Apple Silicon: DTK almost as good as a MacBook Air, despite Rosetta

DTK, for ” Develop Transition Kit Is a Mac mini sent by Apple to developers who wish to have an ARM Mac to adapt their apps before transitioning to Apple Silicon chips. In theory, this development machine is subject to strict conditions that should prevent these developers from publishing anything about it, and also prevent them from measuring its performance. Missed and missed: after the photos, here are the first benchs!

Pierre Dandumont a unearthed results of performance measurements made in the specialized Geekbench 5 app. Here are the first scores for the processor, and here are the ones that measure the graphic circuit Apple A12Z integrated into the DTK. Conclusion, the computer exceeds 800 points with a single heart and runs between 2,500 and 3,000 points with all the processor cores, while it exceeds 10,500 points with the Metal test.

Some CPU measurements made with Geekbench 5.

These numerical values ​​have no meaning in themselves, they are used to compare two machines. So let’s compare: the DTK is coming significantly below the performance of the iPad Pro 2020 which has the same system on a chip. On average, the tablet is doing well with a score of 1,100 points with a single core, and around 4,700 in multi-core.

This difference is completely normal. On the iPad, Geekbench 5 is an ARM app that takes full advantage of the tablet’s processor. On the DTK, it is an x86 app that must be “converted” on the fly by Rosetta 2, the emulation layer from Apple. Clearly, we measure the performance of Rosetta more than the Apple A12Z with these first tests and there is absolutely no doubt that an optimized version of Geekbench 5 would do much better.

In addition, the app only has access to four of the eight cores in the chip designed by Apple, probably a limit of Rosetta. These are probably the four high-performance cores, the other four being there to optimize the energy consumed on the tablet. Again, it should be remembered that the DTK is not a commercial Mac and its architecture will be unique. According to rumors, the first Macs with Apple Silicon would use a specific version of the Apple A14 which will be specifically designed and optimized for macOS needs. We could thus have 12 cores, including eight powerful, double the processor integrated in the transition kit.

All that being said, we can also note that the DTK is doing very well, while it uses the processor of an iPad and when it has to deal with x86 emulation to ARM. The same Geekbench 5 on one Latest generation MacBook Air scores very close: around 1,100 points in single-core and around 2,800 in multi-core for a high-end Core i7. That we are almost at the same level of theoretical performance when nothing is optimized once again gives hope for spectacular performances this fall.

Performance measures of the latest MacBook Air (graph MacGeneration).

The Metal test, which measures the performance of the graphics chip, is even more impressive in this respect. DTK exceeds 10,500 points with Metal and OpenCL, when the latest generation MacBook Air painfully reaches 9,000 points in high-end configuration. These tests are probably less concerned with the transition to ARM and Rosetta, but Apple should do very well in the face of integrated graphics chips designed by Intel.

In theory, developers who receive the DTK do not have the right to open it to see what it contains exactly. But given the lack of respect for the NDA so far, we can say that it will happen quickly! We will probably discover an iPad Pro motherboard quickly tinkered with so that it fits into the housing of a Mac mini, but who knows, we may have surprises.

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