Apple Intel and ARM systems: performance comparisons

There have been some comments questioning the meaning of the performance benchmarks which I quoted previously as part of my argument that Apple may need to switch Macs from using Intel processors to its own systems-on-a-chip based on ARM processors. Here are some additional details of the figures which I have quoted from the Geekbench Browser’s Mac listing and that for iOS. Figures for the iMac Pro quoted there are my own measurements on this entry-level iMac Pro, also using the Geekbench 4 suite.

To see how benchmarks have changed over recent years, here’s a chart showing the best Geekbench results (higher is faster and better) for different classes of Apple products current at the end of each year. The classes are:

  • ARM/Apple is the best-performing iOS device;
  • iMac/mini is the best-performing iMac (excluding the iMac Pro) or Mac mini;
  • MBP is the best-performing MacBook Pro.


For the last year, 2018, those three models are:

  • Mac mini Late 2018 Intel Core i7-8700 @ 3.2 GHz, with 6 cores returning a multi-core benchmark of 24287;
  • MacBook Pro 15-inch Mid 2018, Intel Core i9-8950HK @ 2.9 GHz, with 6 cores returning a multi-core benchmark of 22614;
  • iPad Pro 11-inch Apple A12X Bionic @ 2.5 GHz, with 4 high-performance and 4 high-efficiency cores returning a multi-core benchmark of 17941.

The current UK Apple Store minimum prices for those products with those processors are (in £, which is almost exactly the price in $ and €) 1249, 2699, and 769. Thus, their costs per K Geekbench (lower is better, i.e. less bucks for each thousand bangs) work out at:

  • Intel Core i7-8700 @ 3.2 GHz, with 6 cores (mini) 51 £/K;
  • Intel Core i9-8950HK @ 2.9 GHz, with 6 cores (MBP) 119 £/K;
  • Apple A12X Bionic @ 2.5 GHz, with 4 + 4 cores (iPad Pro) 43 £/K.

Of course, the Mac mini is at a considerable advantage here because it is the only one which doesn’t include any display. Even when you ignore that, the iPad Pro delivers a considerably lower cost per K Geekbench than either of the two Macs, and an overall benchmark of almost 18K, which is now very close to those offered by the fastest processor option for two of the most popular current Mac models.

These figures are based on last year’s products and their processors. If Apple delivers similar improvements in their own SoCs delivered in the autumn of this year and next, it isn’t hard to see how it could deliver Macs with significantly improved performance and at lower cost by switching from Intel to its own ARM-based SoCs. That’s without considering GPUs, where the cost and performance differences are even greater, and the iPad Pro 11-inch already outperforms the great majority of current Macs, including iMac Pros.

Yes, of course there are higher-performance Intel and other processors available. Some cost more than $5K per processor, but I suspect that Apple isn’t ever going to offer them in a Mac costing less than $1500, or even $15,000 for that matter. The additional cost of an 18-core Intel Xeon W processor above the base iMac Pro with its 8 cores is an extraordinary £2160.