Apple has a clear performance edge over Intel when it comes to laptop processors and the shift to M1 silicon has reaped rich dividends for it. Even Intel itself agrees that it has been outdone. Former Mac chief Jean-Louis Gassée and former Windows president Steven Sinofsky have quelled any remaining doubt.
Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger grudgingly admitted that Apple silicon was “pretty good” and better than any Intel chip. However there have been voices downplaying Apple’s lead saying, “even based on Apple’s own performance estimates, the chip will be slower than Intel’s upcoming Alder Lake CPU.” In independently published blog posts, former Apple executive Jean-Louis Gassée dismissed the Alder Lake comparison outright highlighting how the speculation compares a current production laptop chip with an upcoming chip for desktops. Gassée said that Apple is working on a faster desktop chip for the upcoming Mac Pro and that would be a fair comparison.
For context, Jean-Louis Gassée once headed Macintosh development, a role Steve jobs took over. At one time, he was strongly tipped to be the company’s CEO. In his blog post, he rightly said that Intel hasn’t successfully implemented the key behind the success of Apple silicon — integration of everything necessary onto a single chip.
“In the case of x86 devices, Intel’s SIP (System In a Package) is an admission of their inability to integrate all of the CPU organs into a single SoC (System on a Chip). As a result, SIP performance suffers because of its lower interconnect speeds, particularly when compared to a fully integrated SoC. For example, the memory transfer offered by the M1 Pro and Max reaches 200 and 400 gigabits per second, speeds that are unattainable on a SIP CPU implementation.”
Separately, Steven Sinofsky called the M1-based MacBook Pro “a mind-blowing innovation.” To bring you up to speed, Sinofsky retired as the President of Windows after a 20-year stint at Microsoft. His role meant he was acutely aware of the inner workings of Intel’s x86 microarchitecture and the challenges for operating systems to support it. This lends him an important and unique perspective on the success of Apple’s M1 line.
In his blog post, Sinofsky narrated the history of Apple chips from the PowerPC, leading up to the M1. He likened Apple’s decision to ditch Motorola for PowerPC’s processors to its decision to abandon Intel now.
“Apple was essentially left hanging by a partner for chips, when their core deliverable to customers was a computer. That seemed an impossible situation…
The M1 chip was a realization of all the iPad and iPhone work (sensors, OS port, security, power management, graphics, and more).
The M1 not only aimed at fixing what ailed Intel, but also PPC. It was learning from the past decade+.”
Sinofsky reiterated that the M1 Pro and M1 Max chips in the new MacBook Pros can beat Intel and pretty much everything, not just performance.
“When you look at M1 Pro/Max today it is tempting to it think of this in terms of performance, but performance per watt AND integrated graphics AND integrated memory AND integrated application processors is innovation in an entirely different direction…
The M1x capabilities of shared memory, SoC that isn’t just smaller but has so many aux functions, ProRes, super-fast SSD, even multiple TB ports — all these things require deeply integrated software (from the chipset to the experience).”
We are inclined to agree with both Sinofsky and Gassée because even if Apple’s claims of the M1 Max’s and M1 Pro’s performance are off by a bit, the processors are simply leagues ahead of their counterparts from Intel and AMD. That said, if you have the time, we strongly recommend you read the engaging blog posts from both these eminent industry veterans.