Three Windows Laptops That Are Better Than the M1 MacBook Air

image credit: Asus

published by Chand Bellur
November 17, 2020 at 8:09 p.m.

 

  • Apple’s newest M1 Macs boast breakneck speeds for single-core tasks with native apps.
  • Multi-core tasks and software emulation through Rosetta 2 (for backward compatibility) slow down Apple’s newest Macs.
  • By Apple’s own admission, existing Windows PCs, launched up to a year ago, are faster than Apple’s latest M1 Macs.

M1 Macs: Single-Core Speed and Excellent Battery Life

Apple developing its own silicon with system-on-chip (SoC) technology is nothing new. The iPhone maker designed every A-series processor powering iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch devices for over a decade. It’s more surprising that it took the tech giant so long to develop proprietary silicon for the Macintosh.

In partnership with Qualcomm, Microsoft developed its SQ1 and SQ2 processors for the Surface Pro X. Both processors contain SoC technology, implementing many core Windows algorithms directly in silicon. Although these machines don’t achieve their Apple counterparts’ performance, Microsoft created ultra-portable laptops capable of being used virtually anywhere with built-in cellular data capabilities.

The M1 is nothing new in the tech world, as ARM-based Windows machines have been around for years. Nonetheless, its performance is impressive. The M1’s single-core Geekbench scores beat every other processor, by far. Battery life on the new Macs is outstanding, with the new MacBook Air able to support up to 18 hours of video playback.

M1 Macs Hobbled by Mediocre Multi-Core Performance and Backward Compatibility

Apple and its cheerleaders only report positive aspects of new products. Apple’s reality distortion field also generates a false perception of originality. ARM-based processors with SoC technology are only new to Macintosh. Although performance is staggering in some cases, Apple’s latest Macs won’t outperform some older Windows and macOS machines for many tasks.

The M1 processor is composed of eight cores — four high-performance cores and four high-efficiency cores. A single high-performance core, running in unison, produces stellar Geekbench scores and snappy UI performance. When it comes to multi-core tasks, such as rendering video or making music in a digital audio workstation, the M1 chip isn’t much better than other options.

The M1 chip doesn’t present an illusion of performance. Single-core speed is real and benefits all users. It’s just that power users can do better with other machines, even those outside of the Apple ecosystem.

Methodology for Comparison

Before we look at Windows PCs offering better performance than the latest M1 Macs, it’s important to mention that Appledystopia receives no support from any technology provider. In fact, at the time of this writing, Microsoft’s search engine, Bing, is blocking this site from being indexed for some “unknown” reason. (Fortunately for me, no one uses Bing.) Appledystopia doesn’t ally with any tech corporation. Consumers come first here.

The methodology for this article is quite simple. Knowing the M1 processor’s specs, I looked for better machines. An interesting PC World article steered me in the right direction. The report contends that Apple’s claim of M1 Macs being faster than 98% of PCs is bunk. Although the article lists some superior PCs, I discovered many more, confirming that more than 2% of Windows PCs are faster than Apple’s latest Macs.

AMD’s Ryzen 9 4900HS is one of the world’s fastest laptop processors. Their desktop-class processors mop the floor with the M1; however, they also consume a lot of power and are ill-suited for laptops. Although the M1 is available in the Mac Mini — a desktop computer — it’s primarily a mobile processor. For the sake of fairness, I won’t compare desktop-class processors with Apple’s M1 chip.

Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 Beats M1 MacBooks

With a name that seems like it’s straight out of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, it’s clear that much of the Windows PC world doesn’t cater to hipsters. Priced at around $1200 to $1450 and debuting in late 2020 (months before Apple’s M1 Macs), this hefty gaming laptop delivers high performance. Unlike any other Mac notebook, the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 model provides an astonishing 120 Hz screen refresh rate, making it ideal for gaming.

Apart from the iPad Pro, Apple products do not offer 120 Hz refresh rates. The new display technology is a fixture in flagship Android smartphones, high-end Windows laptops, and flat-screen TVs. Apple is still playing catch-up with 120 Hz technology. Beyond multi-core processor speed, the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 offers a faster screen refresh rate, expanding the performance gap even more.

Even more impressive, this Asus laptop comes standard with a 1 TB SSD and 16 GB of RAM. With this taken into account, Apple’s comparably equipped 13″ MacBook Pro costs $1899 — well above the Asus. If Zaphod Beeblebrox were looking for a PC, he’d probably go for this one.

Dell G5 15 SE Gaming Laptop Beats M1 MacBooks

Similarly equipped with an AMD Ryzen 9 4900HS processor, Dell’s recently released gaming laptop features higher multi-core processing power than Apple’s M1 MacBooks. At an MSRP of $1339.99, it comes fully equipped with 16 GB of RAM, 1 TB of SSD storage, and an impressive display with a phenomenal 144 Hz refresh rate.

Overall, just about any high-end gaming laptop released in 2020 is as fast or faster than an M1 MacBook Air or Pro. Although these machines might be heavier, bulkier, and offer less battery life than the latest Macs, they deliver power, performance, and many more features than spartan MacBooks. A 144 Hz refresh rate is impressive, and it’s not just a meaningless spec. Graphics are more fluid and lifelike with higher refresh rates.

Microsoft Surface Pro X

Although this two-in-one laptop/tablet doesn’t beat M1 Macs in terms of performance, its cellular data capabilities make it indispensable for road warriors. The Microsoft Surface Pro X uses a proprietary SQ2 processor developed in partnership with Qualcomm. The chip adds SoC functionality leveraged by Windows to achieve greater performance, much like Apple’s M1 processor.

At $1499, the Microsoft Surface Pro X is a bit pricey; however, it comes equipped with 16 GB of RAM and a 256 GB SSD. The machine’s true appeal is that it runs Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office on a completely portable unit. Not one single Mac offers built-in cellular data connectivity. Their solution would be to tether your iPhone using a hotspot. With the Surface Pro X, users don’t need to rely on a smartphone.

Apple Doesn’t Create Higher Quality Products

One could claim Apple’s MacBook Pro offers better build quality than most Windows PCs. Consumer Reports would back up this claim. In my experience, my 13″ MacBook Pro was the worst tech product I have ever purchased. It completely broke after 18 months of barely being used. My MacBook Pro rested on a pedestal and was barely touched so as not to break its fragile butterfly keyboard mechanism.

I purchased a gorgeous 27″ iMac for my mom, which broke after six months. The Fusion drive failed spectacularly, and I personally know this has happened to others.

I’ve owned dozens of inexpensive PCs. When I worked as a senior software engineer at a Fortune 5 company, they gave me the cheapest laptops imaginable. I lugged them too and from work, on flights, and even had one fall on the floor of my car after slamming on the breaks. None of these Windows PCs broke! Some of them are ten years old, and they still work.

Maybe it’s bad luck. Perhaps Apple games the reviews. Whatever the case, I’m not convinced Apple makes high-quality products. I recently switched to Android and Windows over disgust with poorly-made Apple products. So far, the replacements have held up well, and I have no regrets.

 

7 comments

  1. To begin, I have always used Windows machines (since Win95). I built 3 desktops. I wanted/need a laptop so last year so I bought an Asus. It was faulty and was returned for a refund. I then tried a HP envy x360 Ryzen 5. Within 8 months it proved to be a lemon and quite literally fell apart. I complained and it was repaired. That repair was faulty and it was again repaired. That repair was faulty and was again repaired. That repair was also faulty and eventually HP agreed to a refund! I then tried a Dell. It was DOA (the fingerprint sensor did not work, the machine physically rocked across a diagonal because the base was not level and it ran very hot when not under load!) I returned it for a refund! Eventually I did the unthinkable and tried a Macbook Air M1 simply in the hope of finding a computer that was reasonably well built. So far so good! I have had it for a week and it seems both sturdy and functional. It is certainly better build quality than any of the Asus, HP or Dell machines that have caused me so much misery over the last few months.

    1. That’s interesting. I’ve had the complete opposite experience. I’ve used Windows machines for decades and only had a problem with one low-end Dell Inspiron. The WiFi module failed, so I had to use a WiFi card. Other than that, I haven’t had any issues.

      The last two Macs I owned broke for no reason. They had the appearance of excellent build quality, with their aluminum, unibody design and tight manufacturing standards. But they both broke for no reason and were barely used. The Windows laptop I had that broke went through a lot. I lugged it back and forth from work. It fell on the floor of my car when I slammed on the breaks. It still just worked. It didn’t completely fail. I had an old laptop WiFi card, so I popped it in and the problem was solved.

      There are a lot of PCs and some are very poor quality. I subscribed to Consumer Reports before I bought my last PC, which I love. I ended up getting an LG Gram and it’s the best laptop I’ve ever owned. I think Windows 10 is better than macOS. There’s more ways to get the same task done in Windows. Also, Windows offers more software.

      To be fair, Consumer Reports rates pretty much all Macs as having 5/5 reliability. My LG Gram is rated at 4/5, which is the highest rating for a Windows laptop. Intel makes a desktop computer called the NUC which scores a 5/5 in reliability. My advice — if you’re looking for any big purchase, subscribe to Consumer Reports for a month, do some research and buy what they recommend. I recently did this to replace my mom’s horrible HP printer. We got a Brother and it’s the best printer she’s ever had. It was cheap too! Some of the best products aren’t that expensive, and some of the most expensive computers are horrible. Supposedly AlienWare makes some of the most defective (and expensive) Windows machines available.

      The one fishy thing about Consumer Reports is that they rated butterfly keyboard MacBooks, which required expensive repairs when the keyboard broke from a few specs of dust, as 5/5 in reliability. It makes me question their objectivity. They should have got marked down to 4/5 for that horrible keyboard mechanism that Apple eventually gave up on after 3 generations. They also rate the iPhone higher than any other phone, although Samsung and OnePlus offer better screens, batteries and three times as much memory. The iPhone is a good phone. I’m weary of the Mac.

      Good luck with your MacBook Air. I hope it works out. It’s such a hassle to deal with a broken computer. I really liked my MacBook Pro. But after my mom’s 27″ iMac failed too, it was just too much. I may buy a Mac again, but only for the purposes of research for this site. I’d only go for the cheapest Mac Mini.

      1. Agree that there are cheaper options to a MacBook Pro. I had used several gaming laptops before the macs that broke all the time; they were not cheap either. I went and bought a MacBook pro in 2013. Still works like new. Have a 2018 laptop too. Also, have a MacPro desktop. All have been abused, dropped (has few dings from that), and my keyboard looks filthy. Running along fine. 0 issues. I use a Android phone though. Have 0 brand loyalty, I want my stuff to work and look decent at the same time, price is secondary. Yet to see an alternative to Apple.

        1. Those high-end Window laptops, particularly Alienware, aren’t very good. Consumer Reports did a study a while back and found that high-end Windows laptops are often more problemmatic than the cheaper ones.

          After I bought two Macs that failed after very little use (didn’t even move my MacBook from its pedestal), I had enough. I subscribed to Consumer Reports, found the most reliable Windows laptop (LG Gram) and bought it. I’m typing on it right now. Not only does it offer military grade durability (certified by US Military), but it’s very light and the keyboard has a much better feel. It’s ultra thin. It would be easy to mistake it for a MacBook.

          I just switched back to iOS from Android. Actually, my iPhone 13 Pro Max will get here in a few days. I tried out Android for a little over a year. It’s a decent operating system and my OnePlus is a well made phone. Android just isn’t as good as iOS. Some of the workflow is wonky. For example, if I try to attach an image using a third-party messaging app, it’s like I’m in some alternate universe. iOS has a much more unified interface. Apple is better at enforcing a modicum of user interface standards.

          The other problem with Android is, apart from Google’s apps, most other apps aren’t as good as the iOS version. This is a matter of dollars and cents. The iOS version of an app always earns more, so it gets more attention. Some Android apps are just so frustrating. They also have to develop for “n” handsets, where iOS developers can target a set number of very similar devices.

          The iPhone won the smartphone wars. Windows is still on top when it comes to computers. I actually prefer Windows 10 to macOS. I’m looking forward to Windows 11.

          I’m glad your Mac experience has been favorable. The Apple Store is not a pleasant experience. I had to pack up and haul that 27″ iMac twice, because they screwed up the first time. They act like they did me a favor, because after they messed up the first fix, the second fix was beyond warranty (due to store closures) so they fixed it for “free”. Seriously! They screwed up so many times, and acted like they did me a solid. I almost want to send back my iPhone 13 Max Pro…

          The lesson I learned, yet again, is buy the best thing. As much as I dislike Apple (and most corporations, as they only care about profit), I have to admit, the iPhone is an excellent phone. I believe its the best smartphone on the market. Now they have 120 Hz refresh rate screens AND the ultra-fast A15 processor. Unfortunately, Qualcomm is still behind Apple when it comes to processors, and the other alternatives available to Android (Exynos, MediaTek) are even farther behind.

          Perhaps Google’s Tensor chip will be a game changer, but Android/Pixel is not Google’s most important product. One reason why the iPhone is so good is that it’s Apple’s most important product. Their best engineers work on it. It gets the most attention.

          The iPhone isn’t even expensive anymore. My iPhone 13 Pro Max with 256 GB of storage is $1200. My OnePlus 8 Pro was $999, but I purchased it 6 months after it came out, at a reduced price. Top of the line Samsung phones can cost almost $2000 and their autofocus doesn’t work. Samsung’s AI isn’t as good as Apple’s, and that’s required for autofocus, bokeh, and categorizing images. OnePlus has working autofocus, but their bokeh effect has blurry margins, again, because their AI isn’t as good. iPhones with LiDAR can sense depth, so Apple’s camera game is the best in the industry.

        2. I’m actually planning an article about the top 5 Windows laptops. I’m going to use Consumer Reports and customer reviews from top retailers to create the short list. Reliability is central to this analysis.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

© 2022 Appledystopia | Privacy & Cookie Policy | Terms of Service