Power efficiency of Apple M1 Pro and M1 Max should rattle Intel, AMD

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A review of Apple’s M1 Pro and M1 Max landed yesterday. Most articles focus on the overall performance of laptops, but I’m interested in comparing the performance of Apple’s larger M1 CPUs with x86 CPUs that compete with Intel and AMD. Competitive data currently available suggests that the scaled-up M1 remains a powerful threat to Intel and AMD.

The problem for x86 manufacturers is not necessarily raw performance. Many reviews today, including reviews on our sister site, PCMagIndicates that there are various 11th generation Intel laptops that can more or less keep pace with the M1 Pro and M1 Max for CPU workloads. There are also workloads like the Cinebench R23, with Intel’s top-end 11th generation CPUs outpacing the MacBook Pro’s supported CPUs. Between the two, Apple seems to match the capabilities of the x86 machine, but it doesn’t go beyond that. But take a closer look, and the wheels begin to deviate from the story.

According to Anandtech, the M1 Max consumes 39.7W on the wall and provides a Cinebench R23 score of 12,375. The Core i9-11980HK in the MSIGE76 Raider outperforms that score at 12,830, but consumes more than 106.5W on the wall.

Charts and data by Anand Tech

Anand Tech’s test Shows a clear pattern. The x86 CPU can rival the performance of the M1 Max, but it would have to consume much more power to achieve the same performance. For some floating point tests, M1 Max offers the highest performance of any x86 CPU, thanks to its huge on-chip bandwidth. According to Anandtech’s tests, the CPU doesn’t have access to Apple’s claim for the entire 400GB / s, but it can still use up to 200GB / s.

So far, we’ve mostly focused on new CPUs, but GPUs are well worth the nod here. Apple’s new graphics solution looks amazing with only comprehensive testing. Taking into account its actual game performance, the results are a bit boring. However, Apple’s overall performance is significantly improved compared to previous generation products that leveraged the relatively low-end AMD mobile GPUs. GPU-centric content creation benchmarks also performed better than games.

That said, the M1 Max and M1 Pro are not automatic, they are essential processors for everyone. Apple’s support for games is virtually non-existent, and running Windows on the Mac is no longer as easy as it used to be. This can be a problem for some users. And there’s a lot of inertia in the PC world, and no matter how good the M1 Max is, more than 10% of the PC market will step into macOS in a year.

Power efficiency is just performance that companies haven’t used yet

Perhaps the biggest problem with Intel and AMD is not the raw performance of the M1 Pro / M1 Max. Today’s x86 CPUs may require much more power to rival Apple’s latest silicon, but high-end chips from both manufacturers can hang on top-end M1s. AMD’s Zen 3 may be comparable to Apple’s power consumption than Intel.

This is the power efficiency that Apple’s latest system seems to leave x86 in the dust. All CPUs become increasingly inefficient at certain clock speeds. As the CPU clock speed increases, more power is required to improve performance by an additional 1 percent. The high clock that Intel and AMD are forced to use to provide comparable performance is not an advantage over the M1.

I’m not sure what the power consumption of the entire potential operating frequency range of the M1 family will look, but Apple has successfully beat the x86 with power efficiency at 3.2GHz. This means that there is at least some headroom left in the core. Apple can use its headroom to boot desktop chips that run 15-25% faster than current laptop processors, or power budgets to scale the number of cores in the chip to improve internal parallelism. May spend. Perhaps it will be a combination of both. In any case, as the battle moves into the desktop realm, this comparison will be more difficult for x86 makers.

CPUs that offer a combination of high power efficiency and high performance tend to be successful in the consumer market. Ryzen was much more efficient than its predecessor, the Bulldozer family of products. Intel’s Core 2 Duo was much more efficient than the Pentium 4 architecture. Both launches heralded a new era for their respective companies.

The length of the CPU design cycle means that challenges like Apple’s mounts unfold in slow motion. Intel’s upcoming release of Alder Lake will provide updated comparison points and the first look of a high-end x86 hybrid CPU. AMD also plans to go beyond that in 2022 with V-Cache for Zen 3 and Zen 4. There is support for this release.

But there is no mistake. If the original M1 CPU was an Apple warning shot, the M1 Pro and M1 Max are the first salvos. There are many factors that make a system attractive, such as ecosystem support and friendliness, but content creators will find that Apple continues to deliver better performance than x86. It may not be featured in the gaming community — serious gamers aren’t fully serviced by the Apple system at this time — but it may allow Apple to enter other markets.

Having seen what Apple can do with the high-performance mobile form factor, there’s no reason to doubt its ability to deploy high-end Mac desktops with CPU performance comparable to x86. Such chips may not go on sale for six months to a year, and the resulting system may be very expensive and impractical for most buyers, but the M1 Pro and M1 Max are from Apple. It proves that silicon can be expanded. It may have taken 10 years longer than everyone expected in 2011, but the long-awaited battle between x86 and ARM is finally here, launching one market segment and product at a time.

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