Apple MacBook Pro (M1) First Impressions

Well, here we go again. For my second look at an M1-based Mac, I’m evaluating the 13-inch Apple MacBook Pro, which retails for $1299. As you may recall, I previously evaluated an M1-based Mac Mini, but eventually decided that I would prefer—and get more use from—a portable Mac.

Oddly, this isn’t that Mac.

Coincidental to my M1 plans, Intel recently contacted me to see whether I’d be interested in reviewing and comparing a new Intel Evo-based PC and an M1-based Mac. Interested? I obsess over this stuff. Yes, I was interested, and so here we are.

That said, if I were spending my own money on a Mac right now, and I was just poised to do so again, I’d get the base model of the MacBook Air, which is fanless and thus silent, and costs $300 less than the MacBook Pro. That may still happen, but depending on how long I’m able to hang on to the MacBook Pro, perhaps it will make more sense to wait for a second-generation Mx-based MacBook Air.

We’ll see. For now, the MacBook Pro has my attention. Like the M1-based Mac Mini, it’s physically identical to the Intel-based model it replaces, but unlike the Mini, it has the same number of expansion ports as its predecessor, in this case two, both on the left. The difference? They’re now denoted as Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports by Apple; the outgoing Intel-based versions had two Thunderbolt 3 ports.

From a positioning perspective, this is the base model of what I think of as the least pro of Apple’s MacBook Pro versions, with 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage, both of which are integrated into the M1 chip and are thus non-expandable. Higher-end (Intel-based) MacBook Pro models feature four Thunderbolt 3 ports, two on each side, and we’ll presumably see an Apple Silicon-based update to these truly-pro MacBook Pros sometime this year.

Unlike the MacBook Air, the MacBook Pro includes fans and active cooling

Aside from its new in-house internals, the MacBook Pro (M1) offers a similar experience to its predecessors, albeit with a few limitations triggered by the M1 chipset. For example, even with a dock connected, you can only connect to a single external display, something that I also expect to be addressed in the coming truly-pro MacBook Pro updates.

The so-called Magic Keyboard is unchanged, which is mostly great: Apple previously replaced its horrible and loathed butterfly keyboard with a more traditional low-travel scissor-switch keyboard, and it offers one of the best typing experiences in the market.

I really like the integrated Touch ID sensor in the power key, but there is one major problem, of course: The M1-based MacBook Pro still ships with the weird Touch Bar, which eliminates muscle memory for things like volume and brightness control. The good news? You can configure it to look/work as a normal function row and Apple at least had the class to add back a real Esc key and put it where it belongs.

The MacBook Pro touchpad—which Apple brands as the Force Touch trackpad—is comically large but it works very well and is likewise a model for the rest of the industry to follow, at least from an experiential standpoint. It could be a quite a bit smaller.

It’s also worth pointing out that Apple long ago embraced 16:10 displays as a nice compromise between the almost square but very rare 3:2 format and the more traditional but too-wide 16:9 aspect ratio. This, too, is unchanged from the Intel predecessors, but that’s fine as it’s excellent: The 13.3-inch IPS panel that offers a resolution of 2560 x 1600, throws off a bright 500 nits of light, and uses Apple’s True Tone technology to dramatically lower the output of eye-harming blue light. The bezels aren’t particularly small—we can expect 14-inch displays in a future update, methinks—but it’s a pleasantly modern and professional-looking device that just barely hits the 3-pound weight threshold that I think of as the upper limit of acceptable when it comes to portability. Granted, most people are just carrying them around a house at this time.

Rounding out the specs, there’s an old-school 720p webcam that supposedly uses some AI magic from the M1 chip to produce an improved picture (we’ll see), Dolby Atmos-capable stereo speakers, a headphone jack, and a 3-microphone array.

Given that I already wrote several articles about the M1-based Mac Mini, including some observations about performance and compatibility, I’ve been thinking about how best to evaluate this portable PC. There will be more performance and compatibility discussions, of course, since those should both change and improve over time. I will also try to figure out where the real-world battery life lands, of course. And I will be looking at the iPhone and iPad app compatibility experience.

A USB-C charging cable and 61-watt power supply are included

I will also be comparing the MacBook Pro (M1) to an Intel Evo-based portable PC that I selected from a list of choices provided by the microprocessor maker. I will reveal that selection tomorrow, but the short version is that you can expect full, normal reviews of both products, plus other articles that compare the two in key usage areas. There’s no preordained outcome here: I expect both machines to notch some wins, and I’m curious to discover the final outcome.

More soon.

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Conversation 69 comments

  • Saarek

    23 January, 2021 - 10:37 am

    <p>From my own personal experience, the best features of the M1 MacBooks is that they give top of the line Intel i7 performance mixed in with 20 hour plus actual use battery life with no fan noise at all and no heat. </p><p><br></p><p>Even the MacBook Pro that has a fan does not sound like a helicopter preparing for take off when the fan does, rarely, kick in.</p><p><br></p><p>It’s so jarring going back to an Intel based computer where the fan kicks in all the time, even for simple stuff like being on a Teams conference call.</p><p><br></p><p>Completely game changing, you just don’t want to go back to an Intel computer once you’ve experienced it.</p>

    • lvthunder

      Premium Member
      23 January, 2021 - 3:35 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#609324">In reply to Saarek:</a></em></blockquote><p>I wouldn't consider a Teams Conference Call to be simple stuff for a computer.</p>

      • Saarek

        23 January, 2021 - 3:54 pm

        <blockquote><em><a href="#609344">In reply to lvthunder:</a></em></blockquote><p>Not sure why you think that. I remember video conferencing back in the late 90's. Sure the quality has gotten better over the years and additional functionality has been added, but at the end of the day it shouldn't require serious processing power on a modern computer.</p><p><br></p><p>Obviously if the software is just badly written un-optimised rubbish then it might struggle.</p><p><br></p><p><br></p>

        • bkkcanuck

          23 January, 2021 - 4:04 pm

          <blockquote><em><a href="#609345">In reply to Saarek:</a></em></blockquote><p>My understanding is that Teams is an Electron app (Electron is the new Flash unfortunately – I would prefer electron to cease to exist). I like Teams, but I would prefer if they actually worried about making it efficient… </p>

          • Saarek

            23 January, 2021 - 4:13 pm

            <blockquote><em><a href="#609346">In reply to bkkcanuck:</a></em></blockquote><p>Ah, that would explain it. Chrome might be popular, but it's also a terrible and unoptimised resource hog. Did not realise that Microsoft had gone this route for tentpole apps like Teams, such a shame.</p>

      • Oreo

        23 January, 2021 - 8:44 pm

        <blockquote><em><a href="#609344">In reply to lvthunder:</a></em></blockquote><p>It is, but Teams, Zoom and the like are very inefficiently coded (with cross-platform APIs), which zap a lot of power. Think of them as the new Flash. A Zoom/Teams/Skype conference call is no different than e. g. a FaceTime group call. <span style="background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255);">Nevertheless, the latter is much more efficient and works on any iPhone with minimal power consumption. But Zoom will invariable make the fans of my Core i7-based 16” MacBook Pro howl as if I am transcoding a movie. Very annoying. </span></p>

      • bluvg

        24 January, 2021 - 12:45 am

        <blockquote><em><a href="#609344">In reply to lvthunder:</a></em></blockquote><p>Teams is <em>terribly </em>inefficient. My work laptop is pretty well-spec'd (i5-8350U/16GB/NVMe) and is just crushed when using Teams video and screen-sharing at the same time. It takes ~2 minutes before I get the list of options of screens/apps to share, and everything slows to a crawl. Zoom isn't great, but it's still significantly faster than Teams.</p>

        • nbplopes

          24 January, 2021 - 7:51 am

          <blockquote><em><a href="#609384">In reply to bluvg:</a></em></blockquote><p><br></p><p>It does not crush the M1 in any shape or form. But yeah, the chrome engine behind Electron is not really that efficient.</p>

    • longhorn

      Premium Member
      23 January, 2021 - 5:02 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#609324">In reply to Saarek:</a></em></blockquote><blockquote>It’s so jarring going back to an Intel based computer where the fan kicks in all the time, even for simple stuff like being on a Teams conference call.</blockquote><p><br></p><p>If the laptop is badly designed without heatpipes and adequate amount of thermally conducting material like a properly designed heatsink and/or a cooling chassis, then fans will kick in. Intel Macs are (in)famous for this, to the point where they are thermally throttled.</p><p><br></p><p>Not saying that other PC laptops are necessarily better, but Apple designed laptop chassis for M1 thermal output long before M1 was available. In other words; Apple willingly sacrificed performance and fan noise on the Intel side just to keep laptops thin.</p><p><br></p><p>The latest Intel MacBook Air might be the worst example. Apple isn't even trying to keep the CPU cool.</p><p><br></p>

      • Saarek

        23 January, 2021 - 5:41 pm

        <blockquote><em><a href="#609349">In reply to longhorn:</a></em></blockquote><p>That's fair enough, but I also frequently use a 2020 Dell Notebook for work purposes. The fan goes off left right and centre in that thing all day long. X86 notebooks, no matter who they are from seem to spend half their life with the fan going.</p><p><br></p><p>The thing is you almost don't notice it, until it's just not there anymore. Once you get used to silent 100% of the time you can't help but pick up on it the second you go back.</p>

    • rob_segal

      Premium Member
      23 January, 2021 - 5:55 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#609324">In reply to Saarek:</a></em></blockquote><p>I have an M1 MacBook Air. For $999, the performance is great and no heat. It runs cool and it runs well. Day-to-day, I don't notice much of a difference between this and an Intel U-series Windows laptop, but no heat and fan noise is awesome. It will only get better with more apps getting native support. I wouldn't call it a game-changer. Windows laptops are great, too. Apple set a bar for performance plus cooling Intel, AMD, and Qualcomm needs to shoot for.</p>

  • michael_babiuk

    23 January, 2021 - 12:44 pm

    <p>I don't own a M1 class machine. I will definitely hold out for the next release of ARM based macs. A recent John Gruber leak indicated that the next release of ARM based macs will not be a "M1X" (where just extra cores are added) but a new ARM class designated as the M2. That makes sense since the M2 should address the known limitations of the M1 such as the following restrictions: just 2 native USB-4 ports, only 1 external display monitor, a 16GB upper limit to RAM and the exclusion of any eGPU option. (I'm hoping for an eGPU option – if, for no other reason than for a service life productivity extension capability.</p>

  • michael_babiuk

    23 January, 2021 - 12:47 pm

    <p>Having stated what was needed in my first comment, I must add that I agree with Saarek and various online reviewers (especially Linus) that the 20 plus battery lifer for this M1 MBP is "THE KEY ADVANTAGE" over any current laptop on the market. This machine is "fast enough" for laptop use. But a battery charge life that is – usually – double that of any competitive laptop model is a true game changer.</p>

    • b6gd

      23 January, 2021 - 3:06 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#609334">In reply to Michael_Babiuk:</a></em></blockquote><p>Macbooks, even Intel based Macbooks have always had superior battery life. My T580 work laptop with two batteries still cant keep up with my 16inch Intel Macbook. I can close the lid on my Macbook and let it sit for a week and it might loose 10% battery life. My T580 would be dead.</p><p><br></p><p>These new M1 based laptops just push the battery life into the ridiculous category for laptops. What will the 16inch Macbook with M series chips get, 24 hours???</p>

      • Paul Thurrott

        Premium Member
        24 January, 2021 - 9:15 am

        This is not true. There are many PCs with excellent battery life, and I’ve never once thought that any MacBook I’ve owned got particularly good battery life. In fact, one of the big promises of the M1 chip is that that will change. We’ll see.

        • curtisspendlove

          24 January, 2021 - 2:03 pm

          <blockquote><em><a href="#609417">In reply to paul-thurrott:</a></em></blockquote><p>Yup. It all completely depends on what you do with the MacBook (and, apparently phases of the moon or something). </p><p><br></p><p>Obviously, the heavier and longer it’s used for certain tasks (development, particularly with Chrome or certain VMs / containers open), the shorter my battery life. </p><p><br></p><p>But I swear there were days where I also got atrocious battery life and couldn’t find a decent reason for it (for instance I didn’t see the photos daemon churning away at photos or iCloud—which can often happen). </p><p><br></p><p>:: shrug ::</p>

  • michael_babiuk

    23 January, 2021 - 12:58 pm

    <p>Paul, you (and millions of others) have commented on the ARM based Touch Bar in the MBP models. What do you think of this idea.</p><p><br></p><p>When using macOS "Sidecar" tech with any iPad and current Apple laptop, a "virtual Touch Bar" is displayed at the bottom on the iPad display. Which means, of course, that the coding for such a "virtual Touch Bar" is already present in macOS.</p><p><br></p><p>Actually, I have found the concept of the Touch Bar sound and useful for certain things. So, here is the concept I would like Apple to pursue.</p><p><br></p><p>Eliminate any physical Touch Bar but keep the virtual touch bar. The best way to utilize a virtual Touch Bar, IMO, is to automatically transform the dock into that virtual Touch Bar depending upon what app is the current display focus. Of course, to have the dock in view again, have a section of the bottom screen a "hot spot" so when the cursor is over that spot, the dock reappears. Or double press – quickly – the escape key.</p><p><br></p><p><br></p><p><br></p>

    • b6gd

      23 January, 2021 - 3:03 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#609335">In reply to Michael_Babiuk:</a></em></blockquote><p>A rumor was released on 1/15 from Ming-Chi Kuo, who is often correct, that Apple will be releasing a new 14inch and 16inch Macbook Pro this year.</p><p><br></p><p>It was stated that these Macbooks would of course use some form of the "M" CPU/GPU, new squared off edges like current iPad/iPhone 12 on the bottom section, NO MORE Touch bar, and Mag Safe in some form will return. I do hope all of this is true.</p><p><br></p><p>Personally I have never liked the Touch Bar and I do not know of anyone that does. I want the regular buttons back.</p>

      • curtisspendlove

        23 January, 2021 - 7:25 pm

        <blockquote><em><a href="#609339">In reply to b6gd:</a></em></blockquote><p>I always kinda figured the Touch Bar was a stand-in until they decided to release a Mac with a Touchscreen monitor. </p><p><br></p><p>But they’ve been uncharacteristically silent about the Touch Bar for quite some time. And I’d figure if the 14” or 16” MacBook redesign featured a touchscreen monitor it would be in the tumors by now. </p><p><br></p><p>:: shrug ::</p>

        • bkkcanuck

          24 January, 2021 - 6:55 am

          <blockquote><em><a href="#609368">In reply to curtisspendlove:</a></em></blockquote><p>I agree with you on the touch bar being a stand-in… not sure if the touch will be in this version of the mac, or the following year (I get the sense they are moving to it – but there are still some more outstanding issues to make sure application support is mostly there from day 1). I think we will get a better idea once WWDC happens if it will be the fall or whether it will still another year away… If the rumour is correct for a fall release of the new Macbook Pros, there would still be time to slip the displays into plans (at that point the rumours would start to surface). I think they have been silent on the touch bar because of internal politics between "we were right – touch bar is great" faction (the ones that have a vested interest)… and the fact that the reception of the touch bar has to say the least been frosty… I also think they have more work planned on making the iPad Pro and the Mac work together for that use case (while continuing to work apart normally as now)… I can envision many use cases which would be great for professional use, but Apple tends to want to work out the kinks in advance rather than throwing something out there (like they did with the touch bar)… </p>

    • nbplopes

      24 January, 2021 - 7:49 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#609335">In reply to Michael_Babiuk:</a></em></blockquote><p><br></p><p>Personally do t use it much neither bother me. Don’t understand all the fuss. </p><p><br></p><p>PS: I got one already with the ESC key. That would bother me if missing.</p>

  • prebengh

    23 January, 2021 - 4:45 pm

    <p>Paul, why do you think the touchpad is “comically large”?</p><p>Is it the look of it or the function? </p><p>Besides Apple has good reason to call it the “Force touch trackpad” as it works differently from any other trackpad, not being hinged at the upper side.</p>

    • longhorn

      Premium Member
      23 January, 2021 - 5:22 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#609348">In reply to Prebengh:</a></em></blockquote><blockquote>Is it the look of it or the function?</blockquote><p><br></p><p>It's just clumsy design. How do you type efficiently on a keyboard where the touchpad occupies 50 % of the space underneath?</p><p><br></p><p>I hope palm detection is really good. There is no way to type fast for a long period of time without resting your palms on something.</p><p><br></p>

      • Saarek

        23 January, 2021 - 5:44 pm

        <blockquote><em><a href="#609350">In reply to longhorn:</a></em></blockquote><p>With all due respect, it's not clumsy design. I say this because as I am typing this to you right now I am deliberately pushing my wrist/palm all over it. ? </p><p><br></p><p>The average PC Notebook trackpad is functional, but not great to use. There is a reason the Mac Trackpad is rated as the best in the industry. That's not just random hyperbole, google it.</p>

      • rob_segal

        Premium Member
        23 January, 2021 - 5:46 pm

        <blockquote><em><a href="#609350">In reply to longhorn:</a></em></blockquote><p>Palm rejection is excellent. Apple can make a touchpad this large because there is no accidental swipes or clicks. Apple can make the entire bottom of the laptop one large trackpad and not have any isssues.</p>

      • b6gd

        24 January, 2021 - 9:48 am

        <blockquote><em><a href="#609350">In reply to longhorn:</a></em></blockquote><p>I have never had an issue. MacBook track pads, are second to none. </p>

      • angusmatheson

        24 January, 2021 - 11:43 am

        <blockquote><em><a href="#609350">In reply to longhorn:</a></em></blockquote><p>I have never had any problems with my palm interfering while typing in the M1 MacBook Air I have had. I think the Touch Bar and the huge touchpad are apple’s attempt to get touch onto Macs without making a touch screen. For a while I used a surface laptop and although I had a touch screen I never used it. We also have a crazy all in one HP desktop in the office that has a touchscreen that isn’t used for touch either. I do agree with apple that there must be a better way to get a “touch” experience with laptops and desktops other than the touchscreen. Apple, however, hasn’t found it yet.</p>

    • longhorn

      Premium Member
      23 January, 2021 - 6:17 pm

      <p>This is very important, but seldom mentioned in laptop reviews. Thanks for pointing out that Apple has solved this problem. This was what I was hoping for, but sometimes the only way to get answers is to be a little provocative. :)</p><p><br></p>

      • rob_segal

        Premium Member
        23 January, 2021 - 6:33 pm

        <blockquote><em><a href="#609362">In reply to longhorn:</a></em></blockquote><p>If you're used to Windows laptops, it's a very valid question. A large trackpad would be concerning if you've used mediocre ones in the past. Precision trackpads have closed the gap, but Apple still has the best trackpads in the industry. I'm not kidding when I say Apple could make the entire bottom of the laptop a trackpad. Their palm rejection is really great. Force touch makes it better. I tried pressing down on it with my palm. No click. With my finger, easy click.</p><p><br></p><p>The touchbar is divisive. The butterfly keyboard was a problem. The touchpad, no problem there whatsoever from my experience. </p>

        • angusmatheson

          24 January, 2021 - 11:46 am

          <blockquote><em><a href="#609363">In reply to rob_segal:</a></em></blockquote><p>Having used a butterfly keyboard for awhile. It was more than a problem. It was a complete disaster. Some people liked typing on it. Others did not. But the reliability of the early models was terrible and apple did not acknowledge that for a very long time. I was put through hell every time a key failed when it needed to be sent it.</p>

      • jdawgnoonan

        23 January, 2021 - 7:04 pm

        <blockquote><em><a href="#609362">In reply to longhorn:</a></em></blockquote><p>Apple has had the best touchpads since at least 2004 when I bought my first Mac, a Powerbook. In fact Windows laptops kind of caught up with their 2004 trackpad right around 2012 or so. But Apple's trackpads have dramatically improved in that time still. The trackpads on Apple computers have always in my experience been dramatically better than trackpads on Windows laptops. My X1 Extreme that I am typing on has a pretty decent trackpad, but the Macbook ones are far better. </p>

        • Saarek

          24 January, 2021 - 1:08 am

          <blockquote><em><a href="#609367">In reply to jdawgnoonan:</a></em></blockquote><p>If memory serves correctly it was 2008 when the MacBook line went from arguably the best trackpad to God Status with the release of the redesigned 13” Aluminium MacBook. </p><p><br></p><p>That was an amazing computer, one of their milestone releases in my opinion.</p>

          • djr1984

            25 January, 2021 - 4:54 am

            <blockquote><em><a href="#609386">In reply to Saarek:</a></em></blockquote><p>@Saarek That was my first Mac! I still remember the intro video for it with Jonny Ive describing the computer and revealing the trackpad. The trackpad was actually the bit that finally made me make the jump from Windows to Mac OS for my personal home use.</p><p><br></p><p>Seeing the gestures that you could do on it and then looking down on the postage stamp of a trackpad on my HP Notebook, I just knew it would be awesome.</p>

    • Paul Thurrott

      Premium Member
      24 January, 2021 - 9:14 am

      I use over 15 different laptops every year, and there’s no need for this thing to be so large. I’m sure palm rejection is excellent, etc. The PC industry follows Apple when they get it right. Tellingly, no PC company has followed Apple down this weird path.

      • djr1984

        25 January, 2021 - 4:48 am

        <blockquote><em><a href="#609416">In reply to paul-thurrott:</a></em></blockquote><p>@Paul, I wonder if your opinion on this is based on the fact that Windows is your pimary OS and you're simply not aware of all of the gestures available on the Mac Trackpads?</p><p><br></p><p>Once you are used to being able to do certain things with a gesture it becomes second nature and going back to the much smaller and inferior PC Trackpads is really jarring.</p><p><br></p><p>Perhaps you could do an article comparing what you can do on a Mac TrackPad vs your typical PC notebook, I think it'd be an interesting read.</p>

        • Paul Thurrott

          Premium Member
          25 January, 2021 - 8:47 am

          It’s that I am aware of the gestures. On both platforms.

          Also, I absolutely do use Windows a lot more than the Mac. Obviously. I do prefer it, and it’s not just familiarity bias or whatever you want to call that.

      • pecosbob04

        25 January, 2021 - 10:18 am

        <blockquote><a href="#609416"><em>In reply to paul-thurrott:</em></a><em> "</em>Tellingly, no PC company has followed Apple down this weird path."</blockquote><blockquote><br></blockquote><blockquote>Did you not just (mildly) ding the Razer eval unit for just this trackpad issue / flaw?</blockquote><blockquote><br></blockquote><p><br></p>

        • Paul Thurrott

          Premium Member
          26 January, 2021 - 10:12 am

          No, I didn’t. I mentioned that the touchpad was rather large relative to the small wrist area on the keyboard deck. That was just an observation. I evaluate many computers every year, and have done so for over 20 years. That caught my eye. But it’s about 50 percent the size of the MBP touchpad.

      • msisaacs

        25 January, 2021 - 1:42 pm

        <blockquote><em><a href="#609416">In reply to paul-thurrott:</a></em></blockquote><p>Funny. I'm in the market for a new laptop and this MacBook Pro hits the sweet spot for me. And the larger trackpad is a selling point in my mind. PC laptop trackpads are almost always too small. I end up doing the scroll -&gt; lift finger -&gt; go back -&gt; scroll -&gt; lift finger -&gt; go back routine way too often. The trackpad on my Surface Laptop 3 is as close to a Mac trackpad as I've seen on a PC laptop. I've had MacBook Pros and several PC laptops over the years and I've never once felt like the PC trackpads were superior. My wife has a 2011 MacBook Air. She's been using it for a decade now. Recently, when she let our kid use the Air for school, I let her use my Surface Book and the trackpad frustrated her so much that she refused to use the Book after 3 days.</p><p>You say that there is "no need for this thing to be so large," so I guess my question to you is, if you're not experiencing false touches from your palm on the trackpad, why does it matter how large it is? Are you speaking purely from an aesthetics perspective? You just don't like the look of it being so large? Or is there an actual functional problem you experience with the larger trackpad?</p>

  • rob_segal

    Premium Member
    23 January, 2021 - 5:58 pm

    <p>DaVinci Resolve and Affinity Photo would make good side-by-side comparisons. Both are universal apps on Mac now.</p>

    • b6gd

      24 January, 2021 - 9:46 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#609361">In reply to rob_segal:</a></em></blockquote><p>Agreed. You should still test software with Rosetta because it could be just as fast as the Intel solution. </p>

  • curtisspendlove

    23 January, 2021 - 7:30 pm

    <p>I’m *very* curious about how the Intel 11th Gen chips and especially the Xe integrated graphics work. </p><p><br></p><p>I’m in the market for a new laptop this fall and although the M-based Macs are a clear front-runner, I’m not sure I’m quite ready to give up x86/64 yet. </p><p><br></p><p>:)</p>

    • Oreo

      23 January, 2021 - 8:41 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#609369">In reply to curtisspendlove:</a></em></blockquote><p>The TL;DR is that at best Intel’s very fastest next-gen parts — mobile and desktop! — are on par or slightly slower than Apple’s slowest ARM Macs with cooling. Apple’s higher-end ARM machines will likely receive more CPU and GPU cores, and perhaps beefier specialized circuitry. The most impressive benchmarks IMHO are not the raw performance benchmarks, but the ones where they tested how much battery takes to complete a certain task. Intel-based machines got spanked. </p><p><br></p><p>On to Intel’s performance claims. If Intel’s claims are to be believed, it’s highest end desktop part (the Core i9-11900K) will have 19% higher performance (19 % higher IPC and the same turbo frequency) in single-core performance. If they measure this with e. g. SPEC CPUmark 2017, then Intel’s highest-end desktop CPU would be 4 % faster than the M1 (cooled) in integer performance and 6 % slower in floating point. (I’m using Anandtech’s benchmark numbers for simplicity. They track with other benchmarks. I’d put less stock in single benchmarks where you can cherry pick.) I think if Intel’s number is accurate, then ball-park wise, it takes an Intel desktop part with effectively unlimited power budget to beat Apple’s slowest processor. </p><p><br></p><p>If you use their performance claims for the mobile parts (+ 9%), then their highest-end part “35 W” part is about 1 % faster in single-core integer and 10 % slower in floating point. So the slowest ARM Mac would still be faster. I’m quite sure that battery life won’t be as good either. </p><p><br></p><p>Graphics-wise, Xe *might* be competitive with the M1, although it likely won’t be as efficient. GPU performance is more difficult to assess as the variation is larger and depends on things like driver maturity. Intel claims a &gt;2x performance advantage, so they are much more vague than with their CPU numbers. So at the very optimistic end for Intel’s fastest parts it might be on par with Apple’s slowest at much higher power consumption. </p><p><br></p><p>Plus, that’s ignoring specialized hardware that accelerates common OS functions and Javascript (which is one of the reasons why iOS devices have been so much quicker than Android devices in Javascript benchmarks). </p>

      • casualadventurer

        23 January, 2021 - 10:23 pm

        <blockquote><a href="#609370"><em>In reply to Oreo:</em></a><em> Actually, and I'd love to link to the article but I don't remember where I read it, the CPU tests comparing M1 to Intel processors shuts off one of the two pipes feeding Intel processors data. The M1 has only one pipe, so this seems like a fair comparison but if you want a real world comparison both pipelines should be open. When the testing software is configured this way, the M1 shows results that are (depending on how much power is supplied to the chip) between i5 and i9 processors. That's still a real accomplishment, and with the other hardware accelerators you mention the performance of M1 Macs is robust. PC's that have a separate GPU crush Apple performance but at a cost – increased weight and power requirements. I'm not trying to detract from the accomplishment of the M1 processor, it is special and I look forward to seeing what Apple does for the pro machines.</em></blockquote><p><br></p>

        • nbplopes

          24 January, 2021 - 4:47 am

          <blockquote><em><a href="#609381">In reply to CasualAdventurer:</a></em></blockquote><p>Nonsense</p>

          • Greg Green

            24 January, 2021 - 9:36 am

            <blockquote><em><a href="#609403">In reply to nbplopes:</a></em></blockquote><p>Not according to people who’ve compiled audio and video with M1s vs intel chips. There’s also much less heat so much less throttling. The apple chip future is very bright.</p>

        • prebengh

          24 January, 2021 - 6:45 am

          <blockquote><em><a href="#609381">In reply to CasualAdventurer:</a></em></blockquote><p>If you run the intel versions of benchmarks (through Rosetta 2) you get test results comparable to Windows PC with Intel chips. So it is no wonder that benchmarks with native M1 code runs faster, and faster than most Intel chips like i7 and comparable to i9 chips.</p>

        • constable

          24 January, 2021 - 1:45 pm

          <blockquote><em><a href="#609381">In reply to CasualAdventurer:</a></em></blockquote><p>How much does Intel pay you to write that BS?</p>

          • Paul Thurrott

            Premium Member
            25 January, 2021 - 8:57 am


            Guys, please. Job one here is to be reasonable with each other. This isn’t a place for personal attacks.

      • curtisspendlove

        24 January, 2021 - 1:55 pm

        <blockquote><em><a href="#609370">In reply to Oreo:</a></em></blockquote><p>I don’t disagree with anything you’re saying. </p><p><br></p><p>BUT, and I *never* thought I’d say this, but macOS may not be the best OS for me anymore. Not for my development tasks anyway. </p><p><br></p><p>The further Apple goes in their own direction, the more “magic” has to work behind the scenes for the dev toolchain a I count on. </p><p><br></p><p>(Homebrew, for instance, has gotten progressively more finicky. It’s fine, overall, but it breaks more often than I’d like.)</p><p><br></p><p>Now, the standard answer to that is VMs or Docker. And that is probably the answer. </p><p><br></p><p>But, now more than ever, I’m considering a straight up Linux device. And more and more PC hardware is gearing up to be pretty solid with Linux running on the bare metal. </p><p><br></p><p>Some have even gotten some laptops booting off of Linux and running hardware Passthrough Windows VMs with VFIO. </p><p><br></p><p>Pretty cool stuff. </p><p><br></p><p>I *think*, though, the next generation of MacBook might weaken my concerns in this regard. </p><p><br></p><p>For instance, I’m assuming the new revisions will support multiple external monitors and maybe even support eGPUs again. </p><p><br></p><p>:: shrug ::</p><p><br></p><p>It is definitely and interesting time in computing again. I’m facing tradeoffs again. </p><p><br></p><p>Also, it looks like there is going to be a solid competitor for the Surface Pro. And if *that* thing can run proper Linux (and it isn’t downright horrible in “tablet mode”)… even more decisions. </p>

        • Oreo

          25 January, 2021 - 6:59 pm

          <blockquote><em><a href="#609587">In reply to curtisspendlove:</a></em></blockquote><p>You’re right about Homebrew. I switched back to MacPorts, which seems to work better at the moment. I don’t know what kind of *nix tools you rely on, so this may be important. I don’t need anything exotic (LaTeX, python, git, etc.), so that’s fine. </p><p><br></p><p>I haven’t run Linux on a mobile computer since literally the early 2000s, but friends who do/did tell me it is pretty finicky to find a laptop with good out-of-the-box Linux support. Death by 1,000 paper cuts. (I only run it on workstations at work.) Perhaps I am out of date, but Linux is not a great option it seems. As you wrote someone got Ubuntu running on M1-based Macs. But it remains to be seen how well that works for everyday stuff. </p><p><br></p><p>The Surface Pro is a great Windows machine. My brother and a close friend both had one at his previous job and loved it. It is a solid machine, if you can and want to deal with Windows. If you want something like an iPad Pro with a full desktop OS, it is likely the best option out there. </p><p><br></p><p>To me battery life is a huge issue. Back when I used to fly frequently long-distance for work (i. e. until 2019), I really benefitted from 10+ hours of battery life. So YMMV. </p>

          • bkkcanuck

            27 January, 2021 - 3:26 am

            <blockquote><em><a href="#609937">In reply to Oreo:</a></em></blockquote><p>Running Linux on a laptop (2006/2007) is why I originally moved to macOS… it must be much much better now…. I remember always having some issue with it, in one case for 6 months (on a new model) – I had to recompile and install the kernel to fix some issues (compile switch change). </p>

  • jwpear

    Premium Member
    23 January, 2021 - 10:15 pm

    <p>Despite being able to customize the Touch Bar to provide useful keys, it just doesn't get anywhere near the usefulness of real function keys. My stress level raises every time I have to stop and think about where the freaking "key" is that I want to tap. I do hope the rumors of Apple going back to physical function keys are true.</p><p><br></p><p>Apple has done an amazing job with the speakers on the latest MacBook Pros. I have the 2020 Intel version with four TB ports and I'm just blown away every time I hear them. I admittedly don't get the opportunity to use a lot of different laptops, but in my personal experience, no PC laptop compares. Microsoft and others need to step it up in this area.</p><p><br></p><p>I cannot, for the life of me, figure out why some reviewers put so much emphasis on the absurdly large trackpads. It feels like a silly arms race. I'm glad to see Paul being more sensible. Force touch IS special.</p><p><br></p>

    • ivarh

      Premium Member
      24 January, 2021 - 5:07 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#609380">In reply to jwpear:</a></em></blockquote><p>I actually love the touchbar but not enough for it to replace the physical row of keys. If only Apple had put it above the row of physical keys instead of replacing the top row with it</p>

      • jwpear

        Premium Member
        24 January, 2021 - 7:35 pm

        <blockquote><em><a href="#609404">In reply to ivarh:</a></em></blockquote><p>That's a good suggestion. I think there could be some cases where it is useful. I just haven't found it. I get annoyed with having to take my eyes off the screen to find what's on the touch bar. It feels like, if I need to see it to use it, it should be on the screen.</p><p><br></p><p>It would be the best of both worlds to have physical function keys and the touch bar above. But honestly, I wish Apple would just make the display touch enabled. It feels like this would make the use of iOS apps easier.</p><p><br></p>

        • ivarh

          Premium Member
          24 January, 2021 - 10:44 pm

          <blockquote><em><a href="#609735">In reply to jwpear:</a></em></blockquote><p>I hate fingerprints on my computer screen. That makes a touch screen a no go for me ;(</p>

      • wright_is

        Premium Member
        25 January, 2021 - 4:38 am

        <blockquote><em><a href="#609404">In reply to ivarh:</a></em></blockquote><p>At work, we still use a lot of software that requires funtion keys.</p><p>At a previous employer, the ERP system would require something like F5, F5, F3 to get into a specific function. The users knew that off by heart and never looked at the keyboard, just at the papers they were inputting. Not being able to hit the right key combination blind would severely slow down the process.</p><p>Having the Touch Bar above the F-keys would be a much better solution; although I'd still prefer a proper touch screen.</p>

    • behindmyscreen

      25 January, 2021 - 7:46 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#609380">In reply to jwpear:</a></em></blockquote><p>Rumor is that they are going to eliminate the touchbar in the next release of MBPs</p>

  • prebengh

    24 January, 2021 - 6:38 am

    <p>It will be interesting to see if you get the same problems with OneDrive as you experienced on the Mac Mini.</p><p>I have not had any issues on my Macbook Pro M1 with OneDrive, but I only have a limited number of files on my OneDrive. </p>

    • b6gd

      24 January, 2021 - 9:42 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#609407">In reply to Prebengh:</a></em></blockquote><p>I had the same issue with OneDrive. Beach ball until it fully synced the first time. I have had this on Intel Mac’s as well. </p>

  • angusmatheson

    24 January, 2021 - 11:35 am

    <p>These are absolutely boring computers. And that is a very remarkable thing. I am replacing a coworkers 6 year old MacBook Air (who swears she will never use Windows again) with a new M1 MacBook Air. And it is a Mac. It runs fast. Sure. But to be honest the 6 year old MacBook Air runs the web app we live in at work fine. Battery is amazing, but when the 6 year old MacBook Air was new it’s batter life was fine. I find the whole thing quite boring…but that is amazing. To pull off this transition, and with the first generation no less, working so well as to be boring is truly amazing feat. The re are truly no weird compromises (I found a program that was abandoned by its programmers 2 years ago that wouldn’t run, but that is it). You don’t have to get a clam shell iOS device to get apple silicon. Nope. You just buy an M1 Mac and it works just like a Mac. Boring. I will give it to co-worker on Monday, and she will use it every day. And will never know there is anything different about it. Just another boring MacBook Air. Amazing.</p>

    • RobertJasiek

      24 January, 2021 - 1:00 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#609581">In reply to Angusmatheson:</a></em></blockquote><p>While I understand your and your friend's experience, there is one aspect of it I do not get: if it is all so boringly good, then why is there any need to replace an only 6 years old device? The battery needs to be replaced, sure. Ok, so why not just replace the battery? And to make it boring: replace the battery yourself by simply taking it out and putting the new one in. Question is whether exactly this is possible. I do not know about all Apple devices but all that I recall do not allow the enduser to simply swap the battery like for a torch. Not to mention that they are not standardised. And this problem of difficulty of battery replacement, missing standard and extremely expensive replacement cost is one of the major reasons why I don't buy Macs (nor Surfaces for the same reason), regardless of how good the (current, Butterfly was not) build quality and M1 chip are. Another reason is the tiny arrow keys, which would also prevent me from profiting from the otherwise supposedly boringly good experience.</p>

      • nbplopes

        24 January, 2021 - 2:24 pm

        <blockquote><em><a href="#609585">In reply to RobertJasiek:</a></em></blockquote><p><br></p><p>Replacing an MBA battery costs $130 including servicing on Apple.</p><p><br></p><p>I suppose the op just wanted a better machine anyway. Don’t see anything wrong with that, do you?</p><p><br></p><p>Not all MBs were good for me, For instance I jumped over the entire butterfly keyboard lineup. Used the MBP 15 from 2015 … until the 16” came out. The MBP 15 went to another dev and he does everything quite well running along to 6th year of operation and one battery replacement intervention.</p><p><br></p><p>Dont see in practice any of the problems that you seam to suggest in theory.</p>

  • linear2202

    Premium Member
    24 January, 2021 - 5:48 pm

    <p>It wouldn't be a proper review without some kind of comment about the trackpad being too big. No matter, it doesn't interfere with typing and provides a better experience than any Windows laptop, Surface included.</p><p><br></p><p>The keyboard is now better than Surface keyboards too.</p>

  • Sir_Timbit

    24 January, 2021 - 6:11 pm

    <p>I'm really impressed with what Apple's achieved with the m1 Macs. Not in the market for one right now, but maybe in another year or so. I really appreciated having an Intel Mac though, as I used enough Windows apps that that was a concern. I'm hoping in a year or so Windows ARM will have advanced enough, and Microsoft will loosen licensing for it, that the M1s will once again be the run-all-the-things laptop.</p>

  • winbookxl2

    Premium Member
    25 January, 2021 - 6:18 pm

    <p>I have the 2018 Macbook Pro and just noticed it did not have a physical ESC key. I use my Macbook primary on a pluggable USB docking station which I have connected to two monitors. From my understanding Paul you can connect two external displays on an M1-based Mac using a USB-C dock that uses Displaylink technology instead of Displayport out as a workaround. </p>

  • spiderman2

    26 January, 2021 - 6:26 am

    <p>Can you try it with 2 external monitors or with an ultrawide monitor? will be fun</p>

    • Paul Thurrott

      Premium Member
      26 January, 2021 - 9:43 am


  • zorro

    05 March, 2023 - 5:45 am

    My iMac 2015 handles Aftereffect better than my brand new MBP with M1. Soooo Angry. What a waste of money.


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