Geekbench sees the ARM-based Apple Developer Transition Kit putting on a good showing against the Surface Pro X
The Apple Developer Transition Kit (DTK) is, pardon the pun, an intriguing piece of kit. The DTK runs on an A12Z Bionic chipset that Apple has paired with 16 GB of RAM and a 512 GB. These components have been housed in a Mac Mini chassis, making the DTK some odd hybrid between Apple's Intel and ARM eras.
As we have already seen, developers have been publishing Geekbench results of the DTK, despite Apple's attempts to prevent this from happening. The A12Z Bionic-powered DTK stands up favourably with an Ice Lake-Y series laptop like the new MacBook Air, for example, which is even more impressive when one considers that the former is unlikely to be the chip that Apple uses in its first ARM-based consumer machine.
However, that is not exactly comparing like for like, as the Ice Lake-Y MacBook Air is an x86 machine. Instead, some people have been seeking to compare the DTK with a Surface Pro X, another machine with a custom ARM-based chipset. Microsoft uses the SQ1 in the Surface Pro X, which is manufactured on a 7 nm process and has eight cores like the A12Z Bionic. These eight cores are evenly split across performance and power-saving clusters on both chips, although the ones in the SQ1 can reach higher clock speeds. The SQ1 also has a lower TDP and fewer GPU execution units than the A12Z Bionic, albeit with considerably higher FP32 floating-point performance.
From these early benchmarks, it seems that the A12Z Bionic has slightly better single-core performance than the SQ1, in Geekbench 4 and 5 at least. However, the SQ1 has the edge over the A12Z Bionic in multi-core tasks. Drilling down into the numbers reveals huge differences in performance between the two chipsets in certain tasks, though.
We are comparing retail and developer machines here, so we would expect performance to improve on the DTK once Apple finalises macOS 11 Big Sur. Undoubtedly, Apple has a more powerful ARM-based chipset in development than what it has included in the DTK. So while the performance that the DTK and A12Z Bionic is nothing groundbreaking, the prospect of Apple releasing an ARM chipset with more cores and a higher power envelope is an exciting one.