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by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

Fun With Charts: A14X marks the spot

Note: This story has not been updated since 2020.

Apple Silicon

Has the processor inside the first wave of Macs that run Apple silicon already been tested? There’s a GeekBench score that seems to have been submitted from an as-yet-unreleased Mac. Could it be real? Sure. Could it be a fake? Sure.

The truth is, the posted results aren’t far off from my speculation about what an iPad-class A14X processor would look like. They’re slightly higher, apparently owing to a faster reported clock speed. Which sort of makes sense, given that there’s never been an iOS device with an active cooling system, while all current Mac laptops come with fans to manage heat—thereby allowing chips to run faster.

So I’m inclined to believe the report, or at least believe that the report is in the ballpark of what we’ll see on Tuesday from Apple. And one last time before we know for sure, I wanted to indulge in a speculative Apple silicon chart, mostly to set the stage for what we may learn tomorrow:

A chart of GeekBench test scores
Current Mac laptops in the middle. The A14X should best all of them.

Whether you accept that GeekBench score as real or just extrapolate from the speed increases across the A series and the multipliers that occur when Apple adds more processor cores in its iPad-class chips, it seems highly likely that the A14X processor will be faster than every currently shipping Mac laptop. That’s right, even a lowly MacBook Air should be roughly comparable in performance to the current top-of-the-line eight-core 16-inch MacBook Pro. (For the record, it’ll also probably be faster than all but the top-of-the-line 5K iMacs, the iMac Pro, and the Mac Pro.)

One of the big unknowns about Tuesday’s announcement is how Apple will choose to differentiate the specs of Apple silicon Macs, both within individual products and across the product line. Will there be options for different processor clock speeds? What about RAM? Presumably storage will remain a configure-to-order option at a premium. In the end, though, what will Apple do to differentiate a $999 MacBook Air from a $1299-1799 13-inch MacBook Pro, especially if their processors are the same?

We just don’t know. I’d assume that in the long run, Apple will make even more powerful A14- or A15-based chips with more processor cores and put them in desktop Macs and high-end MacBook Pros. But there don’t seem to be any credible rumors that it will happen next week. Small moves.

Even if the lowest-end Mac laptop with Apple silicon ends up with a clocked-down processor, it’s hard to see how it won’t be dramatically faster than the current Intel-based models. There are a lot of details here yet to be worked out, but next week’s announcement should be a huge leap forward for Mac laptop performance.

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