Apple Arm Developer Transition Kit Benchmarks Ignite Wild Surface Pro X Comparisons

developer transition kit apple
As we reported yesterday, the first Apple Developer Transition Kits are finding their ways into the hands of eager app developers. Apple is making these Mac mini-style kits available so that develops can get native Arm-based apps ready for new Macs that will begin shipping later this year.

These new Macs will be powered by what's being called "Apple Silicon" for now, but the Developer Transition Kits are powered by the current-generation A12Z Bionic SoC (which actually just a mild spec bump of the 2018-era A12X Bionic). Naturally, the first benchmarks for these systems are starting to filter through, and they're quite interesting.

There are currently 28 listings in Geekbench 5 for what's called "VirtualApple", which is a reference to the Developer Transition Kit. The scores are not by any means earth shattering, ranging from 736 to 850 for single-core, and from 2582 to 2964 for multi-core. On average, we're looking at a score of around 830 for single-core, and roughly 2,800 for multi-core.

virtual apple geekbench

Compared to an iPad Pro (2020) with the same A12Z Bionic SoC, those numbers are quite weak, but there are a couple of things that we must consider here:

  • The A12Z Bionic in the Developer Transition Kit is only reporting 4 active cores running at 2.4GHz instead of cores instead of 8 cores running at 2.5GHz.
  • The iPad Pro is running Geekbench 5 natively using the iOS version of the app
  • The Developer transition kit has to run the macOS client (x86-64) in emulation -- courtesy of Rosetta -- due to its Arm-based processor.

What's interesting here is that the numbers the Developer Transition Kit put up are quite comparable to the Surface Pro X running the native Arm64 Geekbench 5 client. The Surface Pro X manages a single-core score of 763 and a multi-core score of 2963. So, the A12Z Bionic is pulling down "ballpark" numbers with the Surface Pro X even with the overhead that emulation brings to the table. With a native Geekbench client in macOS, the A12Z Bionic should likely easily surpass the performance of Microsoft's SQ1 SoC (aka Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx).

microsoft surface pro x
Microsoft Surface Pro X

However, we must keep in mind that Apple will have to do a lot better with production hardware, as it will have to keep pace with the likes of Intel's incoming Tiger Lake parts and AMD's Ryzen 4000 processors in the laptop sector. With that in mind, Apple's Craig Federighi talked up the performance credentials of the Developer Transition Kit in a recent interview with MKBHD, stating, "It's not a basis on which to judge future Macs, of course, but it gives you a sense of what our silicon team can do when they're not even trying. And they're going to be trying.” 

Apple Silicon Benefit

And "try" they will. Recent reports suggest that the first Macs running custom Apple Silicon will feature up to 12 cores (8 performance, 4 efficiency) that will offer performance-per-watt that will be unmatched by its rivals. It's a tall order to fill, but we have to temper our expectations to avoid falling for marketing fluff between now and the release of these next generation of Apple Macs.