Mac mini developer test kit shows the promise of Apple Silicon


Apple A14 processor
Apple Silicon looks to be be at least as powerful as Intel processors.
CGI: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

A benchmark done on a Mac mini running Apple Silicon hints that these processors will live up to the promise that they’ll offer performance comparable to Intel chips.

The evidence is preliminary, but promising.

Apple Silicon vs. Intel

Apple revealed at WWDC 2020 last week that Mac would be moving from Intel chips to Apple Silicon. To get developers started porting their applications to the new platform, Apple introduced a Mac mini Developer Transition Kit with an iPad Pro processor and macOS 11 beta 1.

Benchmark results for this chimera appeared on Primate Labs website Monday morning. These show the DTK pulled in an 11,384 multi core score, and a 3,879 single-core score on Geekbench 4.

That gives the the transition device performance comparable to a 2013 iMac running the same benchmarking app on a Core i5 chip with 4 cores at 3.2GHz. Or a 15-inch MacBook from that same year running a Core i7 with 4 cores at 2.7GHz.

The Mac mini DTK uses an A12Z Bionic with 4 performance cores running at 2.49GHz. And it has to emulate Geekbench 4 with Rosetta 2.

Early but promising

Apple put the A12Z Bionic chip in the Mac mini Developer Transition Kit because that’s the processor it has right now. It’s being used in the 2020 iPad Pro. But it’s just a tweaked version of the A12X Bionic from the 2018 iPad Pro.

It’s almost certainly not the processor that’ll be at the heart of the first Macs with Apple Silicon. Those likely will use a version of A14X that will debut in the iPhone 12. This chip is smaller and faster, while using less power. And the Mac version is rumored to include 8 performance cores.

Given that the only benchmark we have is for a test device running beta software on a 2-year-old processor, it’s much too early to say anything definitive about the performance the next generation of macOS desktops and laptops with Apple Silicon. But this early glimpse should raise the hopes of Mac fans.

Update: An earlier version of this article incorrectly compared scores between Geekbench 4 and Geekbench 5. We apologize for any confusion.