Tests show Apple's M1 emulates x86 faster than Intel can run it natively

Apple M1 Chip 8 Core Cpu Chart
Apple M1 Chip 8 Core Cpu Chart (Image credit: Apple)

What you need to know

  • New Geekbench numbers show an M1-powered MacBook Air emulating x86 instructions faster than any other Mac can run them natively.

The Apple silicon transition is now well and truly underway and with new machines set to begin arriving on the doorsteps of buyers this week, it won't be long before some real-world testing is done. We're relying on bootleg Geekbench scores until then and the early signs are pretty encouraging. Not least in terms of Rosetta 2 and the speed at which it can emulate x86.

New Geekbench scores spotted by MacRumors show that a new MacBook Air is capable of emulating x86 more quickly than any other Mac can run it natively. At least in terms of single-core performance.

Let that sink in for a minute.

Rosetta 2 M1 Benchmark Single Core Score

Rosetta 2 M1 Benchmark Single Core Score (Image credit: MacRumors)

The new Rosetta 2 Geekbench results uploaded show that the M1 chip running on a MacBook Air with 8GB of RAM has single-core and multi-core scores of 1,313 and 5,888 respectively. Since this version of Geekbench is running through Apple's translation layer Rosetta 2, an impact on performance is to be expected. Rosetta 2 running x86 code appears to be achieving 78%-79% of the performance of native Apple Silicon code.Despite the impact on performance, the single-core Rosetta 2 score results still outperforms any other Intel Mac, including the 2020 27-inch iMac with Intel Core i9-10910 @ 3.6GHz.

That's a really positive sign for anyone who had been concerned that running x86 apps on an M1-powered Mac would be troublesome. After all, emulation should take a hit compared to running anything natively. Except when your own in-house chips are running rings around the competition, ti seems.

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.