Apple M2 vs. AMD Rembrandt vs. Intel Alder Lake Linux Benchmarks

Written by Michael Larabel in Computers on 9 August 2022 at 01:30 PM EDT.

Given the significant interest from Phoronix readers about how well Apple M2 performs on Linux, especially after it was noted Linus Torvalds using an Apple MacBook Air M2, here are the first of many benchmark articles to come looking at how well Apple's M2 performs under Linux against Intel/AMD x86_64 competition. The new Apple MacBook Air with M2 was benchmarked for this article against the AMD Ryzen 7 PRO 6850U "Rembrandt" Zen 3+, Intel Core i7 1280P "Alder Lake P", an AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX "Cezanne H", and also for reference an Apple Mac Mini M1 model. All of these laptops were tested under Arch Linux (x86_64) and the Arch-based Asahi Linux (M1/M2).

It was just last month that Asahi Linux introduced experimental M2 support after a few weeks of Hector Martin and others hacking the newly-released Apple M2 wares. In trying out the latest (experimental) Asahi Linux, the experience went surprisingly smooth considering the youth of this port. The setup experience was as smooth as with the Apple M1 and in a short time was able to dual-boot into Linux on the Apple M2.

It's important to note though that getting the Apple M2 going on Linux requires basically using Asahi Linux with the kernel changes still to be upstreamed, etc. As of writing, Asahi Linux developers still haven't yet worked out or finished the PMU support, DisplayPort Alternate Mode, Thunderbolt, USB3, SEP, Neural Engine, TouchID, keyboard backight, web camera, video encode/decode, ProRes Codec, microphone support, internal speaker support, and other elements. The current M1 / M2 hardware support status can be found via the Asahi Linux Wiki.

The big elephant in the room when it comes to the M1/M2 support on Linux is, of course, the GPU. Running Asahi Linux on the Apple Silicon devices will lead to just the LLVMpipe-based software OpenGL implementation. That software-accelerated experience can be "good enough" for basic desktop tasks, terminal use, running a text editor or IDE, and basic web browsing. But for those expecting to do gaming, running workstation visualizations, or even wanting to play a lot of videos using the software-fallbacks, you're better off waiting until the open-source Linux graphics stack is in good shape for the Apple Silicon... Hopefully next year?

There are also other gotchas with Linux on the Apple M2/M1 support like no sensor support for the SoC power consumption / RAPL / PowerCap interfaces so as such was not able to monitor just the SoC power usage during benchmarking. Thus for today's article is solely looking at the raw performance of the Apple M2 up against the Intel/AMD competition.

The M2 system was the 2022 MacBook Air with M2 SoC and 8GB of system memory -- the $1199 USD base model. But before getting to the Intel/AMD comparison benchmarks, let's first have a look at how the macOS 12.5 vs. Asahi Linux performance was on this MacBook Air for seeing how the Linux CPU performance is against the latest official macOS release.

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