Intel Evo vs. Apple M1: Hardware Compatibility

Posted on February 15, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Hardware, Mobile, Mac and macOS, Windows 10 with 66 Comments

This past week, I’ve experimented with using, or trying to use, a wide range of hardware devices with the Intel Evo-based Razer Book 13 and Apple’s M1-based MacBook Pro I’m currently comparing. Not surprisingly, the MacBook handles the most common peripherals well enough, but it also comes up short in some key areas as well.

What I’ve found is that the MacBook’s troubles are two-fold.

The first issue is just a general design limitation that Apple inflicts on its customers regardless of the processor choice: Its portable computers only ship with USB-C ports now, and have for years, virtually ensuring that users will need to cart around dongles. And the MacBook Pro I’m testing, like the popular MacBook Air, only includes two of those ports. So many users will also need a USB-C docking station of some kind.

I’m not trying to be cute here. I have long claimed that USB-C is the future—arguably, it’s “the present” now—but the reality is that most of us have legacy USB devices that require the larger Type-A port that the portable Macs all lack. Not to mention devices that would benefit from other common ports, like HDMI-out. These ports are still common on PCs of all kinds, from the bargain basement to the premium sector.

The second issue is tied to limitations of the M1 chipset. Some hardware peripherals don’t work at all with this chipset, though one imagines compatibility will improve over time. And some peripherals don’t work the same way as they do with Intel-based Macs (and PCs). For example, M1-based Macs can only work with a single external display, and not multiple external displays.

To test hardware compatibility, I used three sets of devices: The peripherals I use routinely every single day, other devices like scanners and printers that I have in my home office and use occasionally, and an unfamiliar (to me) set of modern devices, provided by Intel, that performed, shall we say, predictably.

Daily-use peripherals

So let’s start with my daily-use peripherals, which I document from time-to-time in my “What I Use” series, for example, this version from June 2020. It hasn’t changed that much, if at all, over the years. But the one thing most of these devices have is that they connect via USB-A. The Mac doesn’t have such a port, so I used a USB-C-to-A adapter I have on hand. (And to be fair, were I to use my entire set of daily-use devices simultaneously with any laptop, PC or Mac, I’d use a USB-C or Thunderbolt dock of some kind to make it easier to detach—and later reattach—the laptop from all of these devices. Again, there’s no reason to be cute about this.)

First up is the Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Wireless Desktop Keyboard and Mouse. Both worked on the MacBook Pro immediately—I could move the mouse cursor around and type into a Word document—but macOS threw up a short Keyboard Assistant wizard in which I had to tap on the keys next to each Shift key and identify the keyboard as ANSI. Nothing onerous.

On a Windows PC, the keyboard and mouse likewise work immediately, and there’s no need for any additional configuration. That said, Microsoft does provide software for configuring each further if needed, on both Windows and the Mac, but I’ve long since stopped installing it, and so I didn’t feel it would be fair to inflict this on the Mac.

I use a Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920 for podcasts and virtual meetings, and so I tested that with Microsoft Teams, which I believe is translated, and not native on M1-based Macs like the MacBook Pro. No matter: Teams immediately recognized the webcam (as seen in settings), and after giving the app permission to use the camera, the video came right up.

On Windows, I am automatically prompted to download some additional Logitech software for configuring the camera. I do this only because I’m prompted to do so, but I rarely use it to adjust the picture or whatever. No prompt of any kind appeared on the Mac, as with the Microsoft keyboard and mouse.

I use a Focusrite Scarlett Solo (2nd Gen) USB Audio Interface and a Heil PR 40 microphone with PL2T Boom Mount for podcasting. The key bit here is the USB audio interface: This is what passes through audio from the microphone to the PC and thus to apps like Teams and Skype. Here, again, I tested compatibility via Teams settings. It recognized the Focusrite, but I had to set it as the default microphone (as is often the case in Windows).  And the app lets you make a test call to determine how well everything works. It worked just fine.

On Windows, I keep a copy of the latest Focusrite software on my NAS and make a point to install that every time I set up a new PC for use with the device. I’m not entirely sure how necessary this is, but because I need the mic to work with Windows Weekly and other podcasts, I want to make sure it’s up-to-date. I didn’t install anything on the Mac.

I also use a pair of pedestrian Sony headphones during podcasts. Both PCs sport a combo headphone/mic jack, and the headphones worked fine on each.

I don’t typically attach portable PCs to Ethernet, but I do connect my desktop PC (an Intel NUC) to Ethernet, and when I’ve experimented with a docked portable PC as a desktop PC replacement, I do always use Ethernet. So I tested that as well. This required a different kind of adapter on the Mac—USB-C to Ethernet—of course. And while there was no visual indication that Ethernet had been enabled, a quick check of Network preferences (in System Preferences) showed that it was working. Oddly, it also delivered slower speeds (91 over 24 Mbps) than did Wi-Fi (292 over 25 Mbps); my connection is 330 over 30 Mbps. I can’t explain that one.

Except that maybe I can: I ran the same tests on the NUC and the Razer and saw similar results. This was 94 over 24 Mbps on the former with Ethernet and then 101 over 25.1 on Wi-Fi. And as for the Razer, it doesn’t have an Ethernet port, so you’d need a dongle on this PC as well. It achieved speeds of 268 over 25.3 Mbps on Wi-Fi and 63 over 25 Mbps on Ethernet. Something is up with my Ethernet, I guess.

Finally, my display is an HP Business Z27n G2 27-inch LED with a 1440p (2560 x 1440) resolution and a nice set of inputs that includes USB-C 3.1, DisplayPort 1.2, DVI-D, and HDMI 1.4. I connect it to my NUC via USB-C normally, so it seemed only fair to test it against this port on the PC and the Mac.

Again, no surprises: After a few flashes of the primary display, the external display came up and seemed to work just fine. I had to go into Display preferences to scale the display a bit, but it correctly identified the display, and doing so worked well.

On the Razer, I was greeted by a familiar experience: Windows 10 now defaults to the Duplicate display mode when you add an external display. But I switched that to Extend and had to manually adjust the scaling as I did on the Mac.

Of course, where things fall apart on the M1-based Macs is that they only support a single external display. I typically only use one external display when I use one at all, but on Windows, you’re not constrained by this weird artificial limitation. Presumably, future Apple Silicon-based Macs will overcome this issue, but it’s unclear whether it will ever be rectified on first-generation M1-based Macs.

Anyway. Overall, I was impressed with the compatibility of my daily-use devices on the M1-based MacBook Pro. There were no blockers at all, and while I would really need to use these peripherals over time—recording multiple podcasts, for example—it seems that all is well here.

Other devices I own and use occasionally

Moving on, I next looked at other peripherals that I have in my home but use less frequently. First up, a couple of network-based devices.

We have a few printers around the house, but our primary printer is an HP OfficeJet Pro 9020 in my wife’s office on the second floor. In Windows, this comes up automatically as a choice, and the HP Smart app, which is used to configure this and other modern HP printers/scanners, is automatically installed through the Store (whether I want it or not).

I was curious how the Mac would handle this, so I brought up a Microsoft Word test document, tapped CMD + P and observed that no printer was selected in the Print dialog. However, when I selected the drop-down, there it was: An HP OfficeJet Pro 9020 series printer appeared in the list under “Nearby printers” and, after a bit of preparation, was ready for use.

So I printed it. Word warned that the document’s “margins are pretty small” and that some of the content might be cut off when I printed. But I printed it anyway, and it came out fine (and in color). I also I loaded an article I recently wrote and printed that all-text document instead. Also fine.

The other network-based device I tried to access from the Mac is my WD NAS. This worked fine as well.

I have a set of USB flash drives and USB hard drives, and each of these was immediately recognized by the MacBook Pro, with a drive icon appearing on the desktop in each case. (The Mac still freaks out when you detach USB storage manually like it’s 1999, but whatever.)

I tested a few portable USB hubs as well—portable, in this case, meaning that they don’t require an external power supply. One of these has three ports—USB-A, USB-C, and HDMI—and each worked correctly; I connected a different HP display via HDMI and it was identified correctly (HP E232) and worked as expected. (I used the USB-C port for a storage device.)

I also tested a new Xbox Wireless Controller. I couldn’t get it to connect to the Mac via USB—the Xbox button’s light just kept flashing—but it paired via Bluetooth quickly. (I guess Apple is working on getting a wired connection to work.)

Of course, finding a game to test it with can be problematic. I started with Gylt on Stadia via Microsoft Edge and a “Controller linked” notification appeared when I pressed a button on the controller. And it seemed to work normally, both in menus and in the game itself. (Stadia didn’t adapt well to the Mac’s display, with a bright white line appearing across the top, but it wasn’t hugely distracting.)

Here, too, I was impressed by the M1-based MacBook Pro’s compatibility with the hardware I have here at home.

Other peripherals

As Steve Jobs would say, however, “but wait, there’s more.”

While the M1 chipset offers excellent compatibility and performance across both hardware and software, its deficiencies are, of course, well known as well. And in addition to not supporting more than a single external display, there are certain other classes of hardware peripherals with which M1-based Macs simply don’t work. And it is these edge cases that can make or break the experience.

If you’re familiar with my stance on Windows 10 on ARM, you know that I’ve often made the case that this platform will betray potential users via some incompatibility, be it a key software application or a driver utility related to a specific hardware peripheral. And that this problem, combined with the system’s performance issues, is so bad that Windows 10 on ARM is basically not suitable for anyone. It’s certainly not something you would ever inflict on a normal, non-technical person.

The M1-based Macs do not suffer from this problem, not exactly. That is, unlike Windows 10 on ARM, the new Macs offer levels of performance and compatibility that should meet the needs of most normal users. But depending on your needs, the M1-based Macs could be unworkable. It’s just that these issues impact more technical users with more specific needs.

The multiple display issue is, perhaps, the big one. Windows PCs (and Intel-based Macs) of course support multiple displays. Evo-based PCs even support dual 4K external displays over a single port, thanks to display chaining. But with a Mac, even a USB-C or Thunderbolt dock won’t help. Apple only supports a single external display.

I tested this using a CalDigit TS3 Plus Thunderbolt 3 dock that Intel supplied for testing. This thing is awesome, and on Windows PCs and Intel-based Macs, you can connect multiple displays via USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 and DisplayPort. Any one of these works fine with the Mac, even the DisplayPort, which I was able to test because the HP E232 display supports DisplayPort. But just one. (The dock works fine otherwise, in the sense that the USB ports all work, etc.)

PCs (and Intel-based Macs) also support external GPUs (eGPUs) like the Razer Core X that Intel supplied for testing. You basically just pop a GPU card into the enclosure—Intel also supplied an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti for this purpose—connect it to power and the PC and you’re good to go. (So good, in fact, that I’ll be writing about this setup separately. I’ve been wanting to test an eGPU for a long time.) But the M1-based MacBook Pro? Nada. It doesn’t even see the eGPU.

Apple fans will correctly argue that these problems are a slice in time and that the firm’s silicon will improve to the point where these compatibility issues lessen and perhaps disappear entirely. And I agree with that, with two caveats. First, we can only test what is available now, and what’s available now on the Apple side of the fence has some limitations that do not exist in the PC space. And second, it’s possible if not likely that future improvements will only come to future generation (M2 or whatever) chipsets. That is, the M1 may always be the least compatible of the Apple Silicon chipsets.

We’ll see. For now, I think it’s fair to say that those with specific requirements—gamers, of course, but also many developers, engineers, scientists, and others who rely on multiple displays or higher-end configurations—will want to avoid the M1-based Macs.

Beyond that, the needle hasn’t really changed: Macs are Macs and PCs are PCs, and there is nothing particularly special about the M1-based Macs and hardware compatibility, beyond the fact that most typical peripherals appear to work fine. So even if we judge compatibility to be even with that of the Intel-based Macs, which it’s not, there’s no advantage there. Everything works fine on the PC. Most things work fine on the M1-based Macs.

That’s a win for Apple and for Mac fans. Is it not enough to trigger a new wave of switchers? No, I don’t think so.

I’ll look at software compatibility soon as well.

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Comments (66)

66 responses to “Intel Evo vs. Apple M1: Hardware Compatibility”

  1. vladimir

    Thank you for the excellent read. I think that apple users just don't expect macs to work with any external sophisticated hardware. Most people that need that, also know that they need windows. Regarding e-GPUs, nvidia cards don't work with any mac since a decade. To be fair there isn't on the market any e-gpu that works with an ARM based system of any kind. The ARM based macs will probably change that over time

  2. davehelps

    Regarding the ethernet speed using a USB adapter; sounds to me like something, somewhere, is in a 100Mb/s port.

    And are there any 100Mb/s switches between your devices and the router?

    This may not be related, but on a Raspberry Pi 3 the native ethernet port has a maximum speed of 100 Mb/s.

    You can connect a Gigabit USB NIC, and get about 400 Mb/s, because that's the limit of the USB bus that it's going over.

    Now, your mac's USB-C ports are presumably ultra-mega-super-vLatest-whatever-the-USB-consortium-thinks-sounds-cool-today, but they're probably not running at 1 Gb/s.

    Whereas the WiFi card will be plugged straight onto the bus at whatever speed it can handle.

  3. wright_is

    In reply to Bob_Shutts:

    Yes, but did they all come with a USB-C cable in the box?

    Legacy PCs have USB-A only, modern PCs and laptops still have, generally, more USB-A ports than USB-C ports (my desktop has 8 USB-A ports and a single USB-C port, my personal laptop 2 USB-A ports, my work laptop, 2 USB-C, 2 USB-A). USB-A cables cost tuppence ha'penny and USB-C cables are still expensive, in comparison.

    That means, if you have purely USB-C ports on your PC (and some Windows laptops also only have USB-C these days, but they are few and far between), you will need adapters, new cables or USB hubs or docking stations to plug everything in.

    On my work laptop, I have a Thunderbolt dock, which has an Ethernet cable, 2 DisplayPort cables plugged into it, plus USB-A for keyboard, mouse and headset. I plug my Yubikey into the USB-A port on the side of the laptop, when I need it to authenticate.

    I could buy a USB-C Yubikey, but I prefer an USB-A/NFC Yubikey, because it works with all my Windows and Linux devices and my Android phone. Likewise, I could use a USB-A->USB-C adapter for the headset, or keyboard or mouse, but finding those with native USB-C cables is nigh on impossible.

    The printer is network attached, so that is irrelevant.

    As Paul stated, most of the things he tested "just worked" on the M1 Mac. The "problem" is finding things with native USB-C connectivity, they are still rare and/or expensive. Until more manufacuters / a greater number of PCs only have USB-C ports, the pressure to put a USB-C cable in the box / to make a USB-C version is still too low for mass uptake. That doesn't mean that without the correct cable, those things won't work on a MacBook device with only USB-C/Thunderbolt.

    • vladimir

      In reply to wright_is:

      From my point of view the lack of non-USB-C ports is annoying but things are rapidly evolving. A few months ago I received a new XPS 13 from my University. It's an amazing computer but it has only 2 USB-C ports. It comes with an USB-C/USB-A adaptor in the box but I used only a couple of times. Basically buying a USB thumb drive with both ports solved the problem with me.

      • wright_is

        In reply to Vladimir:

        Yes, it depends on what you need to plug into it.

        I need an ergonomic mouse (USB-A only) an ergonomic keyboard (Microsoft Natural 3000 at work a Microsoft Ergonomic at home - both USB-A only) and a headset. The Jabra and Dell headsets we buy are USB-A only. So, I would need 3 USB-A->USB-C dongles, or a USB-C hub with USB-A ports, or a complete docking station.

    • bob_shutts

      In reply to wright_is: The Nikon and printer are connected wirelessly. My monitor did come with a cable. All is well!

    • bkkcanuck

      In reply to wright_is:

      Not sure why they would not be making USB-C/USB-A Yubikeys nowadays... All my USB thumb drives have both as part of them.

  4. codymesh

    didn't the printer work similar to like how it was on Windows on ARM? You get the basic configuration options and the ability to print, but you don't get the ability to configure other options only exposed via the printer's own software.

    • Paul Thurrott

      I don't have an Intel-based Mac here to compare it to. But that's a reasonable assumption. That said, in this case, there is an HP Smart app in the Mac App Store, and that app provides more granular control over the AIO printer's capabilities. I hadn't installed it until you asked the question, but it appears to work normally, and it did discover the printer immediately.
  5. suhailali

    Paul, could you separately review the CalDigit Thunderbolt dock? I can't find any recent reviews from you and I am shopping for one.

    • Paul Thurrott

      Yeah, I may do that. This is an impressive accessory.
    • lsta

      In reply to suhailali:

      FYI, I used one at work, and had crashes and glitches until I upgraded Thunderbolt drivers. Even after that, I still had the occasional issue. It does work well enough though.

      But I've personally had rock-solid performance from USB-C to DisplayPort cables rather than using Thunderbolt for display tasks. I even bought a USB-C to DisplayPort cable that had power delivery (PD) support which seems to work pretty well. The DisplayPort website has more details: theoretically the spec allows for USB 3.1 data to be sent over the same cable in addition to PD and DP, but I presume the adapter, cable or monitor has to support that too.

  6. jwpear

    Have you determined how you might assess battery life? I'm really curious if the M1 truly gets better real world battery life than Intel PCs and Macs. I trust your review of something like that much more than others.

    It seems like the best we get with Intel PCs and MBA/Ps is 6-7 hours of real world usage. If the M1 truly achieves 10-12, it feels like that would be a significant advantage over most Intel-based machines. Thinking about, say, a college student. It would be quite liberating not to have to worry about picking up an outlet at some point during a long day, between early classes and late labs, to top up.

    Outside of that, I'm not seeing anything that is a clear winner either way. It seems to boil down to which platform you like and whether you have some of those niche needs.

    • Paul Thurrott

      No, not really. It may have to come down to running some sort of benchmark/test or whatever. But the battery life on the M1 MacBook Pro is impressive. The Razer will probably land somewhere north of 9-10 hours. But the MBP is a bit better still.
    • lsta

      In reply to jwpear:

      Biased as an M1-owner, but I really, really can get 10 hours of real world usage. 10 hours is the minimum, 20 more likely. If I'm just using a web browser at natural brightness, I can easily get days of battery life -- it often reminds me of an iPad or a heavily-used ebook reader in that I can go 4-5 days on a single charge, if I use it a couple hours a day. The battery life is why I'm very satisfied with it, even as the screen is too small and the port selection is pitiful. The only other complaint I would have is that it can be sometimes glitchy to virtualize Windows depending on the build of macOS you're running: the dev betas have been somewhat unstable for me. But that'll improve over the next iteration or two, I'm sure.

  7. phil_adcock

    I enjoyed the read. I have the 2019 Macbook Pro and I thankfully it's compatible with just about everything I throw it at. Aside from one of my old external hard drives. Thats the only down side to Big sur. It worked just fine when I was running Catalina.

  8. prebengh

    It is funny how “the design limitation that Apple inflicts on their customers” with only two USB-C ports is a problem.

    Apparently that only goes for an Apple computer, but an earlier review/first look by Paul on a Dell XPS 13 (9300) from June 2020, that also only have two USB-C ports, it doesn’t seem to pose the same problem, it comes out “highly recommended”. It is even noted as a “truly magical device”, but then again it is also delivered with a USB-C to USB-A converter in the box.

    • Paul Thurrott

      I don't think it's funny. I think it's a great example of how Apple's platform limits choice compared to the PC market. You can pull out whatever example you want, but Dell ALSO makes many models with legacy ports. Because Dell gives you chocies. Apple does not.
      • nbplopes

        In reply to paul-thurrott:

        No it is not.. You are evaluating this product. And if your beating this product dead, yet politely, this way around because the number of ports while some other with the same number of ports is highly recommended, you objectivity becomes questionable.

        Some of these kinds of limitations also exist in the PC space. Lots of them cannot connect to external GPUs. Some have only two ports.

        Apple like DELL Apple also makes models with 4 ports, even more versatile as they are all TB enabled, some support eGPUs, some can even connect to multiple monitors at a res higher than 4K, 6k and 8k. etc etc.

        Its a well known fact that Windows hardware is made on top of multiple manufacturers. macOS is not. Heck, the XBOX is not and there does not seam to much of a problem.

        This model has these “limitations” but indeed also offers advantages. Even though up until now that space is blank in a 6 part review. Waiting for the next part.

      • prebengh

        In reply to paul-thurrott:

        But with a simple USB-C adapter (Anker 7-in-2) measuring 2.5 x 12 cm that attaches directly to the side of the Macbook, I suddenly have one 4k HDMI port, one Thunderbolt port with 100W power delivery, one USB-C, two USB-A, one SD and one micro SD slot, all for 50 USD.

        It gives me more interfaces than most PCs. Solves the problem of having both a wired keyboard and a wired mouse with USB-A connector.

        This is just to say that the limitation of two USB-C ports is a minor issue from my point of view.

        • interloper

          In reply to Prebengh:

          I use both Mac and Windows daily (M1 MacBook Pro, 2018 Mac Mini, Surface Book 2 and desktop PC). Both platforms are good for different things and bad for others.

          But no way on Earth can I agree that two USB-C ports is a "minor issue". It's a pain in the backside at times, and there are occasions when I could do without a huge dongle hanging off the side of my laptop just to quickly scan a USB drive or SD card.

          Those ports (and the ludicrous single port on the 12" MacBook) were self-indulgent design choices from Ive and co at the time, hell-bent in the pursuit of thin, minimal aesthetics over usefulness. They show the same "if you don't like it, get stuffed" disdain for pro users he exhibited with the ludicrous trashcan Mac Pro.

          • prebengh

            In reply to Interloper:

            But for the Razer Book 13 you will still need a dongle for an SD card, as with many other laptops it only supports Micro SD.

            My USB drives are USB-C and provides higher speed, so no problem there. And the USB-C adapter I mentioned, attaches firmly to the Macbook, it sticks approx. 2.5 cm out.

            But I agree two USB-C ports may be a problem for some users and then this Macbook is not for you. For me I can live with a small adapter when I need it.

            However my original comment was that Paul highly recommended a Dell laptop with only two USB-C ports without even noting that this was a negative, but states that it is a major issue for a Macbook. He states that Dell makes other laptops with more interfaces, but that would not help you if you have fallen in love with this “truly magical device”. It is double standards in my opinion.

            • Paul Thurrott

              That's still not true. The XPS 13 is specifically aimed at people who value thin/light/portable over legacy ports. The MacBook Pro is thick enough to support legacy ports, but doesn't. More to the point, Dell has MANY options for people who need legacy ports. Apple has none. What I wrote in my XPS 13 review was that it "provides a minimal number of ports, as expected," because of the form factor. And that it has a microSD card reader, which the MBP also lacks, and that Dell even ships a USB-C to USB-A adapter in the box. Which Apple does not.
              • prebengh

                In reply to paul-thurrott:

                You are welcome to try but I am fairly confident that there is no room on the Macbook either for a USB-A connector.

                The thickness of the Macbook Pro vs the Dell XPS 13 is 0.75 mm.

  9. saint4eva

    PCs and Windows still better. Wooow.

  10. michael_johnston

    When you're using an external monitor, can you tell if you displaying RGB or YPbPr colour format? Seems that the M1s (including my Mac mini) default to outputting YPbPr to certain monitors.

    • Paul Thurrott

      I was positive I had a shot of that, but I can't find it. I'll need to connect it all back to find out, sorry.
      • michael_johnston

        Thanks, seems to be a common "bug", hopefully apple fixes this although I can't see a difference and there doesn't seem to be any chroma subsampling. There was a work around for the Intel Mac's but the M1 systems don't allow the same level of access. I'm wondering if using a dock or adapter changes this behaviour?
        In reply to paul-thurrott:

  11. prebengh

    I know this is a bit off topic, but in case you are running Windows on Arm in Parallels Desktop on a Mac M1, the Microsoft Store app is now updated and is working.

  12. bkkcanuck

    I just get the feeling that this EVO push is rushed to get it out while the M1 Macs are the only ones available... Once the next generation M1X etc. come out (with likely more ports and more monitor support), the EVO will be even further away from being in a position to compete against that for years to come.

  13. Brett Barbier

    "First, we can only test what is available now, and what’s available now on the Apple side of the fence has some limitations that do not exist in the PC space."

    I understand the context that you wrote the above (M1 vs. Intel), but Apple still sells Intel-based systems, because the M1 cannot handle all of the features. If you want a Mac that supports multiple external monitors and/or eGPUs, Apple sells systems that can do that.

    I think the monitor limitation is a software thing that hopefully is enabled soon. Some people have gotten past it already - I haven't bothered watching the videos but there are some on YouTube that show people using 6 monitors with an M1-based Mac.

  14. spiderman2

    "just works"*

    *except on ultra wide displays, or with 2 external monitors

  15. VernonWhite

    Thanks for going through all these tests with an even-hand. We know you aren't an apple fanboy, so the constant headline I see a(and hear) from you is "M1 Works Well Enough." Which seems to be almost opposite of Windows on ARM. The fact that the worst M1 Macs appear to be better that gen 2 or 3 of Windows on ARM is the top-line take-away.

    I have worked on a Windows box since Win 3.1 (and possibly earlier but that was around the Apple II and college on a mainframe) along with Apple on and off from the 80's. I'm agnostic about platform since I live more in Adobe suite and some coding. All of it works on both platforms. I'm still waiting to see how well it works on the M1 which is more for Swift and XCode. So it is still niche for me at the moment. I'm glad to see more comparisons based on basic usage not just benchmarks and specialty situations. I'm excited about the Mx Apple chips in the future as they become even more powerful. For now, we just have to appreciate your work. Thanks!

    • Paul Thurrott

      Thanks ... Yeah, the M1-based Macs are clearly on par with modern Windows PCs in a variety of ways (performance, compatibility, battery life, etc.). Windows 10 on ARM only delivers on the battery, but the rest of the experience is disappointing.
      • ponsaelius

        In reply to paul-thurrott:

        Apple seem to be managing the transition to ARM better than Microsoft. Of course, that statement itself is laden with problems. Is Microsoft even making a transition to ARM or is it just a case of throwing out Windows on Arm and seeing if it sells? Who knows?

        Apple transitions are easier because they don't have the enterprise market and the legacy of WIndows. However, the very fact that people seem to get a capable machine is probably good news for the potential M1 buyer.

  16. cavalier_eternal

    “M1-based Macs can only work with a single external display, and not multiple external displays.“

    This isn’t correct. An M1 Mac can only support a single display on the USB/Thunderbolt ports. So the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro are limited to one external display. The M1 Mac mini, however, does allow two external displays if you put one on the UBB/Thunderbolt port and one on the HDMI port. I

    • MikeCerm

      In reply to cavalier_eternal:

      You can also use additional monitors using USB "DisplayLink" adapters. It's not really an elegant solution, but it works, and one guy on YouTube was able to get 6 monitors running, though some were limited to only 30 Hz. It's all running off the CPU (no GPU acceleration), so it's not suitable for games, and even video playback can show some tearing.

  17. djross95

    Very thorough, Paul. You have the patience of a saint to test all that stuff on both a Mac and PC! Presumably, M1 chipset-specific issues aside, the compatibility picture for M1 Macs will only get better from here on out. I'd wait for a later chipset, though, which presumably will fix some of the remaining troublesome issues such as multiple monitor support.

    • Paul Thurrott

      The patience, or lack thereof, will come when I read the comments. :) These articles, no matter how even-handed, seem to bring out the trolls.
  18. jdawgnoonan

    I do want to add: The Nvidia card would also not work with an Intel Mac. You can make it work if you want to tinker some to get around Apple though, but even an Intel Mac does not support it.

  19. mikegalos

    Not being 'cute' here but it's now over four years since Apple dropped USB Type-A connectors and dedicated graphics ports and memory card slots and pretty much all I/O except USB Type-C. It seems "the future" from then is still "the future" now.

    When do you think we'll see that "future" become "today"?

    There are rumors (as always) that like with the return of the scissor keyboard to replace the butterfly design that the next generation of MacBooks will replace the TouchBar with a return to physical function keys (beyond 'escape') and will add back in some ports. Any guesses on whether this will happen and whether the next generation will return to the 2015 model design with chip bumps?

    • Sir_Timbit

      In reply to MikeGalos:

      As you mentioned though, it's been four years and I'm increasingly seeing PC laptops done the same way. My favorite Dell XPS ditched USB A ports for USB-C only.

      And increasingly, PC laptops have fewer end-user serviceable parts like memory/wifi, just like a Mac.

      So they're "catching up", but... yay? I moved from Apple when they started doing those things.

      And I think Intel's barking up the wrong tree, especially with Ryzen being more than competitive, and Nvidia looking to buy Arm.

      I can't see Apple ever restoring USB A ports to their laptops. Some of the rumors I've read are about them adding HDMI in particular, maybe to get around the current only-one-external-monitor limitation.

      • Paul Thurrott

        The entire point of the PC industry is choice/diversity. So yes, you can of course find some ultra-thin PC models that only have USB-C ports. But you have the choice to buy models with different kinds of ports, from the same PC makers. With Apple, you get only USB-C ports. There are no MacBooks with any legacy ports at all.
    • cavalier_eternal

      In reply to MikeGalos:

      Current iMac: USB Type A , Thunderbolt 3/USB-C, SDXC slot, Ethernet

      Current Mac Mini: USB Type A, Thunderbolt 3/USB-C, HDMI, Ethernet

      Current Mac Pro: USB Type A, Thunderbolt 3/USB-C, Ethernet

      Apple didn’t drop USB Type A four years ago nor have the dropped everything but USB Type-C. They did drop dedicated display ports.

      When will we see that future become today? For the P.C. User, I don’t know.

      As a long time Mac user I’m living in that future today as I started that transition when Apple did and finished awhile ago. USB-C and Thunderbolt devices are out there. My device usage is really not dissimilar to Paul’s. Printer and storage are network based, external monitor is USB-C, I have an audio interface for music and it’s USB-C, keyboard and mouse are wireless. I don’t have a dedicated webcam but I’ll wager I could get one that is USB-C with little difficulty. I have one audio input device that has a USB Type A connecter that I use when I travel and I have to use a dongle for that. The manufacturer as actually released a cable that goes from their proprietary connector to USB-C and I just haven’t gotten around to buying it. I’m still on the fence on if I want to upgrade the device as a whole or not. So, there you go, completely moved on.

      All of that said, I get why it looks like a mess from the P.C side as it is far more depended on older I/O. It would also be a little more daunting for a switcher but even based on Paul’s list of daily use stuff I’m counting three things that would require a dongle or replacement. The reality is his testing is very much based on a P.C. Based ecosystem and really isn’t doesn’t represent the life of a Mac user at all. Ironically, if I were given the Razer Book 13 to review conspired to my 15 inch MBP, my review wouldn’t be dissimilar to Paul’s in that I’d be complaining about the l/O. The thing only has two USB-C connectors... half as many as my MBP. Now I have to go get different cables, dongles and new devices!

      • Paul Thurrott

        >The reality is his testing is very much based on a P.C. Based ecosystem and really isn’t doesn’t represent the life of a Mac user at all. I don't even know what that means. Two things. 1. I'm testing against my productivity-based workloads. This is what I use. It's real-world. 2. How anyone could read this article and pull out any form of unilateral Windows/Intel/PC/whatever bias is unclear. I can use any device(s) I want. I make my choices based on my experience and the capabilities of those devices, and yes, I do prefer Windows and the PC to the Mac. But I am not an idiot about it, and I am not biased against Apple's platforms in any malicious way. I just have my preferences, and I've been reviewing portable PCs (and Macs; I reviewed the Titanium PowerBook back in the day) for over 20 years.
        • cavalier_eternal

          In reply to paul-thurrott:

          That was weirdly defense for a comment that said nothing negative about you whatsoever ever. “Idiot”, “bias” ? Please don’t put words in my mouth.

          My comment was in response to mike g saying that Apple moved to Type-C connectors as it was the “future” and that their version of the “future” hadn’t been realized. His comments are based your review and I/O challenges you had.

          My point is that you “prefer Windows and the PC” and since that is your primary device when you buy peripherals for it you aren’t looking at just Type-C connectors unless you specifically want the benefits of them. Which means that when you do run into a device that only has Type-C connectors then you will run into the challenges you mentioned in the article. All totally valid.

          On the other hand, someone like myself, that prefers a Mac looks for peripherals that use a Type-C connecter. It’s been six years since Apple made it’s first Mac with only Type-C connectors and started putting that as the standard to use.

          So my point isn’t that you don’t know what you are talking about, are an idiot or have a bias or whatever negative thing you seem to think. My point is you, as you said, tested it with what you had and reported on your experience, which is what you should do. But for Mike G to take that and draw the larger conclusion that Apple didn’t achieve it’s vision for it’s users future is inaccurate as your situation isn’t that of someone that prefers a Mac and uses one full time. The latter crowd has happily been going along buy Type-C stuff.

          TLDR; The reason Paul hasn’t reached the Type-C “Future” is because Paul has no need to get there. Mac users are more motivated to get there. No one is doing anything wrong.

          *I also don’t care for Mike G uses of the word future as it implies somehow better. It’s use simply to a set up for an attack and kinda lame.

      • SvenJ

        In reply to cavalier_eternal: I agree that a good deal of Paul's review was based on slotting the Mac into his Windows (peripheral) lifestyle. Given that, the M1 MacBook did very well. I always cringe when folks lament about dongles, when talking about laptops. I don't travel with my laptop, an external monitor, printer, NAS...... so I don't have a dongle problem. For some peripherals I just use BT, speakers/headphones. For external storage I can get it with the right interface. At home, less than $60 will get a decent hub/dock into which I can plug all my peripherals, and the laptop power, so only really need one USB C to hook it all up. Again no dongle problem. My dock is the size of a deck of cards, so it wouldn't even be excessive as a travel accessory.
        Still, good article with a lot of good info. It is certainly true that PCs and Macs are inherently different and a new processor in the Mac isn't going to sway many PC users. I do wonder why it is necessary to note the Mac is still 'just a Mac?'

    • Saarek

      In reply to MikeGalos:

      Apple have always been first to drop legacy ports and peripherals. There were similar outcries with the removal of the Floppy Disk Drive, DVD Drive, etc.

      It's a pain during the transition phase, but you can easily buy a £10 USB-C Dock for the times that you really have to use a LAN/Other port. The future is wireless, as soon as they can they'll dump USB C too.

    • MikeCerm

      In reply to MikeGalos:

      The vast majority of USB devices that people might actually use, like webcams, hard drives, flash drives, audio interfaces, etc., all these thing use USB-A. Sure, there are some exceptions, but you have to shop around. Generally speaking, the peripheral world still hasn't adopted USB-C, because the vast majority of PCs and laptops shipping today still include a few USB-A ports and maybe one USB-C port. I expect this to be the case for at least another five years.

  20. rosyna

    The M1 Macs support displays up to 6K resolution. These displays are typically limited to 4K on this class of PCs (I couldn’t find the tech details on Razer’s website)

  21. nbplopes

    The MBP two ports, up to two displays, one up to 6K. One can use something like this to get 8 ports, no need for dongles:

    The Razer Book supports more than two displays and comes with more ports, no need for a hub to get more. It also supports external GPUs, unlike the M1. Not all PCs supports eGPUs either, some more expensive, its very nice that the Razer Book does.

    I’ve read the article did not see any failed compatibility being reported when it comes to the use of the ports, but people are warned of that possibility multiple times.

    So when it comes to connectivity the M1 is more limited.

    Until now what I’ve read is no benefits:

    • Loose in OS
    • Loose in number of ports.
    • Loose in number of displays
    • Loose in eGPU support.
    • Loose in app compatibility
    • Everything else comparable* .... including performance.
    • Its more expensive

    Poor MBP M1, it seams to be ahead only when compared with Windows on ARM. It’s excellent in that regard aka irrelevant for most people.

    Considering what I read up until now this multipart review, 6 articles already, I think Apple has a DUD here while Intel mistakably banged the red emergency button and the world has gone mad. Look foreword for the next part. I suppose it will be about battery life., let me guess ... comparable.

    *It might not be, in some cases also loosing but were not found.

  22. tghallin

    It's nice to know that what one should expect actually worked. I wonder how well these same peripherals would work on a Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+ or an iPad Pro (since Android and iOS devices are supposed to replace the PC some day). The ease of connecting peripherals on a Mac or Windows PC is what keeps a PC in my office and not an iOS or Android tablet.

  23. dftf

    "Is it enough to trigger a new wave of switchers?"

    Nope... why would it? Like 80-90% of the general-public will care about the M1: as long as a laptop is the size and colour they want, it performs fast-enough, and they can plug all their devices into it, that's all most people care about.

    Apple have already had three successful products with the general-public: iPod; iPhone; iPad. Each of those devices had Apple's hardware design and software UI, and yet clearly few decided off-the-back of their experiences with them to also go down the Mac route and into macOS. So... you really think a new CPU is going to do what massively-successful devices otherwise haven't? (Likewise: Android's vast market-share hasn't converted most of their users into also-being Chromebook users...)

    And even if we ignore the M1 for a moment: is there any significant-feature or built-in app in macOS itself thesedays that makes it a must-have over Windows 10 for most general users? (Emphasis on GENERAL USER. So, yes, while I'm sure people here love using the UNIX shell on macOS, it isn't something your average-person will be using...!)

    My prediction: Apple will see a massive surge in sales from the M1, as most of their existing users, who are running old Mac devices (like 2010-2015 era) will decide that this generational-shift marks a good-time to do an upgrade. But that won't change market-share as it's just older devices being replaced, not new-users coming-over. The M1 will spur Intel and AMD to make more-efficient lower-end CPUs, and upgradable RAM on lower-end devices will cease being a thing.

    • nbplopes

      In reply to dftf:

      In reply to Brett_B:

      Limitation is a limitation a problem is a problem. Some limitations become a problem, other do not.

      Most of issues I find with reviewers is that most of them do not actually use the product. They test the product in a number of scenarios and that is it. It’s a bit like software testing with less depth.

      For instance, people that use eGPU use USB Hubs. So the number of ports kind becomes a mute point for these people.

      On the other hand, if you actually think about the ports included in the Razer Book ... take for instance the micro SD port. Most of the professional cameras use SD Cards. So you would need a dongle. Take for instance the USB-A port, just one. If you want to connect a mouse and a keyboard, or one of these with something else you are stuck.

      So how can just two USB4/TB can be a better solution? Well have a look at how this thing is strategically position. Now have a look at this:

      Bang, you have way more useful ports ... NO DONGLES. Now you came to this by using it, not by testing. Someone like Thurrot does not know this because he is not a user.

      This is not to say that say an embedded proper SD-CARD reader, an HDMI and eventual an USB-A wouldn’t be useful, but honestly is not such a big deal on an MBA or MBP like it is in a Windows laptop when it comes to dongle hell.

      On the issue of supporting more than two displays ... For me would be a limitation. I actually use 3 displays connected to my iMac. I used to have that connected to an MBP 16. It’s too much for software development, you get lost. Two is enough, and a ultra wide is even better for productivity. But honestly, if you are using this number of displays, get e desktop, macOS or Windows. Most highly skilled professionals in other areas, teachers, doctors, lawyers etc etc, use one external at most. This is no to say that the ability of having no cap on the number of displays wouldn’t be welcome, but do you need?

      Now, if you limit something in one place, you need to get back at another. That is something that the Apple did with the M1. It is faster, with native apps runs close to any high end Intel laptop including mac, silent, yes, in practical terms it is, and the battery life blows.

      I don’t know what kind of apps Thurrot is using to test both. But if it Office, dear god, even a Surface Go runs that ok. But let’s talk about real world scenarios of those unsophisticated users shall we? Throw some two dozens of tabs or more, a team meeting running on Microsoft Teams, heck try to play a video through that meeting and than you actually how performance and fluid operation is really a THING.

      My wife is a pre university math teacher. She was given a Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga X1 a couple of years ago, Core i5 model., street price $1300+ back then This is what Thurrot wrote: “The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga is highly recommended“

      This thing sucks! Letting a side what the IT department of the college told me about problems ... they bought about 100 ... I can tell you my wife experience in COVID times. In Portugal we have been confined to our homes for about 3 weeks. She has been giving remote lessons non stop. Men, never seen someone with so many tabs open, I tell her to close some when it gets slow, she is now down to about 15 or so. When giving classes online through Google Meet, she has all sorts of things goin on at the same time, presentations, videos, simulations ... She actually went to school to get an external monitor after the first week. You know what she uses to as a white board and other stuff ... her iPad Pro? She connects the iPad Pro to the same Meeting and does Inking and so on through that. Wait, the Lenovo has also a toutch screen and pen ... yes. But try that while connected to the external monitor ... ops there goes the Hybrids to actual professionals that just want to get things done as quickly and smoothly as possible. Battery life sucks, she almost never has her laptop unplugged. And the fans man, the fans!

      What another anecdote on an amazing PC laptop? Take the the HP Envy x360 13”. Back in 2018 ... never mind, long story short, the person that wanted it, that was quite proud for such a sensible buy, contrary to my advice, end up passing it to a customer service guy. The other day the guy was demoing a bug he found in our software, one of our web apps, through Microsoft Teams. I noticed that the thing was lagging, kind of slow. I told him, it seams that your equipment is a bit slow ... how is it day to day. Well, sometimes it get like this, sometimes its a bit better, but its still ... So the dev teams will get his laptop, and we got another PC for him? Why? Because it will be a good model for testing considering that from what I’ve seen customers using in companies ... isn’t really far from what he has. And it sucks.

      Got an MBA M1 for my older son at age 13. He will start to need one this year in school. Previously he used his iPad Air ... top student. Now I have a problem, my wife wants one. Actually I have two, because don’t know if the school will allow her to connect it to their network ... its a Windows camp.

      So you see now how in my perspective what Apple is trying to solve with the M1. It’s starting from the FOUNDATIONS. Speed, Battery Life, Silent operation. But fundamentally, you may see how I find these reviews, not only from Thurrot, generally hilarious to avoid irritation. It’s almost reminds me the Stockholm Syndrome phenomenon.

      Now this, as any, its of course my opinion. But also based on working almost 40 years in the Industry. There is no such thing as good enough performance when one consistently reaches a point where the things gets noticeable slower. That my friend, is what I see quite often around. “How is your PC doing?”... sometimes gets slow for no but its ok. The “you are using it wrong” it’s not just a Steve Jobs saying.

      Things have changed a lot. The so called non technical people needs went beyond Outlook, Word, Powerpoint and a Web Browser. This are still important tools indeed. But these are just pieces in a tapstery of tools that everyday people use simultaneously to get the job done ... Not only that, but all of them need to be intertwined in a single point in time, in an instant ... to deliver. This is what I see often, from teachers, sales people, CEOs ... non technical people. This people need performance and aren’t getting it on laptop PC. Not talking about Windows only, it also includes the previous Intel MBA and some MBPs. Heck, my 16” MBP Core i9 had their fans moving for no reason sometimes .. what a heck? Ports much?

    • crossingtheline

      In reply to dftf:

      The entry M1 Macs cost $699 and $999. These machines offer superior hardware to anything that Windows offers at that price. They will also hold their money a lot better and have a higher fit and finish. In my opinion other than Surface there isn't a PC maker that offers the same level of hardware quality. The big change will happen when macOS gets the really good iPad apps. When was the last time that a really great app was written for Windows? If someone has an iPhone and or iPad a Mac will play a lot nicer with the mobile devices than a PC will. Also if you live near an Apple store the buying experience is better than anything on the Windows side.

  24. mattbg

    Great summary - I'm impressed how many of the critical things they seem to have got right in this v1 release. It doesn't make me want a Mac any more than I did before, but I am impressed regardless and a bit confused why Microsoft couldn't have done the same given their expertise in this area (suspect it has to do with priorities and focus more than capability).

  25. RobertJasiek

    The M1 has a few advantages: availability, speed per watt and speed of generation improvement. There is one case in which a later M1 successor might convince me: its GPU would become as fast as current Nvidia desktop GPUs and available at MSRP if Nvidia should also fail at that with the next GPU generations and if the software I need on a GPU would have the same functionality.

  26. c.turk

    So far, the comparison between the two systems are what I would expect. I did buy a M1 Macbook Pro with 16gb of ram back in December and you are right, its still just a mac. I do own 2 Windows desktops that I built, for anyone thinking that I don't like Windows :). I am hoping to build a new one, but the AMD CPU that I was able to order on November 5th is not expected to ship to me until between April-June. In case this helps, I just tested my internet speed on my Macbook using On Wi-Fi its 330 down and 12 up, and using an Anker PowerExpand Elite 13 in 1 dock, it tested exactly the same over ethernet. I wonder if maybe you are using a Cat5 ethernet cable that can only handle a maximum of 100Mbps. Also, you can add an Ipad as a third display if you really needed to.

  27. hoyty76

    I have seen similar articles on multiple sites. I am guessing this is because Intel sent out a bunch of stuff to show off Evo platform. I am curious if they asked for comparisons to M1 Mac as well or if everyone just had the same idea? If they asked for the comparison it seems to have back fired since it generally went well for M1. Seems odd tactic.

    • Paul Thurrott

      I'll write more about this soon, but Intel contacted me (and others) to gauge interest in comparative reviews. They offered several Evo-based PCs, and I could have borrowed more than one, but I chose to stick with one, the Razer, because I had/have access to the others and I find handling multiple review units to be tedious and a chore. They also offered several peripherals, and I chose some of them. Others probably did differently. Honestly, Intel has been very upfront and proper about all this. I've seen some shitty headlines about them cherry picking benchmarks to prove their point or whatever, but that's not been my experience at all. They have certain advantages over M1, which they highlighted. But they were also upfront about the great job Apple has done. I understand the partisan nonsense because I've been living in it for decades, but I don't agree with it or like it. Intel is trying to compete here, not just with actual product but with the perception. As they should. Good for them.
    • SvenJ

      In reply to hoyty76: Intel sent out the EVO as well as the M1 Mac to reviewers. If you read several such reviews and they didn't acknowledge that, I wonder why. Paul was upfront about it.

  28. JH_Radio

    Hey Paul. What category of Ethernet cable are you using? to get your 300/30 MB, you'd need Cat 5E or 6. depending how long the run to the router is.

    • Paul Thurrott

      Right. Almost certainly a mix, mostly Cat 5.
    • IanYates82

      In reply to JH_Radio:

      Or it's plugged into a Fast Ethernet switch (which like the original high/full speed USB, is a bit of a misnomer after the passage of time)

      I had the same issue with an old switch I put in to use recently when moving the home office. An 8 port Asus Gigaxtreme. Silly me just assumed that meant gigabit... It did not, but it's old enough that I suspect at the time Asus knew Giga* was the buzzword people wanted to see so they used it dishonestly. Product page, that's still up, indicates it's Fast Ethernet only. Bleh

      • wright_is

        In reply to IanYates82:

        My DSL router also has a "green" mode. Although the 4 port switch built into the router is gigabit, it slows 3 of the ports to 100mbps to save electricity. You have to go into the settings to force it to use gigabit on each port.

  29. cchubbuck

    Great look into everyday use as usual Paul.

    Like a normal person, I don't care too much about Mac vs. PC, despite having multiple MS certifications and running Windows networks for years. I bought an M1 Air because like you Paul...I have lots of PCs around but I always keep a Mac somewhere and mine was 10 years old. It's a great little system for what it is.

    I think this Intel campaign is a bit desperate...but something they had to do...Apple gets an oversized portion of hype for their market position in "PC's".

    The thing that I think bothers Intel the most: These 2020 M1 systems are literally THE LEAST Apple could do. They just shoved the M1 into last years chassis and called it a day.

    I was talking about the Intel vs M1 thing with my son the other day and made this analogy: Intel is like a pickup truck...if you need a truck, you need a truck. it's not efficient, it's not nimble...but if you need to pull trailers and haul stuff, well...a truck is for you. ARM is pretty much the electric car that everyone is moving to eventually anyway.

    • SvenJ

      In reply to cchubbuck: Maybe Intel is more like the internal combustion engine. You can put it in trucks, sedans, sports cars, even airplanes. The M1 is a bit more than just the electric car, but more limited in it's utility, for now.

  30. paradyne

    "Evo-based PCs even support dual 4K external displays over a single port, thanks to display chaining."

    And so does the Surface Pro X, amazingly enough.