This article is based on an article from the Japanese edition of Engadget and was created using the translation tool Deepl.
Apparently, the Apple Silicon, or "M1", is fast. In fact, it was fast. It may be the first time in a long time that I have been surprised by a product that I have used with my trial equipment. (Oh, I was also surprised at the loading time of PS5, so it's not too long since I was surprised...)
So how well does it perform? What's it like to use it? I would like to explain it simply.
I used a MacBook Pro with 8GB of memory and 256GB of storage. It is a 13-inch MacBook Pro that has become an entry-level product, but it shows possibilities that you wouldn't expect from an entry-level product.
For comparison purposes, we also prepared a 2020 model MacBook Pro (16GB of memory) with Intel Core i5-1038NG7 (the so-called 10th generation Core i5), so let's take a look at that as well.
The truly unparalleled performance of the M1 in games, video conferencing, and video editing
Whether it is the M1 version or the Intel version, the appearance of the MacBook Pro is the same. The Intel version of the MacBook Pro has two Thunderbolt ports on each side as the higher-end model, but the M1 version is a "lower-end" model, so there are only two ports on the left. So, even if you put the two side by side, it doesn't feel new.
But what's inside is amazing. We can talk about it in terms of benchmark software, but let's start with the results of running the app.
First, the game.
I tried running the game Rise of the Tomb Raider with the picture quality set to "Highest" (with the graphics setting set to "Highest" and the display panel resolution of 2560 x 1600 pixels, which is the resolution of a 13-inch MacBook Pro). The screen is quite beautiful.
At this setting, the Intel version only produces 9.45 frames per second. The resolution needs to be lowered or it won't be a game. However, the M1 version is 22.69 frames per second with the same setting. This is barely OK. If we review the setting a little, it will be smooth.
Note that this is a difference in the same "Intel version" of the software, not the Apple Silicon optimized version.
Let's take a look at another game. Civilization 6 is a famous time stealer. This one is also an Intel version.
The Intel version of the Mac Book Pro had 24 frames per second and an average turn time of 14.47, but the M1 version has been speeded up to "around 61 frames per second" and "average turn time of 10.73", which is a big change in comfort.
Next, video conferencing. I used "mmmhmm", which has a reputation for being skillful in compositing, etc. This is an Apple Silicon optimized "Universal App".
You can see the difference in the videos. I took videos of myself using virtual backgrounds, and the M1's accuracy in "extracting" silhouettes has been improved: while the Intel version tended to delay recognition of things like the space between the fingers when I fluttered my hand, the M1 version tracked relatively well. Moreover, the "Big Hand Mode", which recognizes hand gestures and overlays images, is only available on the M1 version. This difference is a result of the Neural Engine, which is a machine learning optimization engine in the M1. Another important point is that the video being shot is very easy to see. This is due to the image signal processor in the M1, which improves the image quality. When it comes to video conferencing, there is a big difference between the Intel version and the M1 version.
Lastly, I used Adobe Premiere Rush to measure the time it takes to export a 4K, 60-frame, 1 minute 53 seconds video with a variety of effects at the highest quality settings.
This also made a big difference. What took 15 minutes and 4 seconds for the Intel version takes 3 minutes and 36 seconds for the M1 version, which is more than 4 times faster. Moreover, this is the result of running the Intel version of the software as it is, just like "Rise of the Tomb Raider" and "Civilization 6".
The most important thing is that it is quiet even after all this processing.
That's not to say that the fan isn't spinning, or that it isn't generating heat. However, it doesn't give the impression that the fan starts spinning loudly as soon as something happens, as the Intel version does. The fan seems to be spinning all the time, but it's not loud, and even when the fan seems to be at its fullest, it's not as annoying as the Intel version.
Performance beyond the 16-inch MacBook Pro in the entry-level
Now, let's take a look at the benchmarks you've been waiting for. The results are obvious.
In both Geekbench 5 and Cinebench results, the performance of the M1 version is much better than the Intel version, almost double the performance.
Judging from the database, which can be found on the Geekbench 5 site, the M1 exceeds the Core i9 used by the MacBook Pro 16" in terms of CPU values. The GPU seems to be the performance of NVIDIA's Geforce GTX 1050 class. Looking at the data from Cinebench, the top and bottom of the list are the 11th generation Core i7 and Xeon. The fact that this is Apple Silicon, which is proposed for mobile use and as Apple's entry-level product, becomes scary.
The compatibility status of Intel apps is good, but there is still a lot to learn about the workings of iOS/iPadOS apps
The Intel version of the app works very well, as I can confirm the results of overtaking a MacBook Pro with Core i5 using the Intel version of the app as mentioned above. The Intel version of the Japanese input software, ATOK, also works without any problems. The web browser, Chrome, also works without any problems. I could work with 20 or 30 tabs open and not feel heavy.
Of course, it's not a 100% working situation. The most obvious glitch was in Adobe's "Lightroom". Loading and writing images slowed down at a level of 10 to 20 times. Editing images from Creative Cloud, for example, does not cause problems, so it must be something specific. Likewise, there may be some defects that I didn't notice during this short test. So, please make sure to check the operation of the software on which you depend for your work.
In addition, the M1 version of the Mac also works with iOS/iPadOS applications. This is also quite convenient, but compared to the compatible operation of the Intel Mac apps, it is a little unstable and lacks some features.
In the case of iOS/iPadOS applications, there are many applications whose window size is fixed and cannot be changed. Some applications that can be shared between iPhone and iPad were able to change the window size as well as Mac applications, but I would say they are rather exceptional. In addition, the MacBook screen is not touchable, so "multi-touch operation with both hands" is not easy. That's why some games move but are difficult to play.
There are also iOS/iPadOS apps that are not available in the Mac AppStore. There were no web-based video streaming services or Google apps. Also, some games are not available. To begin with, most of the apps in the store are released on the premise that they have not been tested on macOS. It's still too early to guarantee reliable operation.
It seems that they spent a long time testing Intel compatibility, but I get the impression that they were in a hurry to give up on the iOS/iPadOS app compatibility. It will be necessary to verify the operation slowly and carefully. So, it is better not to buy an M1 version of Mac with "iOS/iPadOS apps available" as the first reason.
There is no longer any reason to choose the Intel version
Although the compatibility of iOS/iPadOS apps is immature, from the point of view of a "Mac", the MacBook Pro with the M1 is an excellent product. The performance is high and the operation is quiet. Moreover, it has long battery life.
I spent three hours browsing the web, syncing documents to cloud storage, and launching Microsoft Word to write, and the M1 version consumed 21% of the battery, while the Intel version consumed 45%. From this calculation, the same task can be continued for "14 hours" on M1 and "7 hours" on Intel, which is roughly twice as long as we can use it.
At this stage, I think it's safe to say that the reasons for choosing Intel's version are "compatibility" and "need to use Windows, Linux, etc. on a virtual environment". It's no wonder that some people, even those who use higher-end Macs, choose the M1 version for cost performance reasons. It's been a really long time since I've seen such a disruptive product.
On the other hand, I'm curious to see how Apple will meet the need for more interfaces, more memory, storage, and GPU power. If there is an Apple Silicon version of the Mac Pro, what will it be and how far can it stretch its performance? Even non-Mac users should keep an eye on it.
This article is based on an article from the Japanese edition of Engadget and was created using the translation tool Deepl. The Japanese edition of Engadget does not guarantee the accuracy or reliability of this article.