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Apple's A11 Bionic SoC is kind of insane
By Thom Holwerda on 2017-09-13 16:40:52

With the iPhone X revealed, we really have to start talking about its processor and SoC - the A11 Bionic. It's a six-core chip with two high-power cores, four low-power cores, and this year, for the first time, includes an Apple-designed custom GPU. It also has what Apple calls a Neural Engine, designed to speed up tasks such as face recognition.

Apple already had a sizeable performance lead over competing chips from Qualcomm (what Android phones use) in single-core performance, and the A11 blasts past those in multicore performance, as well. Moreover, the A11 also performs better than quite a number of recent desktop Intel chips from the Core i5 and i7 range, which is a big deal.

For quite a few people it's really hard to grasp just how powerful these chips are - and to a certain extent, it feels like much of that power is wasted in an iPhone, which is mostly doing relatively mundane tasks anyway. Now that Apple is also buildings its own GPUs, it's not a stretch to imagine a number of mobile GPU makers feeling a bit... Uneasy.

At some point, these Apple Ax chips will find their way to something more sizable than phones and tablets.

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Read Comments: 1-10 -- 11-20 -- 21-30 -- 31-40 -- 41-50 -- 51-60 -- 61-62
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RE[4]: Performance
By Bill Shooter of Bul on 2017-09-13 20:26:29
You're not wrong, but you do have to admit that the power is wasted a bit on an iphone due to the efficiency and restrictions on background tasks.
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RE: Expect ARM Powered Macbook
By Bill Shooter of Bul on 2017-09-13 20:30:08
Arm powered macbook, yes. IOS on a macbook, no. It will still be MacOs. They are related in many many ways, and the distinction may slowly disappear, but large differences will remain for some time due to the difference in capabilities and expectations for the platforms.

Now macbook air / ipad pro is kind of melding into an in between state. Which is horrifying ungodly creation, that I would burn at the stake, if It wasn't so oddly beautiful. Like unicorn that mated with a crab.
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Comment by raom
By raom on 2017-09-13 20:39:38
I'm very surprised to see ARM with such single-core performance and at such low TDP's. It might be worth it building an ARM machine for emulators in the near future.
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RE: Performance
By tylerdurden on 2017-09-13 21:28:56
From a microarchitectural standpoint Apple's high performance cores are excellent, they really are that close to the contemporary lake core in IPC.

They're not going to outperform an i7 (it has more cores + SMT), but they're certainly giving a run for their money to the low power dual core i3s and i5s.

The performance of the iPad pro is quite eye opening, when compared with a microsoft surface tablet. The CPU performance diference is down to single digits/error margin. And have much better GPU performance, with a lower overall power consumption.

Their cost is significantly lower than the deep mobile intel parts. Hell, thank goodness that Apple is not selling those chips to 3rd parties, that would be problematic for intel.

I don't like apple as a company or care much for their products. But credit where credit is due, they basically came out of nowhere and they're now one of the top CPU/GPU architecture outfits in the world.
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RE[2]: Expect ARM Powered Macbook
By tylerdurden on 2017-09-13 21:37:41
The macbook air is probably going the way of the dodo. I'd bet there's an iPad pro with official keyboard solution in the near future as a replacement.
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RE: Expect ARM Powered Macbook
By Darkmage on 2017-09-13 22:18:51
Good luck getting Photoshop, and all the other apps other than the iLife suite and Apple's own software on that though. Microsoft has had no big successes on ARM and Apple hasn't shown that it can convince vendors to support multi-platform chips yet. Sure going PPC to Intel was smooth enough, but that was migrating towards the most popular chip brands not away from them.
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RE[2]: Expect ARM Powered Macbook
By Thom_Holwerda on 2017-09-13 23:00:33
> but that was migrating towards the most popular chip brands not away from them.

ARM is by far WAY more popular than Intel and x86.
Permalink - Score: 4
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RE[2]: Performance
By tidux on 2017-09-13 23:39:44
That's exactly why I do want them sold to third parties. Imagine a blob-free A11 based laptop for Linux, or a convertible that runs Android.
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RE[2]: Expect ARM Powered Macbook
By tidux on 2017-09-13 23:42:48
Thanks to Linux, FreeBSD, OpenJDK, and Free Software in general, there's already a bunch of applications that compile and run on ARMv8/arm64. If there's no Adobe on ARM, people will learn GIMP or Krita. Office suites, browsers, dev tools, media players, and basic desktop stuff all work fine on ARM. It's pretty much like where x86 desktop Linux was six or seven years ago, PLUS all the Android stuff that could conceivably run in an emulator or chroot.
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RE[2]: Performance
By Alfman on 2017-09-14 00:55:08
Thom Holwerda,

> Nothing suspect about it. That's Jeff Atwood, and those are GeekBench numbers. you can look them up yourself.

You can't always take benchmarks for granted, it takes time for independent benchmarks to confirm the results. I was browsing geekbench results and I was surprised at how inconsistent the results were even for different runs on the exact same CPU.

For example:
https://browser.geekbench.com/v4/...
https://browser.geekbench.com/v4/...

These huge discrepancies could mean there's a problem with the benchmark, or they're being bottlenecked by components other than the CPU, in which case it's not a good benchmark to use to strictly compare CPU performance.
Permalink - Score: 5

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