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MacBook Pro 13 ” M1 vs Intel: the pros and cons to know before buying them

Since the first 13-inch M1 MacBook Pros were released, high-end models with Intel processors have been getting old. However, they still have some advantages, and better meet certain specific needs, especially for professionals.

After fifteen years of beating to the rhythm of Intel’s Core, Apple has started its two-year transition to Apple Silicon chips. The first ARM Macs have arrived, and we have been able to say highly enough about the 13-inch M1 MacBook Pro we tested.

To the point, moreover, that one could wonder what was left of the high-end MacBook Pros with Intel processors, since their performance is swept away by the Apple Silicon chip that equips the two entry-level models.

The same good basics

A question that arises all the more acutely since the two MacBook Pro models offer many similarities:

  • the same dimensions (30.41 x 21.24 x 1.56 cm) and the same weight (1.4 Kg);
  • the same slab Retina (13.3 inches for a native definition of 2560×1600 pixels at 227 ppi), equipped with the same technologies: True Tone, P3, etc. ;
  • the same keyboard Magic Keyboard, given to be much more durable than the nevertheless regretted butterfly keyboard;
  • the same Touch Bar, which oscillates between facilitating certain uses in applications and complicating life for basic settings historically assigned to Function keys;
  • a button Touch ID, with the difference that that of the Intel model is managed by the T2 chip which suffers from a flaw that cannot be corrected, while that of the Mac M1 is based on the secure enclave of the new SoC;
  • the same trackpad giant and on which it is difficult to find fault;
  • the same camera FaceTime, which insists on being only 720p, even if the M1 allows to gain a little in video quality.

However, there are areas where not only the two ultra-laptops stand out but where the Intel MacBook Pro gets the best, again … Points that are particularly important for professionals, those who may have really demanding uses of their laptop , even if the 13-inch MacBook Pros remain at a point of balance between demanding consumer and professional use.

Processors: Intel Advantage, for choice, M1 Advantage for the rest

The M1 is a powerful SoC, available in its most powerful version on the MacBook Pro, since it benefits from its 8 CPU and GPU cores and 16 cores for the Neural engine.

However, the Mac M1 do not offer other optional processors, while for its part, the Intel model displays two possible choices. The default one, which is a 2 GHz Core i5 (3.8 GHz Turbo Boost) quad-core, and the optional one, a 2.3 GHz Core i7 (4.1 GHz Turbo Bost), also quad-core. Both chips are tenth generation and offer an Iris Plus graphics chipset.

The 13-inch models do not offer an optional Core i9, and the presence of the Core i7 ensures additional power for some renderings and tasks that benefit from a gain in operating frequencies.

In the light of our tests, the Core i7 is not necessarily more powerful than the M1, however it displays very decent performance and is especially accompanied by a certain advantage over the M1 platform: it can take advantage of more RAM.

RAM: Intel advantage, despite a difficult comparison

The Intel platform, as presented by Apple, is capable of handling up to 32 GB of RAM. That’s twice as much as the first Apple Silicon chip can handle.

This could make the difference for certain professional applications which are particularly memory intensive in general, and which have not necessarily become Universal yet. We think for example of Photoshop.

However, this point is only valid in the short term, if you need to change machines quickly. It is indeed very likely that the replacements for the high-end 13-inch MacBook Pro will carry more RAM and offer even better performance than those of Intel chips and even the M1. If you can wait, our advice: do it.

Especially since this advantage of the amount of RAM is still a bit difficult to judge. It is complicated to compare the memory requirements of one architecture and another. Indeed, the M1 Macs and their SoC adopt a unified approach to memory, which implies less data transfers between the CPU and the GPU, or in any case less writing and rewriting of the same elements in memory, and therefore less RAM requirement, possibly.

In any case, our tests have shown that with an identical amount of memory, and this for the majority of uses, the M1s dominate the Intel Cores.

Connector and external display: Intel Advantage

Historically, entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pros have been on a diet when it comes to connectivity. They only offer two ports, one usually occupied by the electric charger, the other available to plug in what needs to be connected: USB key, adapter, etc.

The top-of-the-range model not only offers twice as many ports, but they are spread across both sides of the machine, which is much more practical in everyday life.

However, that’s not the only advantage of the 13-inch Intel MacBook Pro. Where the MacBook Pro M1 is officially only capable of simultaneously connecting an external display, whether 4K or 6K, the Intel MacBook Pro can handle a single 6K or 5K display, but two 4K displays simultaneously. Which can clearly be a game-changer for some professionals who work with large timelines or large contact sheets.

However, it seems that it is possible with a little software trick and the right adapter / display to work on two external displays at the same time with the Mac M1. The graphics chip would take the shock without worry. But Apple doesn’t recognize this possibility at this time.

Finally, last point, the M1 Macs have Thunderbolt / USB 4 connectors (identical to USB-C). Although USB 4 is technically able to handle them, Apple Silicon Macs are currently unable to work with eGPUs, these external boxes that have a dedicated graphics card to help with the main configuration. If you absolutely need a solid GPU for 3D rendering or parallel computing, you’d better stay under Intel’s jurisdiction.

Wireless connectivity: Apple Silicon advantage, finally

It’s a minor point, no doubt, but the Mac M1 are the first Apple computers to be Wi-Fi 6 compatible. As consumer routers grow in number and affordability, it is about time. that Apple, which has done so much to bring this technology to the fore, is finally turning to the next generation of Wi-Fi. This will give MacBook Pros better speeds, especially in environments populated by a lot of machines.

This “reluctance” is all the more surprising since we do not understand why the latest Intel Macs are not compatible with Wi-Fi 6, since the chips and platforms provided by the Santa Clara giant obviously are.

Applications: Apple Silicon advantage, the weight of history, the strength of novelty

Right now, since we are at the very beginning of the migration from Intel processors to Apple Silicon, the vast majority of applications are built to run natively on x86 chips – and even when ported to run on ARM. , they will remain compatible with Intel processors for a long time to come.

However, ARM Macs provide enough power that we don’t really hesitate to recommend them, even if some programs will have to be emulated via Rosetta 2 at first. If there are of course some hiccups, Rosetta works well enough to allow certain applications to be faster … when they are emulated on an M1!

There may be an interest in staying with the Intel team if you change your machine quite regularly and your business is very dependent on very specific software. However, in this case, you will have to make sure that your software library will follow you.

Another case, the fate of which is yet to be decided, that of Windows. The possibility of installing Windows via Boot Camp has so far allowed some users to reconcile two worlds, two constraints not necessarily designed to coexist.

For now, the first results with Windows emulation or virtualization tools are encouraging, but performance and stability are not always there.

Autonomy and discretion: Apple Silicon Advantage, a new era

Those who use MacBook Pros know just how cool its cool machines can be when you put too much stress on their processor or graphics chipset, or worse, both at the same time. It sometimes happens that encoding a little long, a too large number of open tabs in a browser pushes the ultra-portable to ventilate a few tens of seconds before going back to sleep. Nothing embarrassing in absolute terms … Or at least that’s what we thought until now. Certainly, the MacBooks had accustomed us to silent machines, without fans, but they had mostly frustrated us by their lack of power. The Mac M1 seem to combine the best of two worlds. More than enough power and royal silence in 98% of cases. It is not only a pleasant surprise, but it is a luxury that we hardly do without.

As for autonomy, the Macs have always been able to do well. They have not always been the best in the category, but they knew how to keep in the lead group. With the MacBook Pro M1, the leading group is forgotten, Apple has just created a separate category.

As a conclusion

The MacBook Pro M1 have a lot going for them: the appeal of novelty, the strength of a proven design, power, autonomy, silence and an impressive software solution that ensures good backward compatibility with Intel applications.

However, MacBook Pros with Core are not without interest. They have software stability on their side, especially for professionals who cannot afford to miss out. They therefore remain a good choice in certain specific cases, despite a strongly pronounced end-of-reign air. Be careful, however, they will undoubtedly have less resale value within two or three years.

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