- 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.