A Wild Apple ARM Benchmark Appears

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Apple developers have supposedly started receiving their Apple ARM transition kits, and now a few benchmark numbers of those dev kits have also appeared in the wild. Spotted by 9to5Mac, benchmarks for the Developer Transition Kit seemed to have surfaced on Geekbench, despite strict confidentiality clauses in the developer agreement that forbid running benchmarks.

A lot of eyes are going to be on any benchmarks released for the new A12Z Bionic CPU intended for macOS. While Apple showed it off at WWDC, it didn’t really showcase its performance in super tangible ways. Most estimates regarding its performance have been based on the A12Z Bionic chip found in the latest iPad Pro. But rumours suggest the chips aren’t identical. Unfortunately, Apple hasn’t gone into details on structural differences between the CPUs either.

There are a few caveats to these new numbers available on Geekbench. It appears the dev kits are only running on four cores instead of the rumoured twelve that will be available in the product when it ships, and I’m assuming those four cores are the performance-dedicated cores (the product, when it ships, is rumoured to have eight of twelve dedicated to performance).

If true, then that could partly explain why the dev kit scores are lower than the iPad A12Z’s: Geekbench is factoring in the four power-efficient cores on the iPad’s A12Z, whereas the Apple silicon dev kit is lacking those cores. The top score for Apple’s new silicon at the time of this writing is 844 for single-core and 2958 for multi-core, whereas a 4th-gen iPad Pro scored 1118 for single-core and 4726 for multi-core. The iPad A12Z is also running at a higher frequency, 2490 MHz, compared to the dev kits’ 2400 MHz.

9to5Mac says that the dev kits are running Geekbench 5 non-natively via Rosetta 2, which could explain the ‘VirtualApple’ moniker listed under the Processor Information section – but it’s odd Geekbench 5 is running via Rosetta 2 as there is already an ARM version of it for the iPad. However, the iPad runs iOS on ARM, so it’s possible that Geekbench 5 still needs to run through Rosetta 2 because there isn’t a macOS ARM version of the benchmark software yet.

Beyond the iPad, the closest thing we have to compare to the alleged dev kits at the moment are Intel cores, specifically an Intel core i5-1038NG7 (4-core, 2000 MHz) from mid-2020 MacBook Pro. According Geekbench 5, one of the highest single-core scores is 1244, and one of the highest multi-core scores is 4526. That Intel core is running 400 MHz less per core than the Apple ARM dev kits, and has the same number of cores, yet its performance is leaps and bounds ahead. Again, this could be because Geekbench 5 is not optimised for Apple silicon on macOS. Or it could be because of the difference in how Apple ARM and Intel processors execute instructions.

Future Apple ARM processors are supposed to be souped-up versions of the A12Z, allegedly 12-cores with eight performance-dedicated cores, which will definitely help Apple silicon compete against Intel and AMD. Judging by these numbers it will need those additional cores. The first ARM Macs should appear by the end of this year, but Apple is still going to roll out new Intel models even after it starts the transition, and your Intel devices should be supported for at least five years from now. So if you’re thinking of getting a macOS device it might be smart to get it now.

Featured image: Joanna Nelius (Apple)

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