Another day, another win for the M1 MacBooks. Today's news comes from a new comparison between the new MacBook Air M1 and Microsoft's Surface Pro X, to see how Apple and Microsoft fare when their ARM-based laptops are pitted against each other.
According to PC World (opens in new tab), the M1 MacBook Air just embarrasses the Surface Pro X, one of the machines we didn't compare to in our MacBook Air with M1 review. And these tests re-emphasize what we've already learned: that the new MacBook is one of the best laptops around.
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There are a couple caveats to note. PC World used a Surface Pro X with the original SQ1 chip and not the new SQ2 (which they could not procure). This may not be the end of the world, as the newer chip only has a small performance upgrade, from 3GHz in the original to 3.15 GHz in the SQ2.
That being said, a previous report showed where the M1 MacBooks beat the SQ2 Surface Pro, too. Also, we're seeing numbers that reflect Microsoft's new 64-bit X86 application emulator, which is in beta preview — and Microsoft says it should improve.
The losses for ARM on Windows begin with the Geekbench 5 test, where the Surface Pro X posted a multi-core score of 2,734, a mere fraction of the 7,454 from the MacBook Air M1. PC World does not specify which versions of Geekbench they're comparing, but since Geekbench (opens in new tab) advises how to properly compare scores — you can't put Geekbench 5.3 from a Mac against GB 5.3 from a PC, for example — we're going to have to assume they're using proper comparisons.
Then, on the Cinebench R23 test, the M1 MacBook Air posted another mighty score 6,838, to the Surface Pro X's 1,604. It should be noted that this is one of the tests where the Surface Pro X doesn't have an optimized version for ARM, but the Mac does. While that means that the Surface Pro X could do better with a new version of the software, it's a little disappointing to see that it still doesn't have that application, despite the Pro X coming out more than a year ago, while the M1 MacBooks are still about a month old.
There's more bad news for Windows on ARM. While the M1 MacBook Air could run Rise of the Tomb Raider at a strong 60.6 fps (at 1280 x 800, medium), the Surface Pro X failed to run the game all together.
The PC World tests also show a win for the Mac on the Handbrake video conversion tool, which wasn't a huge surprise considering how the Handbrake results looked in our review.
This all shows that the Windows on ARM project has a lot of work to do to catch up with Apple. Not just with performance overall, but with the speed of application emulators, as Apple's Rosetta 2 has shown strong results in our testing. If Microsoft's x86 on ARM emulation improves, there should be a chance.
You are comparing a product released in 2019, based in a 2018 processor to a laptop that was released a couple weeks ago along side a process that was also released a couple weeks ago. If you recall Moore's Law, this is what is suppose to happen. Intel has been able to deliver that generational computational improvement in the last decade, but Qualcomm has and certainly AMD's Ryzen has shown that AMD64 (x86-64) can do that as well. I anticipate that ARM on windows will improve and will be opened up, and ARM on macs will Improve and become more locked down. Then RISC-V will come in an decimate both in 5 years.