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First A12Z Bionic DTK Geekbench 5 benchmarks show Apple's transition holds immense promise; only a 28% in drop seen in single-core score compared to the MacBook Air 2020

Apple A12Z-powered Mac Mini running macOS Big Sur Developer Beta shows promise in first Geekbench 5 results. (Image Source: iDownloadBlog)
Apple A12Z-powered Mac Mini running macOS Big Sur Developer Beta shows promise in first Geekbench 5 results. (Image Source: iDownloadBlog)
The first Geekbench 5 results of the Apple Mac Mini Developer Transition Kit (DTK) powered by the A12Z Bionic running macOS 11 Big Sur Developer Beta 1 have surfaced despite Apple's developer NDA being in force. The benchmark is running under a Rosetta 2 emulation and the performance deficit, though significant compared to the Core i5 MacBook Air 2020 and the iPad Pro, is understandable and in many ways, encouraging.

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Apple announced the transition to ARM at this year's WWDC and the move has been largely welcomed given its potential for seamless computing across mobile and desktop. Apple also made available a Developer Transition Kit (DTK) to enable developers to get started with creating apps that run on macOS 11 Big Sur powered by Apple Silicon. Now, several Geekbench 5 benchmarks have now leaked despite the use of the DTK being governed by a non-disclosure agreement (NDA).

The Apple DTK is essentially a Mac Mini powered by the A12Z Bionic SoC and running macOS 11 Big Sur Developer Beta. The DTK seems to have achieved a single-core score of 833 and a multi-core score of 2,582. There are about eight total entries for this particular machine in the Geekbench 5 database. It must be noted here that since Geekbench does not have a native Apple Silicon version yet, the available scores are under a Rosetta 2 emulation. So, what do these preliminary numbers indicate?

Let's take native A12Z scores for comparison first. The A12Z Bionic in the iPad Pro 12.9 scores about 1,117 and 4,712 in single and multi-core tests, respectively. The A12Z in the DTK is about 25.4% slower in single-core and 45.2% slower in multi-core. Though the performance difference is large, the numbers are still good considering the fact that we are looking at emulation and early software. The Geekbench 5 result reports the DTK as having only four cores while it is known that the A12Z has, in fact, eight CPU cores. It is very well possible that Rosetta 2 is seeing only the four high performance cores and not the efficiency ones. The clock speed is also listed as 2.4 GHz instead of the A12Z's rated clock of 2.5 GHz.

The numbers make more sense when compared to a 2020 MacBook Air powered by a Core i5-1030NG7. This device scores 1,167 points in single-core and 2,881 points in multi-core in Geekbench 5. Here, we see only about a 10.7% performance deficit in multi-core and about 28.6% in single-core. This implies that Apple's A12Z under emulation is not too far away from a mainstream MacBook Air, which is a good thing. 

These scores indicate immense potential for Apple's ARM transition. Remember that we are only looking at an older SoC for now and that too, under emulation. The availability of native ARM64 benchmarking apps, more faster chips such as the upcoming A14 Bionic, and further optimizations to macOS 11 should enable even better scores. Also, the A12Z is designed with an iPad Pro's internals in mind; custom silicon for upcoming MacBooks and iMacs will have much more thermal headroom to flex its muscles.

For now though, this preliminary benchmark is only to be taken as a sign of things to come and they are no doubt encouraging.

Apple DTK A12Z Bionic Geekbench 5 single and multi-core scores. (Image Source: Geekbench)
Apple DTK A12Z Bionic Geekbench 5 single and multi-core scores. (Image Source: Geekbench)
Apple DTK A12Z Bionic Geekbench 5 OpenCL score. (Image Source: Geekbench)
Apple DTK A12Z Bionic Geekbench 5 OpenCL score. (Image Source: Geekbench)
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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2020 06 > First A12Z Bionic DTK Geekbench 5 benchmarks show Apple's transition holds immense promise; only a 28% in drop seen in single-core score compared to the MacBook Air 2020
Vaidyanathan Subramaniam, 2020-06-29 (Update: 2020-06-29)
Vaidyanathan Subramaniam
I am a cell and molecular biologist and computers have been an integral part of my life ever since I laid my hands on my first PC which was based on an Intel Celeron 266 MHz processor, 16 MB RAM and a modest 2 GB hard disk. Since then, I’ve seen my passion for technology evolve with the times. From traditional floppy based storage and running DOS commands for every other task, to the connected cloud and shared social experiences we take for granted today, I consider myself fortunate to have witnessed a sea change in the technology landscape. I honestly feel that the best is yet to come, when things like AI and cloud computing mature further. When I am not out finding the next big cure for cancer, I read and write about a lot of technology related stuff or go about ripping and re-assembling PCs and laptops.