Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 8th Nov 2018 00:52 UTC
Apple

Apple's latest iOS devices aren't perfect, but even the platform's biggest detractors recognize that the company is leading the market when it comes to mobile CPU and GPU performance - not by a little, but by a lot. It's all done on custom silicon designed within Apple - a different approach than that taken by any mainstream Android or Windows device.

But not every consumer - even the "professional" target consumer of the iPad Pro - really groks the fact this gap is so big. How is this possible? What does this architecture actually look like? Why is Apple doing this, and how did it get here?

After the hardware announcements last week, Ars sat down with Anand Shimpi from Hardware Technologies at Apple and Apple's Senior VP of Marketing Phil Schiller to ask. We wanted to hear exactly what Apple is trying to accomplish by making its own chips and how the A12X is architected. It turns out that the iPad Pro's striking, console-level graphics performance and many of the other headlining features in new Apple devices (like FaceID and various augmented-reality applications) may not be possible any other way.

During Apple's event last week, the company didn't even mention Intel once, and profusely made it very clear just how much faster the A12X is compared to all other laptops - even its own - that obviously all run on Intel (or AMD) processors. It seems like with this exclusive Ars Technica article, Apple is continuing its A12X marketing blitz, which all just further solidifies that Intel's days inside Apple's Macs are almost over.

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Comparing processors
by Alfman on Thu 8th Nov 2018 03:35 UTC
Alfman
Member since:
2011-01-28

Thom Holwerda,

During Apple's event last week, the company didn't even mention Intel once, and profusely made it very clear just how much faster the A12X is compared to all other laptops - even its own - that obviously all run on Intel (or AMD) processors. It seems like with this exclusive Ars Technica article, Apple is continuing its A12X marketing blitz, which all just further solidifies that Intel's days inside Apple's Macs are almost over.


The benchmarks show the ipad beating other devices in the mobile form factor, but from what I see, none of the benchmarks show it beating the latest intel laptops. Did I miss something? That's not to say the ipad's performance isn't impressive, but how did you arrive at your conclusions?

Macbook pros are handicapped by relatively poor heat dissipation, which results in CPU throttling. I posted a link of this not too long ago.
http://www.osnews.com/thread?664630

So the MBP may hinder intel's CPU in that it cannot reach it's peak performance due to throttling.

Edited 2018-11-08 03:38 UTC

Reply Score: 5

RE: Comparing processors
by areilly on Thu 8th Nov 2018 05:16 UTC in reply to "Comparing processors"
areilly Member since:
2015-04-07

The A12X is managing those results at (probably) no more than 2GHz and no fan. Even the thermally-limited MBP laptops have fans, and the ones that don't (MacBook etc) clock very slow.

I read a blog post yesterday in which a CS researcher ran his code (single threaded) on his phone (A12) and found it faster than his i7-7700k workstation. Not per cycle, but in absolute terms. 2GHz vs about 4. Most likely due to the A12's enormous on-chip cache, which is mostly there to support GPU and imaging functions, but they're definitely in the ballpark of being "fast enough".

Here's the post. Anecdote isn't data, and YMMV, but still interesting:
https://homes.cs.washington.edu/~bornholt/post/z3-iphone.html

Reply Score: 3

RE[2]: Comparing processors
by Alfman on Thu 8th Nov 2018 06:15 UTC in reply to "RE: Comparing processors"
Alfman Member since:
2011-01-28

areilly,

The A12X is managing those results at (probably) no more than 2GHz and no fan. Even the thermally-limited MBP laptops have fans, and the ones that don't (MacBook etc) clock very slow.

I read a blog post yesterday in which a CS researcher ran his code (single threaded) on his phone (A12) and found it faster than his i7-7700k workstation. Not per cycle, but in absolute terms. 2GHz vs about 4. Most likely due to the A12's enormous on-chip cache, which is mostly there to support GPU and imaging functions, but they're definitely in the ballpark of being "fast enough".

Here's the post. Anecdote isn't data, and YMMV, but still interesting:
https://homes.cs.washington.edu/~bornholt/post/z3-iphone.html


Yeah, there's no doubt ARM chips are making lots of progress. I've been eager to get ARM for datacenter applications for years now. On performance per watt, ARM has been excelling for a while, but overall performance was still slow. I think if companies like apple throw enough money at the problem, ARM eventually could dethrone intel as the performance king. But it would be too early to make that claim until the latest generation ARM processor is shown to beat the latest generation intel processor. Your link puts apple roughly 1.5years behind intel in terms of performance, which isn't bad at all, but I'm a bit confused by Thom suggesting that it already happened.

Reply Score: 4

RE[3]: Comparing processors
by viton on Thu 8th Nov 2018 17:20 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Comparing processors"
viton Member since:
2005-08-09

Intel single thread performance is stalled in 2015. They shelve the same microarchitecture all these years. Even unreleased second gen 10nm chip IceLake is only barely faster. All they can do is to pump frequency at excessive power like i9-9900

Edited 2018-11-08 17:23 UTC

Reply Score: 2

RE[4]: Comparing processors
by Alfman on Thu 8th Nov 2018 21:15 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Comparing processors"
Alfman Member since:
2011-01-28

viton,

Intel single thread performance is stalled in 2015. They shelve the same microarchitecture all these years. Even unreleased second gen 10nm chip IceLake is only barely faster. All they can do is to pump frequency at excessive power like i9-9900


I agree, single thread performance on x86 has been stalled for some time. It's increasingly difficult to move to smaller fab processes and the out of order speculative execution units that make single threads faster have come under attack by spectre style vulnerabilities (that I'm sure intel is still dealing with behind closed doors). Upping the frequency is the most effective way to increase single threaded performance, but it requires much more power and drastic measures to keep rigs cool ;)


Meanwhile ARM processors continue making great strides on performance, however since they're still technically behind intel I predict they'll be bumping into many of the same problems when/if they catch up. It's why I've been a proponent of alternative architectures where we're much less dependent upon single threaded performance in the first place.

The good news is we're making strong progress with GPGPU and other neural net co-processors that scale far better than single threaded cores ever could. The biggest impediment is really getting software developers on board because we're so resistant to change, haha. There's just so much software that relies on optimizing the speed of individual CPU cores.

Reply Score: 2

RE[5]: Comparing processors
by viton on Thu 8th Nov 2018 23:27 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: Comparing processors"
viton Member since:
2005-08-09

however since they're still technically behind intel
This is not correct.
A12 is 7-wide and has 8 times more L1/L2 cache per core.
32K->128KB
256KB->4MB
It is much faster than Skylake per cycle.

Edited 2018-11-08 23:28 UTC

Reply Score: 1

RE[6]: Comparing processors
by Alfman on Thu 8th Nov 2018 23:38 UTC in reply to "RE[5]: Comparing processors"
Alfman Member since:
2011-01-28

viton,

This is not correct.
A12 is 7-wide and has 8 times more L1/L2 cache per core.
32K->128KB
256KB->4MB
It is much faster than Skylake per cycle.




Well then provide a source for your information comparing the fastest A12 processors to the fastest intel processors.

Edited 2018-11-08 23:58 UTC

Reply Score: 2

RE[7]: Comparing processors
by viton on Fri 9th Nov 2018 00:47 UTC in reply to "RE[6]: Comparing processors"
viton Member since:
2005-08-09

It is clearly seen in anandtech iPhone XS review / and by analyzing geekbench subtests.
Some microarch details are here
https://www.anandtech.com/show/13392/the-iphone-xs-xs-max-review-unv...

BTW in a instruction latency table you can note that ARM Cortex A76 FPU is better than basically... everything. 2 cycle FP ADD latency @ 3GHz
Skylake ADDSS latency is 4 cycles.

I have my own microarch benchmark for iOS (in progress).

Edited 2018-11-09 00:54 UTC

Reply Score: 1

RE[5]: Comparing processors
by zima on Tue 13th Nov 2018 21:53 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: Comparing processors"
zima Member since:
2005-07-06

It's why I've been a proponent of alternative architectures where we're much less dependent upon single threaded performance in the first place.

Alt archs such as?...

Reply Score: 2

RE: Comparing processors
by ksec on Thu 8th Nov 2018 05:30 UTC in reply to "Comparing processors"
ksec Member since:
2013-04-04

The MBP throttling was solved, it was somehow Apple failed to include the power management firmware when they ship it, causing the CPU to overdrive and constantly throttle itself.

The MBP CPU has an TDP of 45W, and Apple designed their MBP to dissipate 45W of heat from CPU. That is compared to less than 10W of the A12X in iPad Pro.

So it is pretty impressive. If you look up the MacBook Benchmarks, which is also an fanless design, the A12X is indeed faster.

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: Comparing processors
by Alfman on Thu 8th Nov 2018 07:37 UTC in reply to "RE: Comparing processors"
Alfman Member since:
2011-01-28

ksec,

The MBP throttling was solved, it was somehow Apple failed to include the power management firmware when they ship it, causing the CPU to overdrive and constantly throttle itself.


That's interesting, this is what I found about it...
https://www.overclock3d.net/news/systems/apple_fixes_2018_macbook_pr...
Following extensive performance testing under numerous workloads, we've identified that there is a missing digital key in the firmware that impacts the thermal management system and could drive clock speeds down under heavy thermal loads on the new MacBook Pro. A bug fix is included in today's macOS High Sierra 10.13.6 Supplemental Update and is recommended.

We apologize to any customer who has experienced less than optimal performance on their new systems. Customers can expect the new 15-inch MacBook Pro to be up to 70% faster, and the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar to be up to 2X faster, as shown in the performance results on our website.


This suggests that the problem was that the CPU clock speeds were simply being held too low, however if you look at the benchmarking video I linked to very closely, the problem isn't merely that the clock speed was too low, but that the CPU's temperature instantly shot up to 100C at around 3.6Ghz and had to throttle immediately thereafter.

So, even if apple did identify a bug keeping the CPU from reaching the CPU's turbo frequency of 4.1Ghz, that doesn't really address the CPU running too hot in the first place and there are tons of reports across the internet confirming the problem.

The MBP CPU has an TDP of 45W, and Apple designed their MBP to dissipate 45W of heat from CPU. That is compared to less than 10W of the A12X in iPad Pro.


I did some more digging and found a guy who tested his MBP before and after apple's update. True to apple's word, they did a much better job at regulating the clock cycles.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ULuezSgjwYE

However you'll note that his macbook pro is still thermal throttling after the patch. Around 98C at a clock speed of around 3.1Ghz (the CPU's official turbo speed is 3.8GHz). So while apple did manage to bump up performance a tad by fixing the wild clock cycle jitter problems, it still isn't able to deliver the full performance of the CPU due to thermal throttling. And consider his macbook pro is only fitted with a lower power i5 processor with only 28 watts of heat dissipation.
https://ark.intel.com/products/135935/Intel-Core-i5-8259U-Processor-...

The fact is that the MBP can't even dissipate enough heat to sufficiently cool a midrange i5 processor. We have to be honest with ourselves, the macbook pro wasn't engineered to run high performing processors. Sure apple may sell them to people who choose to pay the premium, but it doesn't mean they will actually get the CPU's rated performance since they're constantly throttling. This is exactly what I was seeing on an earlier generation MBP.

So it is pretty impressive. If you look up the MacBook Benchmarks, which is also an fanless design, the A12X is indeed faster.


Can you provide a link? Despite the MBP's throttled performance as discussed, the benchmarks in the article still show the ipadpro being beat by the MBP in every single category except "memory". Am I missing something? Did apple say that the A12X beats the MBP somewhere?

Reply Score: 4

RE[3]: Comparing processors
by avgalen on Thu 8th Nov 2018 08:15 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Comparing processors"
avgalen Member since:
2010-09-23

"So it is pretty impressive. If you look up the MacBook Benchmarks, which is also an fanless design, the A12X is indeed faster.


Can you provide a link? Despite the MBP's throttled performance as discussed, the benchmarks in the article still show the ipadpro being beat by the MBP in every single category except "memory". Am I missing something? Did apple say that the A12X beats the MBP somewhere?
"
The link is in the original article where the A12X beats the MacBook (with 2 year old CPU's as I point out in another reply). MacBook isn't the same as MacBook Pro!

Thanks for the reminder on the "MBP cannot dissipate enough heat on the higher CPU-versions making those upgrades a bad idea"

Reply Score: 4

RE[4]: Comparing processors
by Alfman on Thu 8th Nov 2018 08:37 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Comparing processors"
Alfman Member since:
2011-01-28

avgalen,

The link is in the original article where the A12X beats the MacBook (with 2 year old CPU's as I point out in another reply). MacBook isn't the same as MacBook Pro!


You're right, I didn't notice ksec dropped that after talking about "pro".

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Comparing processors
by avgalen on Thu 8th Nov 2018 07:44 UTC in reply to "RE: Comparing processors"
avgalen Member since:
2010-09-23

The MBP CPU has an TDP of 45W, and Apple designed their MBP to dissipate 45W of heat from CPU. That is compared to less than 10W of the A12X in iPad Pro.
And how does the A12X compare to that CPU for real world performance?
If you look up the MacBook Benchmarks, which is also an fanless design, the A12X is indeed faster.
which version of that MacBook? https://ark.intel.com/compare/95441,95452,97538
* 1.2 GHz dual-core Intel Core m3-7Y32 Kaby Lake processor (Turbo Boost up to 3.0GHz)
* 1.3 GHz dual-core Intel Core i5-7Y54 Kaby Lake processor (Turbo Boost up to 3.2 GHz)
* 1.4 GHz dual-core Intel Core i7-7Y75 Kaby Lake processor (Turbo Boost up to 3.6GHz)
All of those are 4.5W CPU's, so half of the A12X right? They are also 2 year old parts that really shouldn't deserve the name i5 and i7 and shouldn't be in a laptop that starts at 1500 Euro and goes up quickly in price from there.

(* haven't read the article yet)

Reply Score: 4

RE: Comparing processors
by unclefester on Thu 8th Nov 2018 06:43 UTC in reply to "Comparing processors"
unclefester Member since:
2007-01-13


The benchmarks show the ipad beating other devices in the mobile form factor, but from what I see, none of the benchmarks show it beating the latest intel laptops. Did I miss something? That's not to say the ipad's performance isn't impressive, but how did you arrive at your conclusions?


It is just cherry picking - single core performance using synthetic benchmarks.

In the real world no mobile chip is capable of sustained maximum output.

Reply Score: 6

Customised silicon at what cost?
by cpcf on Thu 8th Nov 2018 04:34 UTC
cpcf
Member since:
2016-09-09

Customising the silicon makes the upgrade path hardware dependent. This isn't an FPGA that you can just flash in the field, new features and performance implemented in hardware not code.

Alarm bells should be ringing!

Look forward to advertising of great new features, that require the purchase of the next model!

Reply Score: 4

BlueofRainbow
Member since:
2009-01-06

The various benchmarks point to the total custom hardware solution put together by Apple and centered on the A12X beats everything else in the smart phone and tablet categories. It is not so clear-cut for the notebook category.

Have we come again full circle and, like the Amiga of old, are best served by hardware which has been designed as a system for the intended purpose? It is worth noting that the design could probably be described as "Asymmetric Multi-Processing" in which the various processing units are dissimilar in design and function.

Interestingly, the latest flagship smart phone from Google, the Pixel 3/3XL, appears to be severely lacking in terms of raw processing power. Given this, it would not be surprising if Google does not have a not-yet-publicized custom hardware design project to go hand-in-hand with Fuchsia.

I am not quite sure how to frame the benchmarks comparing the A12X devices to notebooks. Heat control throttling is definitively an important factor - yet likely not the only one.

Reply Score: 3

Who is it for
by avgalen on Thu 8th Nov 2018 08:34 UTC
avgalen
Member since:
2010-09-23

The iPad Pro really has me confused. They are far too powerful and expensive for a pure consumption device. The regular iPads/Chromebooks/Android-tablets/etc have that market covered.
They are also far too limited for a general production device, both by connectivity, screensize, software and price. In the previous iOS release they tried to make the software a bit more useful (splitscreen) but they have a long way to go and really didn't improve with this release. Connectivity and screensize are now slightly improved with the USB-C/Thunderbolt port, but it is up to the app (not the OS) to support hardware at the moment. Just connected an external disk and accessing the filesystem is still not possible unless the app supports it.
The iPad Pro is still "the future", but it really seems that the hardware is now far ahead of the software.

Of course there will be niches where an app-developer makes an excellent app that makes great use of the iPad Pro and there will be a user group for whom this makes perfect sense. For that group the price will not be a problem either, but for now:
* Too expensive for consumption
* Too limited for production
* ...so who is this product for?

Reply Score: 5

RE: Who is it for
by A.Dev on Thu 8th Nov 2018 13:42 UTC in reply to "Who is it for"
A.Dev Member since:
2017-10-10

Artists.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Who is it for
by thedaemon on Thu 8th Nov 2018 15:10 UTC in reply to "RE: Who is it for"
thedaemon Member since:
2008-04-04

This is exactly it, artists. It's why I bought an iPad Pro. They are finally fast enough to handle much of the type of artist based software that I use and the Apple Pencil is as good as Wacom. Still no 3d software solution... come on Zbrush or someone else. Port to iOS!

Reply Score: 2

RE: Who is it for
by tidux on Mon 12th Nov 2018 21:26 UTC in reply to "Who is it for"
tidux Member since:
2011-08-13

The Neural Net chip alone makes me certain they're going to scale this up to at the very least Mac laptops. That's the sort of chip you really want available -inside- your developer machine for best results.

Reply Score: 2

risc-v
by cipri on Thu 8th Nov 2018 10:22 UTC
cipri
Member since:
2007-02-15

I guess at least now it should start to be clearer to the masses, that intel has good chances to start loosing market share in the near future. There are systems that depend on legacy apps/code, but I guess the masses will start moving away from x86 . Years ago I was betting on ARM replacing x86, but now with the success of risc-v I must say that risc-v looks a lot more promising to me than arm.

Reply Score: 1

Geekbench
by XtoF on Thu 8th Nov 2018 14:20 UTC
XtoF
Member since:
2015-01-24

All the CPU benchmarks are based on Geekbench. How faithful is it?

If I remember well, a few years ago, Linus Torvald was very critical of GB3. He explained that the code was not general enough and gave too much weight to algorithms that may be hardware assisted.

Also how long do the benchs run? I mean, mobile SoCs are tuned to excel during relatively short times before throttling. If geekbench does not run long enough, it may not be a representative load. For instance, when I import and build previews of photos with Lightroom, the process lasts at the very least 15 minutes.

I know that Apple did an incredible job and that the A12 is in another league than the other ARM based cpus on the market.

But I don't believe in magic and I'm always skeptical when I read that it can compare favorably to the latest and actively cooled Intel CPU. This assertion is always supported by Geekbench. I understand that the architecture may be more efficient and that Intel is still stuck at 14nm, but I doubt that it is enough to close the wattage gap.

Reply Score: 4

They say it's aimed at professionals...
by gan17 on Thu 8th Nov 2018 14:54 UTC
gan17
Member since:
2008-06-03

... and yet they remove the 3.5mm headphone jack. I'm guessing audio professionals weren't a consideration. Wireless/Bluetooth might be what the fashionistas want, but they still haven't (not even Apple with its W chips) gotten over the latency issues.

Edited 2018-11-08 14:55 UTC

Reply Score: 3

darknexus Member since:
2008-07-15

... and yet they remove the 3.5mm headphone jack. I'm guessing audio professionals weren't a consideration.

You think audio professionals care two craps about the 3.5mm jack? Just get a USB C (or lightning before that) audio interface with XLR/Optical/quarter-inchers/whatever else you need, and you're covered. No audio professional, ever, uses a built-in 3.5mm jack on a computer or tablet. Not a chance. You use external audio interfaces both to eliminate interference and to have far better DAC and ADC chips than the built-in ones could ever give you. Audio professionals aren't pitching a fit over this one, sorry.

Reply Score: 1

gan17 Member since:
2008-06-03

..and I don't give a two craps (see, two can play the rude-ass c*nt game) about your misinformed opinion either. I personally know 3 electro/house producers in my suburb alone who put together beats and loops on the train or in bed on a daily basis. One of them even exports the exact same synth tracks over to to Ableton because he claims the sound from the KORG ARP iPad app he uses sounds superior to what his desktop DAW's equivalent duophonic synth plug-ins achieve. Yes, they all eventually go back to their iMacs with Ableton and Focusrite audio interfaces and studio monitors and whatnot, but a lot of their initial composition takes place on their iPads with wired headphones. One of them was throwing a fit over it today morning, as a matter of fact, and plans to stay on his old (non Pro) iPad till it dies now.

Edited 2018-11-08 23:58 UTC

Reply Score: 3

tylerdurden Member since:
2009-03-17

No audio professional, ever, uses a built-in 3.5mm jack on a computer or tablet.



you'd be surprised how many DJs use the audio out jack still...

Reply Score: 2

Comment by agentj
by agentj on Thu 8th Nov 2018 19:22 UTC
agentj
Member since:
2005-08-19

Pro ? What's "pro" about macbooks or iPads? No ports ? Glue ? Mediocre components and build quality ?

Reply Score: 4

Hm?
by zima on Thu 8th Nov 2018 19:31 UTC
zima
Member since:
2005-07-06

It's all done on custom silicon designed within Apple - a different approach than that taken by any mainstream Android or Windows device.

Samsung and Huawei also make their own chips, perhaps not typically used in flagship, but definetely mainstream... (well, less custom from the reference ARM designs)

Reply Score: 4

cynical exploitation
by unclefester on Fri 9th Nov 2018 03:42 UTC
unclefester
Member since:
2007-01-13

Have you considered Apple may have cynically designed a chip specifically to exploit a (worthless) benchmark?

In 2105 Apple also claimed spectacular Geekbench results for the iPad pro. They never translated to the real world or any other benchmark.

Tested: Why the iPad Pro really isn't as fast a laptop
One benchmark makes it look good. A lot of other benchmarks show a different story. Get all the details here.

https://www.pcworld.com/article/3006268/tablets/tested-why-the-ipad-...

During the Motorola days Apple was caught making totally BS performance claims.

Reply Score: 3

RE: cynical exploitation
by Alfman on Fri 9th Nov 2018 04:34 UTC in reply to "cynical exploitation"
Alfman Member since:
2011-01-28

unclefester,

Cannot upvote you, so +1.

I agree completely. Here's another very recent case of benchmark manipulation, this time giving intel a completely unfair advantage over AMD by disabling it's cores.

https://www.theinquirer.net/inquirer/news/3064495/intel-i9-9900k-vs-...

There are so many ways to cheat, like using better ram for yourself while using sub-par ram in competing hardware. This is why I'm reluctant to take first-party benchmarks/scores at face value. Having more benchmarks collected independently in real world conditions is better than relying on manufacturer sponsored benchmarks.

It's also useful to test with different algorithms because different processors have different strengths and weaknesses. For example, intel is great at number crunching, but AMD may have better memory architecture. We can't get a good picture of these differences when we aggregate scores into a single variable.

Edited 2018-11-09 04:39 UTC

Reply Score: 3

It will only get better
by d3vi1 on Fri 9th Nov 2018 15:18 UTC
d3vi1
Member since:
2006-01-28

First of all A10X is a 5W TDP part (not a 10W). Second of all, the GPU is an important part of that TDP. If you take that out, you get a 3W octo-core CPU so around 0,5-0,7W per high performance core. If you were to put those cores at 5GHz, they would go at 3-4W per core. So it's quite possible to get 64 cores at 5GHz in the sub200W territory.

Right now UltraSPARC gets the crown with 32Core x 8Thread x 5GHz(1280pseudoGHz) in 180W. Intel can only claim 28 x 2 x 2,3GHz (128pseudoGHz). ARM has a real chance to come up with a 64 x 4 x 5GHz and it would blow intel out of the water completely in single-thread and multi-thread.

VMware already has ported ESXi to ARM and they have builds that run on the Raspberry PI. RHEL is available on ARM. UEFI is available on ARM. Windows is available on ARM. XNU is available on ARM. The whole industry is ready to migrate to ARM quite easily. It's just a recompile away.

I can't wait for ARM to become mainstream in the desktop, laptop and server area.

Reply Score: 2

RE: It will only get better
by Kochise on Fri 9th Nov 2018 19:22 UTC in reply to "It will only get better"
Kochise Member since:
2006-03-03