Performance benchmarks and thermal throttling

Apple raised a lot of eyebrows this summer when it announced it would stop using Intel processors. Instead, its Mac computers would migrate to their own processors based on the Arm Instruction Set (ISA) Architecture. Intel and AMD have been dominant in the laptop and desktop PC market for decades. For over 15 years, Intel has been the sole processor supplier for Apple’s Mac range. However, Apple has a long history with Arm.

Arm specializing in building energy-efficient processors that used only a few watts of power. This meant they were perfect for smartphones and tablets. From the first iPhone until today, Apple has used ARM-based processors in its mobile devices. With that wealth of experience and expertise, the Cupertino-based company concluded it could build processors that were energy efficient, but also offered competitive performance. It then decided to expand the reach of its smartphone and tablet processors and enter the PC market.

See also: Do you want an Apple laptop? Here are the best you can buy right now

And so the Apple M1 processor was born. It’s the SoC found in the new MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro, and Mac Mini. It is also the first in a series of processors that will see Apple completely replace Intel in every Mac model. This transition will take about two years, and the three new M1-based devices are just the beginning.

But is the M1’s performance competitive or did Apple make a mistake? Let’s find out!

Apple M1 specifications: at a glance

Credit: Gary Sims / Android Authority

The Apple M1 is a SoC. This means it has a CPU, GPU, neural engine, and I / O (like Thunderbolt). It has 16 billion transistors and is manufactured using a 5nm process.

The M1 has four high-performance cores, each designed to perform a single task as efficiently as possible while maximizing performance. Four efficiency cores handle lighter workloads. There is also an eight-core integrated GPU. According to Apple, the M1 delivers up to 3.5x faster CPU performance, compared to the 1.2 GHz Intel Core i7-1060NG7 in the previous generation MacBook Air.

If you want more information about the Apple M1, you may find my Apple M1 and new Mac video useful.

Apple M1 benchmark

Apple MacBook M1 MBA text logo

Credit: Gary Sims / Android Authority

To test the performance of the Apple M1, I’m using a MacBook Air with the 8-Core CPU / 8-Core GPU variant of the processor along with 8GB of RAM and 512GB of storage.

According to the official Geekbench results, the MacBook Air with M1 scores 1,690 for the Single-Core test. This means that the new MacBook Air has better single-core performance than any existing Intel Mac. Not just every Intel MacBook Air, but every Intel-based Mac.

The new MacBook Air has better single-core performance than any existing Intel Mac.

Gary Sims

For multi-core, the M1-based MacBook Air gets 7,304. With only eight cores, this won’t be earth shattering. The late 2019 Mac Pro has a 28-core Intel Xeon processor, so the simple eight-core MacBook Air won’t beat it. However, it beats every other Intel-based Mac that isn’t a Mac Pro. The only exceptions are the high-end 27-inch iMacs of 2019 and 2020. Very impressive for Apple’s first laptop processor!

Cinebench is a real-world test that evaluates a computer’s processor by performing only CPU rendering tasks and measuring performance. Cinebench R23 gives the M1-based MacBook Air a score of 1,515 for single-core performance. It is superior to the Intel Core i7-7700K, superior to the Intel Core i7-1060NG7, better than the AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2990 and just below the 11th Gen Intel Core i7-1165G7.

Apple M1 MacBook Air cinebench r23 single core

Credit: Gary Sims / Android Authority

As with Geekbench, multi-core scoring won’t be revolutionary. It gets a score of 7,326, which interestingly beats the Intel Core i7-7700K and the Intel Core i7-1060NG7 (from the previous generation MacBook Air). But there are many processors with 16, 24, 32 or more cores. These naturally get higher scores.

G PC speed test

Speed ​​Test G is our custom performance test system that takes the best parts of traditional speed tests and combines them with the benefits of benchmarks. It mainly runs on Android (although there is an iOS version) and measures performance by launching a number of apps that perform both single-core and multi-core tasks. As in real life, not everything is single-core, but neither is everything multi-core.

Speed ​​Test G PC, a reinterpretation of Speed ​​Test G, this time for desktops and laptops, gives the MacBook Air 56 seconds of battery life. It’s faster than 2019 16-inch MBP with i9-9980HK and faster than 2019 13-inch MBP with i7-8569U.

Thermal throttling

The MacBook Air has no fan or active cooling. This makes it a perfect candidate for testing the thermal properties of the M1 chip. Does the processor slow down when it heats up? If so, by how much?

After a night in my office, the MacBook Air had a surface temperature of around 20 ° C. I then ran several programs to put maximum stress on the CPU and GPU. This included Speed ​​Test G PC and the Unity benchmark from the mobile version of Speed ​​Test G (but built for M1 on macOS). It was also connected to the electricity grid, generating heating as a by-product of charging. As the processor started to heat up, the bottom of the laptop got warm (due to passive cooling), particularly in the center towards the back. This heat slowly spreads outward from that center point.

Apple has managed to directly enter the small laptop and desktop market at a competitive level.

Gary Sims

After one hour of heavy load, the temperature on the underside of the device reached 41 ° C. Furthermore, the battery stopped charging (although it was not full or even close to the 80% smart battery level). This was due to the heat. There is likely to be software that detects the thermal situation and stops charging to ensure that the device does not overheat. Once the stress on the processor was reduced, the laptop started charging again.

While the laptop was nice and warm, I ran the multi-core test from Cinebench R23 again. The result was 7,110, down from 7,336, less than 5%.

This means that the processor generates heat under heavy loads, as does any processor, but passive cooling is able to disperse that heat efficiently. The overall performance impact is minimal.

Apple M1 tested: the verdict

Apple MacBook Air M1 closed showing the logo

Credit: Gary Sims / Android Authority

Apple has managed to directly enter the small laptop and desktop market at a competitive level. The M1 is fast. Is it the fastest chip on the planet? No, but it’s not designed to be. Is it the fastest processor ever used on a Mac laptop? Absolutely. Will it manage your workloads? Almost certainly.

Opinion: Don’t let the performance fool you, Apple’s M1 silicon is all about platform control

It also means that Apple has successfully taken the first steps in replacing Intel processors in its range of Macs. The next iteration of processors – the ones that will be used by iMacs – will be very interesting, as Apple will try to loosen the grip of Intel and AMD. on the land that is traditionally their stronghold. Can Apple do it? If the M1 is a measure of the company’s potential, the answer is a resounding yes.