The first Apple Silicon benchmarks have leaked out. Do they disappoint?

Arif Bacchus

Just a week after Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference, initial benchmarks for the new ARM-based custom Apple Silicon used by developers as part of the Apple Developer Transition Kit are out. The results are quite surprising, putting up numbers that come close to Apple’s current Intel Macbooks, and even surpassing Microsoft’s ARM-powered Surface Pro X.

According to the Geekbench 5 benchmarks sported by Pierre Dandumont on Twitter, the single-core score benchmarks on the processor ranges between 752 and 844. The multi-core score, which is more representative of common productivity tasks, meanwhile, comes in between 2,582 and 2,962.

In both cases, the tests appear to be virtualized through the Rosetta 2 emulation software which is used to translate apps built for Intel-based computers. The physical hardware, though, includes 16GB of RAM and a 512GB solid-state-drive, as well as the Apple A120X SoC — all inside a Mac mini enclosure.

Apple WWDC 2020

These results are quite respectable for Apple’s ARM silicon. Single-core benchmark results for Microsoft’s custom ARM-based SQ1 processor come in at a 764, and multi-core at around 2,983.

In Microsoft’s case, this is through native testing, on native hardware, without any emulation — suggesting that Apple’s new ARM silicon has quite the power in native on-device situations. Even the Intel Processors in Apple’s own MacBook Air comes close to the Apple ARM silicon, with a 1,133 single-core Score and a 2,990 multi-core score.

As Apple’s results are emulated, the overall performance of native software can only possibly improve. Apple claims it is working closely with developers to ensure such a quality experience. The Developer Transition Kit is part of that work, alongside a more phased approach to bringing ARM-based Macs to the market.

Apple said it won’t sell the first ARM Mac until 2021, which ensures developers will have the time to rework their apps. Microsoft, meanwhile, released its ARM-based computer, the Surface Pro X, at the end of last year.

There are also many other ARM-based Windows laptops, running Qualcomm Snapdragon SoC. Dubbed by Microsoft as Always Connected PCs, these include devices such as HP Envy x2, Lenovo Miix 630, and the Samsung Galaxy Book 2.

Compared to devices with Intel chips, these devices have longer battery life and the benefits of cellular connectivity, but the performance has been heavily criticized due to the underlying app emulation in Windows 10. It remains unknown if this, too, will be a problem for Apple, but these leaked benchmarks do offer hope.