How Apple A-series chips stack up against Intel Macs

Apple Macs are abandoning Intel and Apple Silicon. To understand what this means for Mac performance, it helps to take a look back at older A-series chips and compare them to Intel processors.

Since the very first iPhone, Apple has used ARM processors in its mobile devices. The company launched its first true A-series chip with the iPhone 4, equipped with the Apple A4 chip. Since then, Apple’s proprietary chips have innovated and pushed the boundaries of what’s possible with ARM-derived processors in a mobile package.

Now that we know that future Mac devices will also carry Apple Silicon, it’s useful to look back at how recent Apple A-series chips compare in performance to Macs with Intel processors. Here’s how the A10 to A12Z compares to Intel chips with similar performance.

A10 and A10X Fusion Chipset

Credit: Apple

The A10 Fusion chipset was first released on the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus in September 2016. Despite its age, the A10 Fusion can still cope with many current tasks thanks to its power.

According to Geekbench 5, the 2.3 GHz A10 Fusion has a single-core of 740 and a multi-core score of 1322.

With those scores, that means the A10 Fusion chipsets are roughly similar to the 12-inch MacBook from early 2016, which Apple has since discontinued.

The 12-inch MacBook equipped with a 1.3 GHz Intel Core m7 processor clocked with a single-core score of 652 and a multi-core score of 1405. It was selling for $ 1,299 at the time of its release.

A10X Chipset

Credit: Apple

Credit: Apple

After the release of the A10 Fusion, Apple adapted the chip for its line of tablets with the A10X Fusion chip. Throughout its life, it has powered the 6th generation and 10.2-inch iPad, the 10.5-inch iPad Pro, and the 12.9-inch iPad Pro of the 2nd generation.

The device is quite similar to that of the A10 Fusion, although it is slightly superior. On an iPad, it has a single-core score of 755 and a multi-core score of 1403. It’s a bit faster on the aforementioned iPad Pros, with single-core scores of 831 and multi-core scores of 2265. The A10X Fusion could be bought for as low as $ 649 on an iPad Pro.

With these scores, the A11 Bionic is in the same stage as a 13-inch MacBook Pro model from 2017. The specific variant we’re comparing is the mid-range configuration with an Intel Core i5 processor, retailing for $ 1,499. .

The aforementioned 13-inch MacBook Pro has a single-core Geekbench 5 score of 850 and a multi-core score of 1972, meaning it’s actually slightly slower in terms of multicore performance despite being more expensive than the iPad Pro. .

Chipset A11 Bionic

Credit: Apple

Credit: Apple

The A11 Bionic chip was introduced on the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X in 2017. A dual-core processor, the A11 Bionic was also the first A-series chip to feature a “Neural Engine Apple’s “Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Tasks.

On an iPhone X, the A11 Bionic arrived with a score of 917 single-core and 2350 multicore in the Geekbench 5 benchmark tests. While this device was priced at $ 999, the A11 Bionic could be found cheaper in the iPhone series. 8.

The entry-level 2020 MacBook Air, equipped with an Intel Core i3-1000NG4 processor, does the same. This is a low power 1.1 GHz dual-core processor with Turbo Boost up to 3.2 GHz.

The early 2020 MacBook Air (base model) equipped with the chipset has an average single-core score of 1076 and a multi-core score of 2842. The computer it ships with retails for $ 999.

Chipset A12 Bionic

Credit: Apple

Credit: Apple

The A12 Bionic, which first appeared on the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR, was Apple’s first to be made with a 7nm chip process. (It also ended up in a non-X form in the 2019 iPad Air 3 and iPad mini.) The A12 could be purchased for $ 750 in an iPhone or $ 399 in an iPad.

In an iPhone XS, the 2.5 GHz A12 Bionic scored a 1106 and a 2687 in the Geekbench 5 multi-core benchmark tests. In the latest iPad Air, the benchmarks are slightly higher with a single-core score of 1112 and a multicore score of 2869.

That puts the A12 Bionic on roughly the same footing as the 2017 21.5-inch iMac with a 3 GHz Intel Core i5-7400 processor. This device started at $ 1,099.

In an iMac with 8GB of RAM, the Intel Core i5 scored 1005 in Geekbench 5 single-core tests and 3208 in multi-core benchmarking.

A13 Bionics

Credit: Apple

Credit: Apple

It is a 2.66 GHz six-core processor. According to Geekbench 5 benchmarks, the A13 Bionic averages a single-core score of 1325 and a multi-core score of 3382. While higher-tier iPhones pack it, you can get the A13 Bionic for as low as $ 399 in the 2020 Apple iPhone SE.

If you want similar performance on a Mac, you’ll probably want to take a look at the 13-inch MacBook Pro with an 8th Gen Intel Core i5-8257U processor. This MacBook processor is a 1.4 GHz quad-core chip with Turbo Boost up to 3.9 GHz, according to Apple’s specifications.

On Geekbench 5, it is lower than the iPhone in single-core scores but slightly higher in multi-core with 1012 and 3676, respectively. You can get this chip in an entry-level MacBook Pro for $ 1,299.

A12X and A12Z Bionic

Credit: Apple

Credit: Apple

Apple has released two generations of iPad-specific A12 chips in the past two years: the A12X, which was installed in the 2018 iPad Pro models, and the A12Z, which powers the 2020 iPad Pro models, as well as the Apple. Developer transition kit.

The two chips compare the same on Geekbench 5, mainly due to the fact that they are essentially the same piece of silicon with slight modifications (such as an additional GPU core).

The A12X and A12Z Bionic both score around 1115 in single-core tests, but they are the fastest iOS devices in multi-core tests with a high score of 4626. On an Apple Developer Transition Kit running Geekbench 5 natively, the scores are roughly similar with single-core scores around 1005 and multi-core scores around 4555. The A12Z sells for $ 799 in an 11-inch iPad Pro.

If you want performance similar to one or more cores in an Intel chip, the way to get it is the mid-range 16in MacBook Pro with a 10th Gen Intel Core i7 processor. It sells for $ 2,399, with sales sometimes pushing the low-end model below $ 2,000.

The 10th generation Intel Core i7 processor does around 1,024 single-core tests and 5,385 multi-core tests in a 16-inch MacBook Pro with 16GB of RAM. That’s slightly lower than the A12Z in single-core, but clocks are higher in multi-core benchmarks.

What this means for the Mac

Credit: Andrew O'Hara, AppleInsider

Credit: Andrew O’Hara, Appleiphonestop

Keep in mind that benchmarks are not always a reliable indicator of actual performance. Whether or not they translate into speed and performance in your own setup depends a lot on how your workflow compares to the benchmark suite calculations.

That being said, these credentials confirm the fact that Apple’s chip design and foundry has come a long way. The combination of design, full stack control and foundry expertise has consistently pushed the industry towards faster and more efficient mobile processors. This trend probably won’t stop with the Mac.

Older versions of Apple’s A-series chips were on the lower end of what was available on the Mac. And while comparing the A12Z to the latest 16in MacBook Pro still illustrates an Intel performance advantage, it’s clear that Apple Silicon is catching up, and who knows what Apple has in store for us.

The first of the Apple Silicon Macs is likely to be the low end of Apple’s Mac lineup, as indicated by rumors that the first Mac to come with an A-series chip could be a refresh of the 12-inch MacBook. But Apple laid the foundation for “Pro” Macs with Apple Silicon.

There are all high performance ARM chips out there, running mostly on servers and delivering better performance per dollar and better power efficiency than Intel processors. While their market share is still paltry relative to Intel, the pace of performance upgrades and technological advancements may well close this gap. With Apple moving its full line of Macs to ARM-based Apple Silicon, this could further stimulate adoption by computer makers and server companies.

As the pace of Apple’s A-series developments indicates, an Apple Silicon Pro chip could very well revolve around a similar Intel chip – especially considering how quickly the A-series has caught up with office performance. Also note that Apple Silicon Macs will have more rugged cooling solutions than iPads in previous comparisons, which means thermal regulation might be less of an issue.

With all of that in mind, it’s not hard to predict a high-performance ARM chip in a Mac Pro somewhere down the road. When – not if – Apple Silicon chips built from the legacy of Apple’s A-series chips find their way into a MacBook Pro, they will likely usher in a new era of performance, efficiency and integration with the Apple’s broader ecosystem for the Mac.

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