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MacBook M1 just beaten by Intel chips — in handpicked benchmarks

Black Friday laptop
(Image credit: Future)

The MacBook Pro M1 and MacBook Air M1 may not be as all-powerful as we believed. At least according to information published by Apple's biggest rival.

Chipmaker Intel has released a slideshow of graphs showing off how the Apple chipset doesn't match up to its Tiger Lake chips in a group of handpicked benchmarks.

Compared to the 11th-generation Core i7 silicon, the Apple M1 has overall slower processing, fewer compatible apps and shorter battery life. However as a PC World report points out and analysis from our friends at Tom's Hardware also mentions, there are some important caveats to Intel's numbers.

First, let's look at the performance tests, based on WebXPRT 3 benchmarks recorded in Google Chrome and Windows 365. Intel used one of its latest chips, the Core i7-1165G7, in the "whitebook" test rig for these benchmarks, but since it's so new, having only appeared in MSI's Prestige 14 Evo laptop so far, it's unclear if this is actually representative of the experience the average user will get.

MacBook M1 vs. Intel benchmarks

(Image credit: Intel/Tom's Hardware)

Intel also used the same productivity tests it designed its Intel Evo platform around to show how this translates to the real world. According to its tests, the M1 chip in the MacBook Pro fails eight out of the 25 scenarios Intel uses by being too slow to respond. However as TH notes, this test was performed on a MacBook with the basic 8GB RAM package, rather than the 16GB option.

MacBook M1 vs. Intel benchmarks

(Image credit: Intel/Tom's Hardware)

For gaming, Intel scores some easy wins since half of the games it uses for the tests currently don't work on M1 chips. For the titles that are available on both chips, there are mixed results, with Intel and Apple trading wins.

MacBook M1 vs. Intel benchmarks

(Image credit: Intel/Tom's Hardware)

However, most PC gamers use discrete graphics cards designed by Nvidia or AMD, not Intel's integrated Xe graphics. While it's clear Windows remains a better platform for gaming than Mac, this is an odd comparison for Intel to draw.

Swapping from the MacBook Pro to the MacBook Air, and from the Core i7-1165G7 whitebook to an Acer Swift 5 laptop with a Core i7-1165G7 chip, Intel tested battery life. The MacBook came out only 6 minutes ahead after streaming Netflix and keeping several browser tabs open. 

MacBook M1 vs. Intel benchmarks

(Image credit: Intel/Tom's Hardware)

The slideshow also ribs Apple for not offering touchscreen or 2-in-1 laptops, lacking support for accessories, and for the MacBooks only supporting a single external display. This won't be a problem for everyone, but it does show that Intel-powered machines can be more versatile.

MacBook M1 vs. Intel benchmarks

(Image credit: Intel/Tom's Hardware)

Overall, these benchmarks do offer compelling evidence that laptops with Intel chips can be better for certain users. However it's not worth putting too much stock into these benchmarks, as the tasks and device specs used are openly designed to produce numbers benefitting Intel.

Even in areas where Apple falls behind, it could very well take ground back. The M1 chip is still new, so as developers adapt to the platform, it's likely many of these compatibility issues will be fixed. Plus with the number of creative Apple patents we've seen lately for new MacBook designs, it seems like Apple could offer less traditionally-shaped laptops if it saw a benefit.

As for future M1-powered products, we may see an announcement in March, the time of Apple spring event. Currently rumors are suggesting a new iMac is on the cards, but we're also anticipating Apple to bring its proprietary chip design to the 16-inch MacBook Pro in the near future, too.