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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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RE[7]: Expect ARM Powered Macbook
By Sidux on 2017-09-14 07:31:17
RISC/ARM has been available for decades. Even Apple was not using Intel x86 cpus. The main reason they did this was for compatibility purposes and attracting lots of developers.
Main problem with Unix these days is that Linux does pretty much everything at fraction of a cost.
IBM, Oracle, HP and I guess even Apple are fully aware they have to let it go at some point.
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RE[2]: Comment by yoshi314@gmail.com
By yoshi314@gmail.com on 2017-09-14 07:47:10
i just guess at their pricing given their markup on their products.

android phones tend to have budget models, which are cheap. and these models are good enough for what i want out of them. i just moved on from android 2.x phone, mostly because screen was broken.

i'd rather pay significantly less for a device that will last just as long. i do not need all the bells and whistles.

also, your perception of apple support is probably predicated on being in us. i live in a different part of the world, and situation is not quite as you describe, and apple's pricing is just plain ridiculous.
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RE[8]: Expect ARM Powered Macbook
By Kochise on 2017-09-14 09:54:07
You cannot always ask premium prices for just a posix recompilation. Sometimes you have to add real value.
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RE: Apple to "apple"?
By Ford Prefect on 2017-09-14 10:02:42
These chips all still compute the same numbers for us. You can run GNU/Linux on ARM and use most of the same software as on x86. Also the ARM processors are 64bit now, just like x86.

So it is fair to compare the performance of these chips. Maybe there are some technicialities in the Geekbench score computation that make the comparison unfair? Also I would like to mention that performance/watt is probably the more interesting score these days than raw performance. Which should be even more advantageous for the ARM processors. In theory an apple to apple comparison is possible.
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RE[7]: Expect ARM Powered Macbook
By ahferroin7 on 2017-09-14 12:37:28
> With either wasm or electron, it's trivial to use the full extent of a platform's power

Haha, no.

You can't even use the full extent of a platform's power in Java (at least, if you plan on compiling to JAR files instead of native executables), using it in Electron is a complete joke, and anyone trying to say otherwise either is being paid to do so, or has no idea what that many levels of indirection does to performance. Electron is why VS Code and Discord's Desktop app get such crap performance compared to natively compiled tools. The same has conventionally applied to things built on Adobe AIR and Mozilla's XULRunner.

WebAssembly makes things better, but it's still limited in performance because of the translation overhead.

Portability is the enemy of performance. Portable builds of software written using Java, or a CIL language, or even things like WebAssembly, are all interpreted code, not machine code. That hurts performance. In fact, the only case I've ever seen where that can perform better is Lua, and that only applies in very specific situations where the algorithm being used happens to be more efficiently implementable in Lua's interpreter runtime than whatever native runtime you're comparing it to.

By the same virtue, iOS is so efficient because it's single platform. macOS is as well. Conversely, Android supports at least 3 CPU architectures, not accounting for varying bit width (x86, MIPS, and ARM), and it runs on a kernel that supports a lot more (SPARC, POWER, SH, Alpha, HPPA, M68k, S/390, RISC-V, and more than a dozen architectures most people have never heard of).

Note that I'm not saying that portability is bad, just that it's not always the best answer (especially if it's not a client node you're running on).
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RE[8]: Expect ARM Powered Macbook
By Alfman on 2017-09-14 13:40:51
shotsman,

> Ah, the mythical Web based thingy.

Naturally it relies upon an always on internet connection that charges by the bit for data going over it.

So there I am on a shoot and take a whole bunch of images with my new Nikon D850 (47MP). Say around 24Gb for a decent day in the field.
1) How long to copy that lot up to the cloud for the cloud version of Lightroom to work on it?
2) How much will that cost me from the middle of the Amazon rain forrest? Do you want an extra arm with that?

Sure, for a lot of people the cloud/web versions will work. But for a huge percentage of Photographers out of the studio? Forget it.
Have laptop, will travel and process images.


Yeah, I was hearing on the news about people who got their power back after the hurricanes but still had no internet or cell service. Internet may be extremely limited for some until the infrastructure is fixed. Obviously this is a major failure mode for "cloud apps" that would otherwise work if they were local apps (things like GPS could be extremely useful, but your screwed if you rely on an online service like google maps).

Of course these are drastic circumstances, but the cloud services can and do fail under normal circumstances too, ie amazon outages, google outages, microsoft outages, isp outages... One of the very few games I reluctantly bought off steam was a multiplayer party game from jackinthebox games. I thought would be fun to use during a holiday party. Low and behold, the jackinthebox cloud service was connecting and disconnecting all night. This failure mode would not have been an issue with a local version. And despite the fact that I own a perpetual license, it will stop working whenever they deem to take down the service. With local software, you can run it on your terms, but with remote "cloud" software, you become completely dependent.


Technology has gone between local versus "cloud" since the easiest mainframe days. The main difference was that back then the trends were motivated by cost and technological factors. These days the decision to have remote services is often made for advertising, snooping, and marketing reasons even when it conflicts with robust engineering.

Edited 2017-09-14 13:42 UTC
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Smartphone could be your only PC
By fabrica64 on 2017-09-14 14:03:15
Real innovation would be Apple turning an iPhone into a full PC, using iOS on mobility and macOS with wireless display, mouse and keyboard in office.
Technically is quite simple and Apple has the capability to realize a good hybrid OS
Really surprised nobody is doing that.
Microsoft tried it but apparently nobody is interested in something that would potentially hurt PC/tables sales.

Edited 2017-09-14 14:09 UTC
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RE[4]: Performance
By bryanv on 2017-09-14 15:19:56
Anyone else remember when a new OS X release meant that your existing hardware preformed _better_?

Yeah, I sure do miss those days.
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RE[2]: Apple to "apple"?
By JLF65 on 2017-09-14 15:29:09
Pure benchmarks have always had a problem with working better on some architectures than others, making some CPUs look better than they are. The best benchmarks are a large group of actual tasks: how long to encode this video; how long to compress this file; how long to crunch this block of data; how long to reformat this document; how fast does this game run. Most sites have gotten much better about this.
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RE: Smartphone could be your only PC
By bryanv on 2017-09-14 15:49:33
Right?!

Because the only way I'm going to pay $1000 for a phone, is if for another $400 in peripherals I can have it replace (completely) my $1500 laptop I use for development.

I would imagine some sort of clamshell dock device that I carry with a bigger screen, full keyboard, and a batterypack.
Permalink - Score: 3

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