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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  • name99 - Saturday, November 14, 2020 - link

    Dude, I'm on *your* side...
    The fact that the article has one correct point doesn't mean that it's mostly garbage.
    It's not a fair analysis in that it bends over backward to make x86 look good -- and still doesn't succeed.
  • Arsani - Saturday, November 14, 2020 - link

    You know Apple is the largest PC manufacturer by revenue right. I don't even own a mac but it seems they provide the best customer experience from what I see on the internet. Apple laptops are known to come with the least defects and their customer service is the best. Another factor is their UI is aesthetically more polished than windows and their products are just more cool than the rest. Now I don't own a mac because while I might be willing to pay for their starting prices what they charge for upgrading memory and storage is just a rip off. I also don't like that I can't upgrade the parts myself. But hey it is a business and the people who just want something that works hassle-free and premium buy apple. Many people just don't have time to deal with the problems of windows like drivers, upgrading and viruses. Reply
  • Silver5urfer - Sunday, November 15, 2020 - link

    Man what are you talking ? Least defects ? Go to Louis Rossman and learn how garbage Macbooks are. They have tons of problems, Keyboard issues, bad wiring for Display Flex cables, horrible VRM component problems, Data recovery issues due to T2 chip, no 3rd party cheaper repair options vs their overpriced garbage Genius (those people at Genius are quite opposite to that, Apple's Technical support people are bots programmed to use Apple software and then do a software based test which is supplied by Apple and 100% propreitary, no one can bypass it has activation systems and etc licensing on top, latest iPhone blocks changing of modules.)

    In fact all those heating related and throttling issues are the primary reason Apple is moving away from Intel x86, they could go to AMD for better compat but their market and the investors want profit not more expenditure, re tooling every single software piece of another x86 processor which also has the TDP over 50W is not suitable for Apple computers. Because their userbase don't crunch numbers on the Macs nor game on them, nor do any heavy lifting, it's made for mostly a consumption device like iPad and less of a proper workstation / desktop class machine, the OS is also heavily leaning towards Mobile centric, just look at the Big Sur OS it's another Win10 type transitional OS onto Mobile UX, but only missing part is touchscreen, Apple don't want to do it because it will kill iPad. So having a cTDP (Configurable TDP) means another VRM adjustment and on top of heavy changes to the Software / Repair / Manufacture for one more x86, that won't net the job for them when they have Millions poured into TSMC (Yeah they poured tons of cash into TSMC for R&D) and their own A-Series / ARM derivative silicon engineering.

    It all boils down to the numbers and math on top of the very important factor - appeasing their customers who are non skilled in understanding computers vs the usual *nix and Windows / Gamers.
  • Lizardo - Wednesday, November 18, 2020 - link

    Macs are garbage? Wife has a 2013 Air she won't part with, Macs got both kids through college, and I've been working at home on a Mac for 15 years without some Windows tech support guy telling me he doesn't know either. Proper maintenance and they last a long while. And Big Sur is now running on my 2013 MB Pro. Reply
  • Oxford Guy - Sunday, December 6, 2020 - link

    "nor do any heavy lifting"

    Like pro video and audio?
  • Alistair - Saturday, November 14, 2020 - link

    I bought an Intel Tiger Lake laptop today, i7-1165G7. What a piece of crap. The new Macbook is going to walk all over the PC competition. Windows notebooks looks good until you realize the fan will be running loud just browsing websites. That and the graphics performance is laughable (XE may be a big leap for Intel, but you aren't getting a solid 60fps in Overwatch at 50 percent of 1440p at low settings...). Reply
  • Alistair - Saturday, November 14, 2020 - link

    also the screen, wow... so bad... 768p and TV in a $1000 CAD plus tax laptop

    meanwhile I have to add $500 CAD to get the same CPU in the next cheapest laptop with a good screen, so the Macbook's $1300 looks better and better now I know how bad the $1000 CAD one is...
  • Alistair - Saturday, November 14, 2020 - link

    TN Reply
  • timecop1818 - Saturday, November 14, 2020 - link

    You may not be getting 60fps in overwatch but at least it runs. It's not going to run on this new useless apple shittycon laptop at all. Reply
  • Alistair - Saturday, November 14, 2020 - link

    I'm averaging 34 fps in Overwatch at 1080p LOW settings. Way worse than any review would suggest. I re-watched Dave Lee's Razer Blade laptop review with the same CPU, the score was 117 fps.

    Why is it so slow? I'm using the built in Xe graphics (Iris Xe) while the Razer is using external Xe add on GPU?

    Better than AMD? Don't make me laugh, this is the worst $1000 laptop I've bought. Integrated AMD graphics crushes it. Apple's will be more than twice as fast easily.

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