As a follow-up, I now have a preliminary native build of R (using a gfortran compiled from sources forked from GCC and using minor modifications of Tomas Kalibera's instructions).

The check timing was 148s, with Aqua (not X11) Tcl/Tk built from the sources and no X11 support, so not quite 100% comparable.

Building the compiler took 45m elapsed with 100% CPU most of the time: the machine (which has no fan) remained cool (unlike my MBP which has a fan but rarely runs it and does get warm to the touch).

There is a preliminary write-up on 'arm64' Macs in R-devel's R-admin manual (the version on CRAN is as usual a few days behind).

On 17/11/2020 14:57, Prof Brian Ripley wrote:
Mine (a 8GB MBA) arrived today, so I have started doing some comparisons.

For the CRAN build of R 4.0.3, §2.8 of R-admin recommends checking the installation with

pdf("tests.pdf") ## optional, but prevents flashing graphics windows
Sys.setenv(LC_COLLATE = "C", LC_TIME = "C", LANGUAGE = "en")
tools::testInstalledPackages(scope = "base")
tools::testInstalledPackages(scope = "recommended")

That took 454s (using Rosetta) against 895s for my late-2016 MBP (2.9GHz i5): happily nothing untoward was reported (some recommended packages give differences from reference output on both systems).

You need to install XQuartz to provide the X11() devices and support for package Tcl/Tk: everything I tried using that worked as expected.

Having done that post-installation check I would happily use the Intel R on an M1 machine.

We plan to check many of the Intel-compiled packages under Rosetta.

There are many hours of work ahead to build/test a native toolchain: our goal is to have a native distribution for R 4.1.0 ca April 2021.

Brian D. Ripley,        
Emeritus Professor of Applied Statistics, University of Oxford

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