When Apple began to equip iPhones with chips that performed equivalent to notebooks with Intel, the expectation of an architectural transition was created, which became a reality with the Apple Silicon. And the first results surprised: the new MacBook Air with Apple M1 processor is surpassing the 16-inch MacBook Pro with Intel Core i9 in benchmarks.
The first tests came in Geekbench, one of the few benchmarks that serve as a parameter for being multiplatform and calibrated by processor. In it, a MacBook Air with Apple M1 obtained 1,687 points in single-core and 7,433 points in multi-core, surpassing the most powerful MacBook so far, equipped with a Core i9-9980HK, which features 1,095 points in single-core and 6,869 points in multi-core.
The Geekbench report also reports that the Apple M1 on the MacBook Air has eight cores with a base frequency of 3.2 GHz, slightly higher than the Apple A14 Bionic hexa-core that powers the iPhones 12 and the new iPad Air, which work at 3, 0 GHz. The Core i9-9980HK is a 2.4 GHz octa-core chip that can reach 5.0 GHz in a core operating in turbo mode, when the thermal conditions are favorable.
Apple M1 ARM-based core outperforms Core i9
The score of the Apple M1 within the MacBook Air is impressive for its performance per core, which is similar to that of processors for desktop gamers, such as the AMD Ryzen 9 5950X, while Intel still does not offer a chip superior to the M1 in performance per core in the Geekbench.
The figures suggest that if Apple continues with plans to expand its chips to 12 or more cores in future generations, it may leave behind competitors with x86 architecture in workstations. Among Macs, the leader in multi-core performance is the Mac Pro with Intel Xeon W-3275M 2.5 GHz, which reaches 18,950 points in the Geekbench with its 28 CPU cores working together.
Where’s the Apple Silicon prank?
Most benchmarks, which include Geekbench, measure instant performance, that is, the maximum that a chip can achieve in a short period of time. Sustained performance, important in tasks like video rendering, can be hindered by the design of the MacBook Air, which has no fan and slows down when it’s hot, in a process known as thermal strangulation.
In addition, the result shows that Geekbench ran in native mode, already compiled for the ARM architecture. There remains the doubt about the performance with old software, executed with the help of Rosetta 2, which translates the x86 code to ARM. It is natural that there will be some loss of performance in the process – and Apple does not yet release figures on this.
Still, these two “problems” could be solved without much effort. Thermal strangulation already seems to be something predicted by Apple, since the company used the same chip in both MacBook Air and MacBook Pro; the difference between them is precisely the presence of a fan in the most expensive model. Legacy applications are only a problem as long as they exist; the first Rosetta, which translated PowerPC code to Intel, lasted four years.
Of course, we need more tests to draw conclusions about the performance of the first Macs with Apple Silicon, especially in real conditions – but it is very likely that we are facing a significant change in the PC market.