Arm Processors with Mac Pro Level Performance Possible Today

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Former Apple executive and Be Inc. founder Jean-Louis Gassée explores the possibility of Apple's move to Arm-based Macs in the near future.


The speculation comes amidst of increasing rumors that Apple will be launching Arm-based Macs as early as 2021.

Gassée explains he was previously skeptical about the ability for Arm-based processors to achieve performance parity with current Intel offerings, but now says he was "wrong". Gassée points to a startup called Ampere Computing that offers high-power Arm-based processors that compete head-to-head with high-end Intel chips:
Ampere top of the line chips consume less power, about 210 watts, than a competing Xeon CPU needing as much as 400 wats, for about the same amount of computing power — hence investors' interest in a device that could progressively supplant Intel products in tens of millions of servers around the world. Ampere shows us that the ARM architecture can yield the class of chips a Mac Pro would need.
Apple, of course, designs its own custom Arm processors, but it seems at least one other company is pushing the limits of performance with the Arm architecture. Apple's custom processors have quickly ramped up to performance that is comparable to its recent Mac laptops powered by Intel processors.

Serious rumors about Apple replacing Intel chips with Arm chips in its Macs started in 2018 with a detailed report from Bloomberg. The most recent rumor has placed the transition at stating in early 2021.

Article Link: Arm Processors with Mac Pro Level Performance Possible Today
 
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jcswim312

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Mar 25, 2008
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Saw this article on Engadget this weekend


The Intel processors have always worked great for Apple so I don't know why they would want to switch to ARM
 

Internet Enzyme

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Feb 21, 2016
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They should announce the ARM transition at whatever form WWDC ends up in this year. It’s a bombshell announcement that shouldn’t be kept secret fro much longer if 2021 is the intended ship date—which it really should be, given the state of intel and how long this conversion seems to have been gestating.
 

Freida

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Oct 22, 2010
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Have you been asleep for the past few years? Intel is stuck on so many levels that its really frustrating for everyone. Apple can't get innovation out of them, customers are not getting much improvement and overall progress is stagnant. ARM will happen one day (or another form of CPU) as Apple will want to control it in house. No reason to be stuck with Intel now that they can't get anything decent out


Saw this article on Engadget this weekend


The Intel processors have always worked great for Apple so I don't know why they would want to switch to ARM
 

mzeb

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Jan 30, 2007
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I trust Gassée for his technical knowledge but it is still a tough call to make this switch. The server/pro market moves insanely slowly and it has to be a pretty compelling argument to make and architecture switch. It means rebuilds and re-optimizations of high end pro software which is not cheap. To make this happen is a decade+ long game which is hard to justify. I WANT it and it'd make every cross platform dev's life easier but that may not be enough.
 

jcswim312

macrumors regular
Mar 25, 2008
126
423
Boston, Massachusetts
They should announce the ARM transition at whatever form WWDC ends up in this year. It’s a bombshell announcement that shouldn’t be kept secret fro much longer if 2021 is the intended ship date—which it really should be, given the state of intel and how long this conversion seems to have been gestating.
They might cancel WWDC because of the Coronavirus - Google just canceled their I/O event
 
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Pakaku

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Aug 29, 2009
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Saw this article on Engadget this weekend


The Intel processors have always worked great for Apple so I don't know why they would want to switch to ARM
That article is about AMD, not ARM

Either way, I hope they stick to Intel as well
 

mzeb

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Jan 30, 2007
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Have you been asleep for the past few years? Intel is stuck on so many levels that its really frustrating for everyone. Apple can't get innovation out of them, customers are not getting much improvement and overall progress is stagnant. ARM will happen one day (or another form of CPU) as Apple will want to control it in house. No reason to be stuck with Intel now that they can't get anything decent out
I actually don't think Apple should have full control of their hardware in house as a consumer (although from a business perspective it may make sense). Apple often stifles their own innovation due to "Not Invented Here" syndrome where they rebuild something that won't make them any money and has already been done elsewhere. Let a chip maker (perhaps Ampere) build powerful chips for multiple players and focus on that to make the best chips possible. The Snapdragon 865 is a better proc than the A13 because a company that builds silicon for its bread and butter is building it (companies like Samsung don't use it well but that's a different story). Specialization of companies makes sense at this boundary in my mind.
 

Keymaster

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Dec 15, 2003
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The key thing is that the base OS already runs on ARM as well as the Intel architecture...it should be a simple matter to make an ARM version of macOS. Odds are Apple would not switch the Mac Pro over to this until last...they will start with one of the consumer laptops or the Mac Mini first, and then extend into the rest of the lines. And, I do see them doing this themselves, their chips are pretty good and they have a good design team, so letting them loose on a desktop or portable processor should really be something to see. If a computer is coming in 2021, we definitely will hear about it...even with the OS mostly done there will still be good reason to give developers time to try out their code and work in any new things that come from using the ARM processors, and a year is a pretty good timetable for that.
 
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fiatlux

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Dec 5, 2007
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Performance parity is one thing, system and software compatibility is another thing. It may take years before all the macOS software and drivers are ported and optimised for the new platform, and I don’t know whether ARM-based systems would support Thunderbolt for instance.

Such a move may fit Apple’s strategy, but there would probably be some transition pains for the consumers.
 

_Refurbished_

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Mar 23, 2007
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Honestly, I’d rather have Intel compatibility at this point. I don’t really need more performance out of my system. In fact, I’m happy with pretty much everything my iMac does. I don’t sit down and think “man, I wish my processor was 2x as powerful.” I sit down and enjoy my speedy iMac and I’m happy.

The only reason I’d upgrade is to be able to update to the latest macOS, as I get obsoleted.
 

Westside guy

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Oct 15, 2003
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The server/pro market moves insanely slowly and it has to be a pretty compelling argument to make and architecture switch. It means rebuilds and re-optimizations of high end pro software which is not cheap.
I would think the repeated discovery of severe Intel security exploits, each of which requires a patch that slows the servers‘ performance, might just be impetus enough. if you’re gonna have to buy a brand new server to avoid the exploits (the known ones right now, at least), you might decide to bite the bullet and get off Intel entirely - despite that making the transition rather more painful.
 

bsolar

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Jun 20, 2011
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Saw this article on Engadget this weekend


The Intel processors have always worked great for Apple so I don't know why they would want to switch to ARM
Intel CPUs have far more severe security issues around speculative execution as AFAIK Intel relies on it a lot more to achieve performance compared to AMD and other CPUs. That's why Intel CPUs are affected by more bugs around it and have a much harder time mitigating them, ontop on a far higher performance penalty.

Furthermore, AMD and ARM are two very different things...
 
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coolfactor

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Jul 29, 2002
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The Intel processors have always worked great for Apple so I don't know why they would want to switch to ARM
The waiting game. Apple is currently at the mercy of Intel. Simple as that. Apple prefers to manage their own timelines.... which has worked incredibly well with their iOS devices. Apply that to Macs, and the PC industry is in for some interesting times!
 

TheIntruder

macrumors 65816
Jul 2, 2008
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Honestly, I’d rather have Intel compatibility at this point. I don’t really need more performance out of my system. In fact, I’m happy with pretty much everything my iMac does. I don’t sit down and think “man, I wish my processor was 2x as powerful.” I sit down and enjoy my speedy iMac and I’m happy.

The only reason I’d upgrade is to be able to update to the latest macOS, as I get obsoleted.
I've been through the 68K to PPC, and the PPC to Intel transitions, and frankly I don't really relish having to go through another, even if Apple has another emulator in the wings that can make it relatively painless process.

My Mac is already as fast as I need it to be, and bringing the iOS app experience closer to desktop isn't necessarily a good thing either, so I'm having difficulty envisioning a compelling reason to switch.

Now, get off my lawn.
 

movielad

macrumors member
Dec 19, 2005
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Surrey
One of the biggest hurdles moving to ARM is going to be those that will want to run Windows and other OSes alongside macOS through virtualisation. Or native Windows via Boot Camp. It may be possible with Windows for ARM, of course, but that's still very early days and is lacking a lot of third party support.

I think that if Macs did transition to ARM without some form of third party OS support like this would definitely affect my future purchases for Apple on the desktop. As a system administrator, I need something that can run multiple OSes easily through virtualisation. I do not want to have multiple physical machines on my desk or to lug around.

I'd also prefer it if Apple stuck to fixing macOS first and foremost rather than upsetting the Applecart (haha) by a major architecture refresh. I don't see any major change to architecture for a few more years - the Mac Pro has just been released. It must have cost Apple a fortune to design and support it, and to announce the move to ARM would royally hack off those people that have spent the money on the likes of a Mac Pro or even the iMac Pro. Refreshes this year are going to be Intel-based, so if an announcement did occur with developer kits being introduced - how long is Apple going to support x86 machines for?
 

movielad

macrumors member
Dec 19, 2005
55
54
Surrey
I've been through the 68K to PPC, and the PPC to Intel transitions, and frankly I don't really relish having to go through another, even if Apple has another emulator in the wings that can make it relatively painless process.

My Mac is already as fast as I need it to be, and bringing the iOS app experience closer to desktop isn't necessarily a good thing either, so I'm having difficulty envisioning a compelling reason to switch.

Now, get off my lawn.
Yes, I think the whole iOS on macOS thing is looking a bit shabby at the moment and is going to need a lot of work. I remember the great PPC to Intel transition. It wasn't particularly pleasant, but it wasn't particularly awful either. But the transition hardly saw any optimised apps released quickly. Most were still Universal binaries rather than x86 optimised ones which hardly did much for disk space or launch performance (IIRC).
 

fhall1

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Dec 18, 2007
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And give up native x86 virtualisation? Count me out.

The move to ARM offers nothing drastically better, at best you can hope to achieve the same level of performance - so why switch architectures if it's more of the same?
What about a drastic power reduction? Cooler operation without fans (or smaller fans) meaning increased battery life?
 

jerwin

macrumors 68030
Jun 13, 2015
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What about a drastic power reduction? Cooler operation without fans (or smaller fans) meaning increased battery life?
from the register

"Ampere's Altra: This TSMC-fabricated 7nm-node server-grade microprocessor features up to 80 64-bit CPU cores, arranged in a grid-like cache-coherent mesh, consuming up to 210W per package. The Arm-designed N1 cores are compatible with Armv8.2+, clocked up to 3GHz in turbo mode, and feature a four-wide superscalar pipeline with "aggressive" out-of-order execution."

I suppose that's better than amd's offering. But these do not sip power.
 
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