Apple’s Fantastic M1 Processor Is Held Back by Software Compatibility

Illustration for article titled Apples Fantastic M1 Processor Is Held Back by Software Compatibility

Photo: Joanna Nelius/Gizmodo

It’s easy to look at the benchmark numbers of Apple’s home-grown processor with wide, astonished eyes—and some heart-felt expletives, too. The M1 is no doubt impressive enough to capture the interest of the most die-hard of die-hard PC users, and it’s clear that Apple’s gamble with making its own in-house chips is already paying off. It might not pay dividends overnight, but those already entrenched in the Mac ecosystem will reap a lot of benefits.

But as amazing as Apple’s M1 is and how great the new MacBook Air and MacBook Pro are for the price, it’s nearly impossible to do a direct comparison to any Windows-based Intel and AMD system—or even any macOS-based Intel system—because of the architectural differences between the processors. What the M1 excels at and where it falls short compared to its competition varies by program. Yes, it’s extremely fucking fast, according to Cinebench. And yes, some staunch PC users may even switch to Mac the next time they need a new laptop. But the M1 isn’t a clear winner over Intel and AMD. It exists in its own world—kind of like Apple as a whole.

I have a much more in-depth explanation of the differences between Intel/AMD and Apple’s processors further down, which will help interpret some of these benchmark results, but I wanted to start with those results up-front. In addition to the usual benchmark suite we run on all laptops, I included a few more tests to get a better idea of how Apple’s M1 performs compared to a few Intel and AMD models when it comes to different tasks. I included a mix of synthetic and real benchmarks, because synthetic benchmarks don’t always tell the full story. This is especially true with the M1, due to some of the programs running via Apple’s Rosetta 2 instead of natively, which could have a performance impact depending on how well the program translates the code.

I ran the same tests on four separate laptops:

  • Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch: M1 processor @ 3.20 GHz, 8-cores (4 “big,” 4 “little”), 16GB DRAM
  • MSI Prestige 14 Evo: Intel Core i7-1185G7 @ 3.00 GHz, 4-cores/8-threads, with Iris Xe Graphics, 16GB DRAM
  • Lenovo Yoga 7i 14-inch Evo: Intel Core i5-1135G7…