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Apple A10X: The dogma-destroyer


Active member
This post will explore whether Apple A10X performs better than a recent Intel Core-U processor.

"It [iPad Pro] offers far more power than most PC laptops"

A10X is a processor with 3 high performance Hurricane cores and 3 efficiency Zephyr cores. The clock speed of A10X is reported by Geekbench to be 2.3GHZ. The TDP is reported as 8 W. The SOC includes 12 Imagination Technologies graphics cores and probably other functions, although the LTE function is not included on die. It is manufactured on TSMC's very new (in 2017) CLN10FF process (which has similar characteristics to Intel's 14nm process). The A10X is available only in Apple iPad Pro tablets, which went on sale in June 2017. This is a fanless device which does not throttle the processor or get excessively warm.

Intel Core i7-7500U (with 2 Intel Cores, 7th generation) processor with hyperthreading, has performance intermediate between a standard dual core chip and a quad core chip. The TDP is 15W while the base frequency is 2.7 GHZ, which dynamically increases to a maximum of 3.5 GHZ. This processor needs a fan to keep it cool, although it can be configured for a 7.5 TDP at 800 MHZ base clock, which would likely enable fanless designs. TDP can also be configured up to 25 W which enables a 2.9GHZ base clock This chip is part of the Kaby Lake family of 14nm+ chips which became available in laptops in 2017. Prior to Kaby Lake, Intel produced similar Broadwell and Sky Lake parts on the earlier 14nm (non+) process. The graphics portion of this SOC uses Intel Gen 9 technology with 24 EUs.

Apple A10X benchmark results: Geekbench 4: 3904 single core, 9292 multicore.

Intel Core i7-7500U benchmark results: Geekbench 4: 3983 single core, 7698 multicore.

"The A9X was able to draw just about even with the Intel chips of the day, but with the A10X Apple is pulling firmly ahead and setting the pace for the rest of the chip industry (at least when it comes to thin, light, fanless devices). Intel is headed in the same direction with some of its "Coffee Lake" CPUs later this year--that family will include some quad-core CPUs that fit in devices where Intel currently only offers dual-core chips. That we're now waiting for Intel to catch up with Apple's performance is a sign of just how far Apple's in-house chips have come in the last few years." --Andrew Cunningham, Ars Technica.

Critical Analysis: Poking holes in Geekbench; what motivates the skeptics; how do you measure improvement, if not Geekbench?

Geekbench is a free download, and aggregates many datapoints. I don't think it can easily be faked that many A10X results exceed i7-7500U results. The Geekbench benchmark focuses narrowly on the processor performance, and in this narrow way (admitted to be entirely inadequate to overall user experience), provides a robust indication that Apple A10X is basically matching single core performance and exceeding multicore performance of Intel 15 W chips.

This is a big bold claim and skeptics won't easily accept it. They will point to the future (quad core Intel 15 W chips are gaining market share; Core i7-7500U is a dual core in contrast), point to the differences that invalidate an apples to apples comparison, such as cooling, operating system, and process differences. All valid points.

However, I don't know how you measure improvements in technology, comparing Apple to Intel, other than using Geekbench. Skeptics prefer the certainty of their skepticism to the uncertainty of dogma-upsetting new information. I prefer to accept some broader certainties: Mobile technology is advancing fast, at least in the Apple ecosystem; PC technology is advancing more slowly than at any time in the last 20 years; and given these trends, it is likely that Apple will eventually match the Intel 15 W laptop experience, and may already be there today.
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Does anyone know how an A11 performs on an algorithm such as matrix inversion that is hard to parallelize. Here is a comment from MacRumor:

"Though the iPhone X and the iPhone 8 offer impressive Geekbench scores, how that translates to real world performance remains to be seen. According to analyst Dan Matte, IPC (instructions per cycle) improvements are "relatively modest" and Geekbench scores should be ignored."
URL:A11 Bionic Chip in iPhone 8 and iPhone X on Par With 13-Inch MacBook Pro, Outperforms iPad Pro - Mac Rumors