Apple transitioning Macs from Intel to their own silicon will achieve a great deal more than just better performance. Just look at everything they’ve packed into the A series SoCs used in iPhones and iPads.
This Was Inevitable
I’ve worked at Apple, so I know this was inevitable. Because this is just how Apple rolls. I think that Apple has been working on this for almost a decade. Initially for years it would have been just “what if” R&D. But as Intel’s failures continued year after year, it eventually became a question of when, and Apple would pull the trigger only once they had a huge value prop fully developed and working really really well. So there is a whole lot more to this than just better performance, or reliable processor roadmaps. And saving money doesn’t even factor in. It’s about what Apple has been about since day one – the User eXperience (UX).
I’ve been disappointed by the performance and features of Intel processors for years. It’s just embarrassing for Intel to have gone through so many generations over so many years, with so little improvement in performance and feature set. Especially the sad improvements in the actual User eXperience (UX) – the only real measurement that truly matters.
A former Intel engineer thinks that bugs that Apple encountered 3 years ago made up Apple’s mind. But there have been rumors of this since 2011. Check it out – search Google for Apple Mac ARM then use Tools > Any time > Custom range to restrict the search to 2011.
“The quality assurance of Skylake was more than a problem,” said former Intel engineer François Piednoël, speaking to PC Gamer. “It was abnormally bad. We were getting way too much citing for little things inside Skylake. Basically our buddies at Apple became the number one filer of problems in the architecture. And that went really, really bad.PC Gamer – Intel insider claims it finally lost Apple because Skylake QA ‘was abnormally bad’
“When your customer starts finding almost as much bugs as you found yourself, you’re not leading into the right place.”
“For me this is the inflection point,” said Piednoël. “This is where the Apple guys who were always contemplating to switch, they went and looked at it and said: ‘Well, we’ve probably got to do it.’ Basically the bad quality assurance of Skylake is responsible for them to actually go away from the platform.”
Of Course Better Performance
Here’s one simple performance example, and a common UX – Startup and resume from sleep.
One of my Macs is a 2019 MacBook Air 13-inch display with a1.6GHz Intel Core i5 processor with Turbo Boost up to 3.6GHz and 4MB L3 cache, 8GB RAM and 128GB SSD. It’s an excellent machine and I’d only change 2 things on it. I wish I could get it with a 16 inch display, and… the processor. Compared to what should be our standards and expectations today, Intel processors just suck. If we knew any better, then we’d expect much much more from Intel in 2020.
Startup time on this MacBook Air after a clean install of macOS Catalina takes 56 seconds. Now that’s not a big hit to UX, considering that a full restart is not needed very often. Maybe once every 2 to 4 weeks. But, resume from sleep is a big UX hit. When coming out of sleep it often hesitates to respond to mouse or keyboard input for 5 or more seconds, and encounter delays in app response. Granted not a lot of time, but compared to the instant response on iPads and iPhones, it’s huge. And iPads have been able to resume instantly since the first one shipped in 2010 and iPhones since 2007.
Browser hesitation and slow app launch are other much bigger problems that are super common elements of the UX.
Dev Test Apple Silicon Macs Nearly Smokes Production Intel
Apple shipped to developers the Developer Transition Kit (DTK) with the 2 year old A12Z Bionic in it. And although developers are restricted from sharing much about it, especially benchmark test results, of course that leaked like almost immediately.
…the two-year-old A12Z in the Mac mini outperforms Microsoft’s Arm-based Surface Pro X in Geekbench performance, running x86_64 code in emulation faster than the Surface Pro X can run an Arm version natively.MacRumors – Apple’s A12Z Under Rosetta Outperforms Microsoft’s Native Arm-Based Surface Pro X
…A12Z outperforms the Surface Pro X in single-core testing and is on par or slightly better in multi-core performance.
…the opening bid should seriously worry the competition. Apple is already comfortably defeating its leading competitor. When the new ARM-powered MacBook Pro arrives later this year, Apple’s MacOS platform will land a killer blow on the competition.Fortune – Apple’s MacBook Pro Is Going To Kill The Competition
There’s Lots Lots More To This
I’ve been hoping and hoping that Apple would put its own silicon in Macs for many years. Initially I just wanted better performance than Intel. But in the last few years, as Apple has added more and more to its silicon in iPads and iPhones than just performance boasts, it’s become clear to me that there are even bigger gains to be had.
Rene Ritchie has the best and most thorough take I’ve seen so far on why Apple’s move to its own silicon is about so much more than just performance. Here’s Rene’s YouTube video.