Intel Hits Back at Apple M1 with Questionable Benchmarks

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Apple finally proved the rumor mill right last year when it launched its custom M1 processor in the new MacBooks and Mac Mini. Early benchmarks showed the Apple M1 clobbering the competition in most ways that matter, but now Intel has regrouped and has released a slideshow (because of course it has) that compares the M1 to Intel’s latest Core laptop processor. 

The Apple M1 leverages all the experience Apple has had making smartphone and tablet ARM chips, but the performance has been cranked way, way up. There are eight CPU cores in the M1, four high-performance Firestorm and four energy-efficient Icestorm cores. These designs are all completely custom — no rebranded ARM Cortex reference designs a la Qualcomm. There’s also an Apple-designed 8-core GPU. The M1 reportedly has overall excellent performance, and it uses about a third of the power of Intel CPUs. 

Intel gave up on ARM years ago, and maybe it’s regretting that. Regardless, the company has released benchmarks that aim to show its i7-1185G7 chip has more raw power than the M1. Some of the numbers do look good for Intel. Most of the numbers from Chrome, Office, Photoshop, and other tests show Intel in the lead, but it’s important to note that several of these benchmarks use Intel’s hardware acceleration technology. 

Intel also provided a rundown of gaming performance, but here the numbers were more kind to Apple. The M1 notched victories with games like Hitman and Borderlands 3, but this slide is really just here to show how many games don’t run on the M1. There’s an equally suspect test of battery life — while all the previous tests used a MacBook Pro M1, the battery life test switches to a MacBook Air M1, which only bested the Intel-based laptop by a few minutes. The MacBook Pro M1 is widely known to outlast Intel-based computers by hours. 

The slideshow also includes some debate on form factors and variety, which is more valid than the benchmark argument, in my opinion. The MacBook is limited by Apple’s vision, but there are PCs in all different shapes and sizes, and some of them have touchscreens. Apple still refuses to add that feature to its laptops. 

Intel still has some things to crow about, but that list might dwindle as Apple releases improved M1 chips. This was just its first swipe at ARM-based computers, and it seems to be going pretty well. Intel might be looking at much stiffer competition in the coming years.

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