By all accounts, what Apple has done is simply amazing. Many have predicted ARM eventually overtaking x86, but we now finally find ourselves standing at the edge, peering over the precipice.Monsoon (A11) and Vortex (A12) are extremely wide machines – with 6 integer execution pipelines among which two are complex units, two load/store units, two branch ports, and three FP/vector pipelines this gives an estimated 13 execution ports, far wider than Arm’s upcoming Cortex A76 and also wider than Samsung’s M3. In fact, assuming we're not looking at an atypical shared port situation, Apple’s microarchitecture seems to far surpass anything else in terms of width, including desktop CPUs.
Imagine that! Apple actually undersold the capabilities of the A12! Perhaps they are trying to fly under the radar, hoping Intel doesn't notice what they're up to.Overall the new A12 Vortex cores and the architectural improvements on the SoC’s memory subsystem give Apple’s new piece of silicon a much higher performance advantage than Apple’s marketing materials promote. The contrast to the best Android SoCs have to offer is extremely stark – both in terms of performance as well as in power efficiency. Apple’s SoCs have better energy efficiency than all recent Android SoCs while having a nearly 2x performance advantage. I wouldn’t be surprised that if we were to normalise for energy used, Apple would have a 3x performance lead.
What is quite astonishing, is just how close Apple’s A11 and A12 are to current desktop CPUs. I haven’t had the opportunity to run things in a more comparable manner, but taking our server editor, Johan De Gelas’ recent figures from earlier this summer, we see that the A12 outperforms a moderately-clocked Skylake CPU in single-threaded performance. Of course there’s compiler considerations and various frequency concerns to take into account, but still we’re now talking about very small margins until Apple’s mobile SoCs outperform the fastest desktop CPUs in terms of ST performance. It will be interesting to get more accurate figures on this topic later on in the coming months.