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Ask HN: What will Arm Macs mean?
8 points by saltcod 3 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 8 comments
I'm trying to get a sense of how significant the transition to Arm will be. The spectrum of possibilities seems extremely wide. Some say it will be a massive performance gain, others say just an incremental jump.

The benchmarks of the DTK Mac Minis that leaked this week reveal relatively unimpressive numbers, but of course don't reveal any of the true story — it's a limited machine, it's not the machine that will actually ship in a year's time, it's not even the chip that will ship with that machine etc etc etc. It tells us something, but not much it seems.

I'm just trying to get a sense of what the Arm Mac future might look like. When I watch Youtube videos on my current Mini and the fan spins up almost immediately vs on my 3-4 year old iPad where there isn't even a fan, I feel like the performance gain has to be massive, not just incremental.

Most people think the transition will mean faster, cooler Macs. But are we thinking like 10% faster? 25%? 50%? Think actual battery life in laptops will jump from ~4hrs to 8? 10?

I keep hearing that this is a big deal. But just how big?

You are thinking much too conservatively, in terms of performance. I think 50% faster wouldn't even be worth the effort of making the transition.

If we start from the position that the A12Z is, roughly speaking, on par with Intel's most-powerful mobile processors (per CPU core), then work from there:

The first ARM Macs will not be using that processor. Apple have said publicly that the processor cores in Macs will have features that aren't supported by the DTK's processors. That means they're at least equivalent to the A13, but more-likely a generation newer than that, so A14 (or whatever) equivalent. That's probably a 50% boost in and of itself.

The rumor mill says the Mac chips will have 12 cores, instead of 8. Presumably those are 4 more "performance" cores, so that's another 50% boost.

And if they double the TDP, which should be feasible with forced-air cooling, that's another 50%.

So, that's a 237% performance improvement, under some fairly realistic estimates.

Maybe the first portable Macs with the new chips will "only" be twice as fast as the current MacBookPro line, but they might very well be much faster than that.

And amazing graphics! Compare the latest ipad performance with integrated intel (sick).

Not planning to jump back on mac from linux, especially the first generation, but excited by the move.

Faster at all things, or faster only at certain things that have already been optimized for the iphones?

I'm not sure I'm really understanding the question, but "faster at most things" is what I'm getting at. Any time you compare two different processor families, there are going to be some benchmarks that look better on one, and some that look better on others.

For Mac applications (which are obviously what Apple cares about in this context), the new processors will be faster than the previous processors.

For tasks which can be accelerated by Apple's custom silicon (video encoding/decoding, object classification), the ARM Macs will be much faster than the Intel Macs.

Great answer, and very interesting stuff. Thank you!

I hope this will have bigger impact on the industry with faster Windows and Linux adoption of ARM.

Personally I will believe it when I see it, at least for Pro line. Apple has the resources to pull it off (although they will be remembered by their keyboard issues for some time), the question is what is Apple's ultimate goal?

I don't think we'll see massive performance improvements, but the focus from Apple seems to be power per watt.

If you get similar performance to what you have today, and that looks feasible for most workflows if you poke around through benchmarks that have been posted, but you get that for 25% of the power draw, now Apple has the ability to make the battery smaller, the machine lighter, etc. I've never been a fan of the overarching focus on thin, but it is what it is. Or maybe, like you say, they leave everything the way it is and you have a MBP that runs for 16 hours instead of 8. Nobody really knows outside of Apple and they're not talking yet.

I think that's the focus, but what the actual numbers work out to won't be available for a little while.

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