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Apple M1 Macs on the test bench

by Mark Tyson on 18 November 2020, 10:11

Tags: Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL)

Quick Link: HEXUS.net/qaeppu

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Ever since Apple's announcement of the two year transition period from Intel x86 to 'Apple Silicon' Arm-based processing analysts and technology enthusiasts have been keen to see Apple's first switchover machines. Apple's extraordinary claims but vague performance comparisons at the 'One More thing' unveiling event didn't really help inform. And we've seen some good and bad indicative leaks of Apple M1 SoC performance in the run up to the first Apple Silicon Mac computers becoming available.

Yesterday afternoon the first professional reviews started to get published on the web and social media platforms to help us get a clear picture of the capabilities of the M1 SoCs and the first trio of Macs built using these processors. I've looked at five 'pro' sources to see the lay of the land; on the web I've pondered over reviews from the likes of Anandtech, Ars Technica, and Engadget, and for social media reviews I watched the videos published by Marques Brownlee and Dave Lee. Sadly we don't have an M1 Mac at HEXUS HQ at this time.

All the reviews share a positive picture of the hardware capabilities but for would be buyers the advice in general is that if you don't need a new Mac right now it would be best to wait for the third party app support to mature and any new platform bugs to be ironed out. However, performance advances in these first gen Apple Silicon machines were very apparent (even though they are mostly entry level Macs) and the jump in battery life is widely welcomed for the laptops.

While there are Mac using HEXUS readers, of course, many will be much more interested in the performance of the M1 hardware than in whether these are good machines to buy as upgrades to existing Apple computers. So, I've concentrated on collecting some PC comparison benchmarks from the sources listed above.

First up, above you will find three charts; Cinebench R23 single core, Cinebench 23 multi-core, and the Parallel GZip compression test. Add to this info the new M1 portables have much improved battery life using the same capacity batteries as their predecessors.

After the leaks it is good to see the above M1 compute confirmed. However, as an SoC there are other important things to factor in, such as how well the integrated GPU performs. Ars checked out the new M1 GPU performance vs recent iPads, iPhones and the Asus ROG Phone, but thankfully Anandtech looked much more closely at this aspect of the M1 SoC using benchmarks such as GFXBench Aztec, 3DMark IceStorm and even Rise of the Tomb Raider which was released in 2016 and is a "proper Mac port" with a built-in benchmark.

Of these graphics benchmarks I was most interested to see the new Mac Mini achieve an average 73fps at 768p and medium settings with no AA in ROTR. If you chose 1080p very high settings with FXAA applied the average frame rate was reduced to 40fps. Under the gaming load the whole package consumed just 16.5W. Remember that ROTR is, of course, a non-native Apple Silicon application that uses the Rosetta 2 translation layer.

 


HEXUS Forums :: 6 Comments

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The M1 is impressive, but a lot of the press seems desperate to make it look amazing. Ars using a laptop Ryzen with Zen 2 against a desktop M1 when Zen 3 laptops are widely avaialble (still on 7nm process vs the 5nm M1).
The margin looks to be ~ a generation of Ryzen, so is likely to disappear when Zen 4 appears on 5nm (of course, Apple have updates coming next year too).
gagaga
The M1 is impressive, but a lot of the press seems desperate to make it look amazing. Ars using a laptop Ryzen with Zen 2 against a desktop M1 when Zen 3 laptops are widely avaialble (still on 7nm process vs the 5nm M1).
The margin looks to be ~ a generation of Ryzen, so is likely to disappear when Zen 4 appears on 5nm (of course, Apple have updates coming next year too).

Whilst I agree it's far more worrying to me that they are making impressive claims back to Intel based laptops where Intel has not helped Apple really over the last 3 or 4 years and Apple basically called them out on it regularly
Honestly I don't really trust benchmarks 100% between platforms, even cinebench which is fairly accurate, but while I'm not doubting the m1 is a fast chip (arm isn't exactly a slouch) there is a side of me which wonders if there is maybe some ‘under the hood’ tweaks that apple does when it detects benchmarks etc, it wouldn't be the first company to do it (they have in the past and it was pretty common on on android) and they'll obviously want to make out the decision is right etc and it's not like apple doesn't control the entire hardware/software etc.

Having said that unix is far more ‘friendly’ when it comes to different core architectures than say windows.

Also I wouldn't trust the zip compression test 100% either, for one thing we don't know if the storage is equal and that can have a bigger impact than more cores, not to mention there is no mention of how many cores it's even using, I'm going to guess it's just one core.

Graphics benchmarks are great and all that but are they visually the same, is ‘high setting’ on mac the same quality as ‘high setting’ on windows using dx12 etc… just because something says it's ‘high setting’ doesn't mean the quality is the same across platforms.
gagaga
Ars using a laptop Ryzen with Zen 2 against a desktop M1 when Zen 3 laptops are widely avaialble (still on 7nm process vs the 5nm M1).
While you were in your time machine, were you able to bring back next weeks Euro Millions lottery numbers?

(That is, Zen 3 has just launched on desktop, Zen 3 APUs are at a few more months away with hopefully a CES announcement in January.)

As for M1, well the GPU is actually very impressive in that one tomb raider game they benched especially since the binaries were still x86. GTX 1650 in a 20-25W SOC is pretty impressive.
kompukare
While you were in your time machine, were you able to bring back next weeks Euro Millions lottery numbers?

(That is, Zen 3 has just launched on desktop, Zen 3 APUs are at a few more months away with hopefully a CES announcement in January.)

As for M1, well the GPU is actually very impressive in that one tomb raider game they benched especially since the binaries were still x86. GTX 1650 in a 20-25W SOC is pretty impressive.

My bad - confused the 5000 line with the 4000.