Fast, faster, M1?

I should have created a category called “Modern advertisement techniques” or “How-the-media-manipulate-us-to-help-Apple-selling-its-products”. The crude attempts of the tabloid press are so glaringly obvious to anybody that they are more amusing than anything else. What I find far more disconcerting is the subtle approach one encounters in media of higher standard. At first the occasional inaccuracy or omission iy seem innocuous enough, but after a while it becomes clear that all of these apparent oversights and mishaps are invariably in favor of Apple, establishing an act of framing, deliberate or not. Here is one and here is another example of what I'm talking about.

Now, in June Apple announced that they are going to switch from Intel to ARM, and in November they announced the Apple M1 system-on-chip with their usual vastly exaggerated grandiose claims (3×, 6×, 15× faster!!!). One doesn't have to be the oracle of Delphi to predict the resulting media circus and the ever higher flying expectations based on nothing but hype.

Finally, some meaningful benchmarks (Cinebench R23) in c't 26/2020. Before examining and evaluating the numbers, here are two quotes from this issue:

p. 36 (Bit-Rauschen) Beim 15-W-Typ Ryzen 5000U wird es jedenfalls spannend, ob er zumindest bei Multithreading Apples-ARM-Renner M1 einholt und somit die x86-Ehre rettet.

p. 44 (Alles M1!) In der Single-Core-Performance enteilt der aktiv gekühlte M1 [...] allen bisherigen Mobilprozessoren der 15- bis 45-Watt-Klasse [...]. In der Multi-Core-Wertung sortiert er sich zwischen den 45-Watt-Mobil-CPUs Core i7-10750H (6300 Punkte) und Ryzen5 4600H (8370 Punkte) ein [...].

Now, these statements very clearly imply that the performance of the M1 surpasses that of any currently available 15-W mobile processor, wouldn't you say so?

Let's compare the single/multithreaded Cinebench R23 scores [1] of Intel's TigerLake top model and three Ryzen 7 4000U with those of the M1:

i7-1185G7               1538/6264
4700U                   1184(1218)/6874(7269)
M1                      1514(1517)/7760(7786)
4750U                   1184/8088
4800U                   1235/10156

As you can see, Apple has come up with a highly competitive chip offering a single-core performance on par with the 1185G7, and a multi-core performance just between the 4700U and the 4750U. But neither do we need a 45-W-CPU, nor the upcoming Ryzen 5000U to leave the M1 far behind in terms of multi-core performance: the 4800U does that well enough. And that's what I would have liked to read in an objective summary of the M1 instead of the distorted statements above.

The M1 is the first ARM-based processor that offers competitive performance for desktop applications. Is that the end of Intel and AMD? The loss of Apple as a major client may seem like an enormous loss for Intel, but actually it's a rather insignificant one, and some even believe it to be beneficial for them. Moreover, the M1 currently only runs on Apple hard- and software, resulting in a correspondingly small market share. More alarming, particularly for AMD with their hopes to break the dominance of Intel processors in data center and high-performance computing applications, is the current development of ARM-based server processors offering high performance for an affordable price. Remember when Linux-based x86 boxes replaced SPARC, MIPS, PA-RISC, and Power PC workstations running Solaris, IRIX, HP-UX, and AIX? That's just 11 years ago. Perhaps we are witnessing an analogous transition right now.

[1] A very similar comparison can be found, by the way, in the current issue of c't (Apfel-Alternativen, c't 1/2021, p.109). The values here are taken from cpu-monkey.com, and the ones in parentheses are from c't. If you have an older processor and would like to compare, chances are good that you find it in the comprehensive, community-compiled list at computerbase.de.