Apple Claims its new Arm-Based iMac 2021 is up to 85% Faster than Older Intel-Based Designs and 2x Faster in Graphics Workloads

Apple today announced its new iMac 2021 based on custom M1 silicon, claiming significant performance gains over the older Intel Skylake-based designs. Let’s have a look at these claims and see how legit they likely are: In terms of CPU performance, the company is claiming a massive gain of up to 85% over the older Intel processors. While there may be certain single-threaded applications where Apple’s M1 SoC is indeed over 80% faster than its x86 predecessor, they are too few and far between, especially considering that most modern applications are multi-threaded. The M1 has only four high-performance “Firestorm” cores which limit its capabilities in multi-threaded workloads such as content creation, rendering, and simulation. In the majority of applications, the delta between the older and newer processors will be largely inconsequential while the Ryzen 9 alternatives from AMD based on the Zen 3 core architecture should be significantly superior.

In terms of GPU performance, Apple claims a 2x advantage over the preceding graphics processor. This again is a very ambiguous claim. The older iMac 2020 leveraged AMD’s RDNA based Radeon Pro 5300, 5500 XT, or the 5700 series GPUs with up to 16GB of memory. While Apple’s 7-8 core custom GPU offers a decent 2.6 TFLOPs of performance, it’s still a far cry from 9.75 TFLOPs delivered by the 5700 XT. Better driver and software support are another major positive for the older iMac over the custom Apple-designed GPU.

Then there’s AI or machine learning performance which the Cupertino-based company claims is a whopping 3x better with the M1 SoC. This is a grey area, as Machine Learning performance greatly varies from workload to workload. Considering that the Skylake core is more than 5 years old, this isn’t hard to believe, though in most cases, this advantage will be largely outweighed by pure multi-threaded compute performance.

Finally, there’s the matter of the price. The iMac 2021 is priced at $1,449 for the 8-core CPU, 7-core GPU paired with 8GB memory, and a 256GB SSD while the 8-core GPU variant costs $1,669. Increasing the drive storage to $1,899 pushes the overall cost to $1,899, making the already excessive price tag even more ridiculous.

Areej Syed

Processors, PC gaming, and the past. I have been writing about computer hardware for over seven years with more than 5000 published articles. Started off during engineering college and haven't stopped since. Mass Effect, Dragon Age, Divinity, Torment, Baldur's Gate and so much more... Contact: areejs12@hardwaretimes.com
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