaiton installtion etc.
    - Hardware, the Machine is costing over $1K+ and the RAM is 8GB, epic joke. And for SSD upgrade from 256 which is a joke at this price, is 200 bucks, and on top all is soldered. No one replace anything. Gaming performance is unknown at this point and Mac apps like SOTTR, BioShock needs to be updated for M1, then on top the Min spec for them is requiring a Dedicated GPU, so far AMD is not there, they are moving closer to their own ecosystem, there these games are not going to work. Geekbench is a shit benchmark, just hit GB4 scores on iPhones vs Android and then GB5 on the same and notice the difference with the SoCs on Apple vs Android, it's a worthless trash benchmark. The only viable is Cinebench R23 from Maxon. There ST is high but when we add SMT or here the BigLittle we do not know how perf scales, throttlng etc, since Mac Mini has fans while MBA the world class laptop doesn't, expect performance loss, no one can cheat physics. DIY repair is anyways dead on Macs since they removed the SSD and RAM, but with these and the Touchbar macs the KB is also sealed shut so is Battery heavily glued on.
    Reply
  • Joe Guide - Friday, November 13, 2020 - link

    You should read Paul Spector's assessment about where things stand. I think it is a fair analysis.

    https://componentplanet.wordpress.com/2020/11/13/b...

    "By the same token, however, Apple’s marketing overreach on that stupid claim shouldn’t lull anyone into ignoring this chip. It represents the most potent threat to x86 dominance that I’ve seen in my entire career."
    Reply
  • name99 - Friday, November 13, 2020 - link

    Seriously?
    If an author can't tell the difference between 8 CPUs(+SMT) and 4 CPUs (+4 small) then he doesn't deserve my time.
    Reply
  • NetMage - Saturday, November 14, 2020 - link

    And if you can't tell the difference between Apple's low end passively cooled introductory chip, and what the future will bring, I think we know who's not worth any time. Reply

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