On November 10th, Apple unveiled their brand-new MacBook and Mac Mini line-up. The big news from this event were a few more details about their new 5nm Arm-based eight-core M1 processor. This is the start of a CPU architecture transition from Intel to Apple Silicon across their whole consumer Mac line-up. Let’s take a look at what we know so far about Apple Silicon M1 Performance.
Apple Silicon M1 Performance
During the presentation, Apple made some bold claims about the new lineup. For example, the fanless MacBook Air is “Faster than 98% of PC laptops”.
Apple fans are understandably very excited about this development. Traditional PC fans are less excited… This is for two reasons. First, Apple stated many competitive performance metrics that were not accompanied by the typical disclosures about what and how they tested. This is usually a red flag in product announcements, but I attribute it somewhat to just how Apple marketing likes to present their products. Technical details and testing methodology are just geeky details that you don’t need to think or know about…
Second, getting the level of performance that Apple claims out of 5 watts is quite amazing. If that level of performance is true, especially for real application performance, and if enough critical applications are available for Apple Silicon Mac products, it could be a complete game changer.
The first Geekbench 5.3 result for the Apple M1 on a MacBook Air with 8GB of RAM has shown up.
There is also a result for a MacBook Pro using the same M1 CPU with 16GB of RAM
These are both very impressive single-core results, especially at 5 watts. Being limited to a maximum of 16GB of RAM could be an issue with some workloads. Another possible issue for Apple is whether they can sustain this level of performance for a long period under load without thermal throttling.
AMD Ryzen 9 5950X
There are multiple Geekbench 5.3 results for AMD Zen 3 desktop systems that have higher single-core scores than any Apple M1 result. Since AMD Zen 3 desktop systems also have higher core counts for most SKUs, the multi-core scores are also higher. This is no surprise, since these AMD Zen 3 desktop systems are using a lot more than 5 watts of power.
Even though I don’t like Apple, I welcome their influence and competition in the mobile and desktop computer markets. Before the original MacBook Pro, PC-based laptops were stuck in a death spiral race to the bottom for average selling price. There were so many cheap, terrible, plastic PC laptops being sold until Apple showed that there was a market for well-made expensive laptops, with high quality components.
Now, the Arm-based Apple M1 is going to pressure AMD (and to a much lesser extent, Intel) to respond with more competitive x86 processors in the short term. AMD will have 5nm Zen 4 by late 2021 or early 2022. We will have to see if that will be enough. Competition is good!
If you have any questions about this post, please ask me here in the comments or on Twitter. I am pretty active on Twitter as GlennAlanBerry. Thanks for reading!