I also used to think that ARM was not up to speed to compete against top line desktop processors. However the more I have studied this issue the less convinced I am of that.
I highly recommend reading this article comparing ARM and x86 CPU performance. There are just too many tests and facts that point to Apple ARM CPUs being equally good or better than top of the line x86 desktop CPUs.
What Apple has today is taking a massive performance hit from requiring tiny enclosures and passive cooling. But if you look at actual performance per core relative to clock frequency, watt usage etc it is absolutely staggering.
Until Apple release their ARM based computers we cannot know anything for sure. But we can make educated guesses based on what we know now about their hardware. We can extrapolate based on passed development. In this regard everything points to Apple being able to deliver ARM based desktop computers that can in fact match or crush top of the line x86 desktop computers.
Based on everything I have seen, I am willing to go out on a limb and predict that Apple within few years will release the most powerful desktop computers on the market, outperforming every x86 desktop computer.
They will achieve this for multiple reasons:
- Their CPUs will be at least as good as top of the line AMD Ryzen processors.
- The tight integration of CPU, GPU and memory on a SoC will bring performance advantages not available to highly modularized PCs where you got slow bandwidth between the different parts dragging down performance.
- Custom specialized chips on the SoC to offload the CPU. The trend is currently going towards more active use of specialized chips to accelerate particular tasks. Apple has a unique ability controlling the whole stack to utilize this trend.
Basically current trends towards heterogenous computing and SoCs is playing into Apple’s favor and working against the PC platform. The PC is based on having a modularized system where you swap in and out individual parts. Individual manufacturers thus cannot build highly specialized and tightly integrated parts. They need to make generic parts that various OEMs can combine as they see fit.
The next problem is that nobody controls the whole widget. Dell or HP cannot decide to add some specialized hardware accelerator for particular features in the software on the machines they ship. That is up to Microsoft. The PC face the challenge of having to coordinate the efforts of thousands of stakeholders with different agenda’s and needs.
Here is a fun little challenge. Bookmark this page. In two years I will bet Apple has released a highly competitive desktop computer based on ARM. I don’t think it will be the fastest. But it will be at least as good relative to PCs as Apple’s desktops are today in terms of performance.
You can come with a counter prediction and in two years (2022) we can have a laugh, when everything is RISC-V instead and where both wrong ;-)