Intel Casts Doubt on Apple M1 Processor

image credit: Intel

published by Chand Bellur
February 8, 2021 at 10:20 p.m.
  • Months after Apple’s M1 processor debut, Intel explains why its newest chips are superior.
  • Intel ran benchmark and user experience tests, finding that the newest 11th generation Intel i7 processors often outclass the M1 chip at many real-world tasks and analytical tests.
  • Tests by Intel found Apple’s claims of M1 power efficiency are greatly exaggerated.
  • The majority of tech publications seem to defend Apple, claiming that Intel selects favorable performance data to manipulate results.

Intel Claims Newest 11th Gen i7 Processor Superior to Apple’s M1 Chip

Months after Apple’s M1 media push, Intel finally responded, contending Apple exaggerates claims of speed, power efficiency, and versatility. While much of the media pans Intel’s efforts as cherry-picking, it’s also a reality check on Apple’s reality distortion field. Both corporations marshal facts to accentuate the positive and diminish the negative. The truth doesn’t lie somewhere in between. Instead, it’s scattered about, with fanboys typically believing in their vested platform.

Intel’s research focused on everyday app performance, gaming, battery life, and consumer choice. Comparing the latest Intel Tiger Lake processors to the M1, the company ran various tests. The resulting data show that, in many respects, Intel’s latest processors offer better performance than Apple’s M1 chip. Additionally, consumers have more software and hardware options, with Windows machines typically costing less than Macs.

Intel i7-1185G7 Faster With Apps Than Apple’s M1

When Apple’s M1 chip launched, the company made many bold statements. Most of the claims pitted M1-equipped Macs against the best selling Windows PCs, not the highest performing ones. As the average consumer spends $630 on a computer, Apple’s comparison was purposefully misleading.

Many high-end Windows PCs cost less than comparable Macintoshes yet offer superior performance. I replaced my defective 13″ MacBook Pro with an LG Gram 15. It costs less, runs faster, both in terms of benchmarks and app performance, and is much more reliable. 

Intel tested an M1-powered MacBook Pro against a PC with an 11th generation Intel i7 processor to examine app performance. The results show that Intel’s processor is up to three times faster than the M1 with everyday activities, such as web browsing and Microsoft Office tasks.

Content creation apps also fared better with Intel silicon. Topaz Labs’ benchmarks show the Intel Tiger Lake processor beating Apple’s M1 chip by a factor of six in one test.

Although the M1 fared better in gaming performance, outperforming the Intel machine in three out of five tests, macOS still suffers from a dearth of software titles. Although this has improved over time, Windows, with four times the market share, is much more appealing to developers. If you’re looking for a gaming machine, Windows is still the best option.

Intel Tiger Lake Processors Offer Similar Battery Life

Power efficiency is one of the supposed main benefits of Apple’s M1 processor. Being a mobile processor, by design, it favors low-power cores until forced to support a greater workload. Intel’s newest data seem to indicate that Apple fudged its battery tests to sell more Macs.

Intel’s tests reveal Apple’s M1 power efficiency claims remain dubious. Its “real world” battery life test shows that an M1-equipped MacBook Air only offers 6 minutes of additional battery life compared to an Intel-based Windows 10 laptop.

The test itself compares how two similarly configured laptops endure streaming Netflix with open browser tabs. Both screens are set to 250 nits brightness to ensure accurate comparison. Intel even uses Safari on the Mac and Chrome on the PC, giving the Mac a considerable advantage. By Apple’s own admission, Safari uses less power than Chrome, at least on macOS. Nonetheless, the M1-equipped MacBook Air fails to deliver its promised, epic battery life.

The tech media contends Intel’s comparison is biased, as they’re using the MacBook Air and not the Pro. While this is true, both machines in Intel’s tests offer comparable specifications. Most Windows machines currently on the market feature older processors, as Intel’s 11th generation i7 chips are relatively new. This limited Intel to a few models. The fact that the test used Safari on the MacBook Air gives Apple a huge advantage. It’s difficult to see the bias in this test when Intel gives Apple a virtual head start.

Intel took some liberties with its battery test. The Acer Swift 5 used in the test features a 56 Wh battery, while the M1 MacBook Air only sports a 49.9 Wh battery. It’s not a massive difference, and, unlike Apple, PC makers offer choices in battery capacity. Thus, it’s completely valid to say, as a complete system, an Intel-based Windows 10 laptop can last just about as long as one equipped with Apple’s newest silicon.

M1 Macs Great at Gaming, But Offer Few Titles

For those who believe Intel cherry-picked the most favorable data, its gaming analysis actually shows the M1 chip in a positive light. Three out of the five games performed slightly better on Apple silicon. The chart also points out that many software titles still aren’t available for macOS.

Although a few games perform better on an M1 Mac, the relative lack of macOS apps makes the platform unappealing to gamers. The expectation that M1 silicon performance will draw software developers is questionable in an era where cloud-based gaming renders specs irrelevant. Also, macOS market share is a quarter of Windows’. Games are expensive to develop. It’s simple economics. If you’re creating a game, make it for Windows. If it’s successful enough, port it to macOS.

Windows/Intel Gives Consumers More Options

Beyond the specs, benchmarks, and real-world tests, Apple products are homogeneous and limited. If you want to buy a Mac, you have few options, with a limited ability to expand.

If you want a laptop with a Micro-SD card, Apple has nothing to offer. I was able to add 1 TB of additional storage space for only $250, using the Micro-SD slot on my LG laptop. It’s obvious why Apple doesn’t support Micro-SD on MacBooks. They want customers to pay for overpriced storage upgrades. They’re pure profit, as the difference between a 128 GB SSD and a 256 one is minuscule.

Apple’s latest iPad, for example, starts at 32 GB of storage space. This is a non-starter in 2021. A low price for an unusable device only serves to attract customers. Apple upsells the customer on an iPad, iPhone, or Mac with higher capacity storage. Without a Micro-SD slot, you’re stuck with its limited internal storage, perhaps using cloud-based options to get by.

The lack of touchscreens is yet another failure for Apple. Most tech analysts believe this is a strategy aimed at selling both the iPad and Mac. Unfortunately, touch screens are useful on real computers. Using Ableton Live on a Windows machine with a touch screen is far superior to the Mac experience. I can move faders and knobs on the screen without fiddling with a mouse pointer. Ableton Live on a touchscreen Windows laptop is far superior to the Apple user experience.

Much like Android, the Windows ecosystem is diverse and complex. Intel isn’t the only company creating processors for Windows machines. There are so many options in the Windows world. It’s always better to have more possibilities than fewer. Apple has always limited its users, telling them this is all they need, then claiming it’s better than anything else. If you’re loyal to Apple, you’ll believe it.

Intel and Apple Engage in Benchmark Bias

Most tech journalists are Apple fanboys and fangirls. They pen their biased articles on MacBooks, which Apple sometimes supplies. Even I started as an Apple fan; however, after I purchased two defective Macs in a row, I decided to return to Windows. Apple never gave me anything for free, except that U2 album. The Macs I bought were more of a nuisance than productive tools.

Both Apple and Intel marshal facts to support their products. Apple did this when the M1 chip debuted, and, months later, Intel is doing the same. The takeaway from this experience should be that no computer is faster, in every aspect, than another computer. The performance of computing systems varies widely depending on the task. Some systems can accomplish work with remarkable speed and efficiency, while other operations are slow and wasteful.

There are some operations new Intel chips perform better than others. Intel’s recent rebuttal makes this clear. While Apple aggregated facts in a way that only made their products look good, Intel seems a bit more reasonable and honest. They admit that the M1 Macs offer better performance on three out of five games. The M1 MacBook Air fared slightly better on battery tests, which Intel reveals.

When it comes to distorting reality, no one can beat Apple. If that’s not enough, it appears as though most of the tech media rushes to defend the Cupertino tech giant.

Although it’s unclear how Apple achieves such die-hard support from supposedly objective tech journalists, recent events cast suspicion on its practices. Recently, Apple’s head of security was arrested and charged with bribing Santa Clara Sherrif’s Office with hundreds of iPads. Apple handed out a lot of the MacBooks used by tech journalists. At this point, we can only see smoke and a few flames, but there seems to be an inferno of well-funded Apple lust out there. When it comes to Apple, most tech journalists are obsequious, and it’s hard to say they’re doing it for free. 

Yes, Intel manipulated its tests to favor its product. Apple does the same. Few care about a microsecond’s difference in efficiency or six extra minutes of power. Apple’s M1 claims seemed too good to be true, and Intel demonstrated that they are. Windows will always give customers more bang for their buck, while Apple appeals to hipsters with its iconic style and journalists with access and handouts. As for who has the more effective reality distortion field, Apple reigns supreme.

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