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Apple walks Ars through the iPad Pro's A12X
By Thom Holwerda on 2018-11-08 00:52:36

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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Read Comments: 1-10 -- 11-20 -- 21-30 -- 31-39
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RE: They say it's aimed at professionals...
By darknexus on 2018-11-08 21:09:37
> ... 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.
Permalink - Score: 1
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RE[4]: Comparing processors
By Alfman on 2018-11-08 21:15:04
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.
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RE[5]: Comparing processors
By viton on 2018-11-08 23:27:33
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
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RE[6]: Comparing processors
By Alfman on 2018-11-08 23:38:55
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
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RE[2]: They say it's aimed at professionals...
By gan17 on 2018-11-08 23:54:18
..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
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RE[7]: Comparing processors
By viton on 2018-11-09 00:47:23
It is clearly seen in anandtech iPhone XS review / and by analyzing geekbench subtests.
Some microarch details are here
https://www.anandtech.com/show/13...

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
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RE[8]: Comparing processors
By Alfman on 2018-11-09 01:10:25
viton,

> It is clearly seen in anandtech iPhone XS review / and by analyzing geekbench subtests.
Some microarch details are here
https://www.anandtech.com/show/13......

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).


Sorry if I missed it, but I don't see any benchmarks there comparing the A12 to any intel processors. There's no denying it runs circles around other ARM processors, but that's clearly not what we're talking about here.

If you want to say the A12 is faster than intel's desktop processors, then I'm fine with that assuming you can provide benchmarks that show it. However until then I'm going to believe the current evidence that shows the A12 is slower than intel processors. I'm not looking for theoretical arguments, just unbiased hard data.


I actually am a big fan of progress on the ARM side of things, I think it'll be great having more competition for intel at the high end...by far the biggest con with intel CPUs is that they are so power hungry. Nevertheless, if you want the fastest CPUs available, intel wins on all the benchmarks I've seen. So I'm placing the onus on those of you who are claiming ARM is now faster to provide the benchmarks to prove it. I think this is a reasonable request.

Edited 2018-11-09 01:18 UTC
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RE[9]: Comparing processors
By viton on 2018-11-09 01:38:41
There are SPEC2006 scores in anandtech article.
You can compare it with your favourite intel processor.

For example SPECINT2006 on i7-8650U (up to 4.2GHz)
compiled with real-world compiler:

https://forums.anandtech.com/thre...

https://homes.cs.washington.edu/~...
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RE[10]: Comparing processors
By Alfman on 2018-11-09 02:39:12
viton,

> There are SPEC2006 scores in anandtech article.
You can compare it with your favourite intel processor.

For example SPECINT2006 on i7-8650U (up to 4.2GHz)
compiled with real-world compiler:

https://forums.anandtech.com/thre......

https://homes.cs.washington.edu/~...


areilly already posted that link, and I already responded here.
http://www.osnews.com/thread?664...

Don't get me wrong, it's impressive, but it's comparing apple's latest generation with an intel processor from two generations ago.

If we lookup some benchmarks for the i7-7700k and compare them to the next generation i7-8700k, then it should come as no surprise that intel itself was able to beat the i7-7700k used in your link.

https://www.cpubenchmark.net/cpu....
i7-7700K @ 4.20GHz
single threaded=2583
mutli threaded=12041

https://www.cpubenchmark.net/cpu....
i7-8700K @ 3.70GHz
single threaded=2703
multi threaded=15965

It's impressive that intel got higher scores even while decreasing the core frequencies! And we're not even looking at the 9th gen processors that just came out.


The A12 is nothing to sneeze at, I am impressed...but if you want to make a factual assertion that it's actually faster than intel's fastest desktop processors, then I'm going to continue to insist that you provide evidence that shows a side by side comparison with the latest generation CPUs. If you cannot do this, then it doesn't pass my fact checking standards enough to accept the claims as true.
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cynical exploitation
By unclefester on 2018-11-09 03:42:49
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/3...

During the Motorola days Apple was caught making totally BS performance claims.
Permalink - Score: 3

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