We already know that the new Macs powered by the M1 chip have impressive performance, which surpasses almost all current Macs with Intel processors, but what about Windows PCs? PCWorld compared Microsoft’s Surface Pro X to Apple’s new MacBook Air M1, and the results put the Surface tablet far behind the Mac.
Although Windows runs on ARM-based machines, not many of them are currently available to consumers. The Microsoft Surface Pro X tablet is one of them – with an ARM chip created in partnership between Microsoft and Qualcomm.
As he points out PCWorld, a huge limitation of Windows on ARM machines is that the operating system was limited to running X86 32-bit emulated software. In other words, the system could not emulate and run 64-bit applications created for AMD and Intel processors.
The 32-bit software runs at significantly lower performance – and Apple got rid of them in 2019 with macOS Catalina. At the same time, Apple has introduced Rosetta 2 technology for the new M1 Macs, which translate virtually every software created for Intel Macs into an ARM binary that works better on Apple Silicon-based computers.
Microsoft recently released a beta version of Windows that offers 64-bit X86 software emulation, but the performance isn’t even close to the new Macs with the M1 chip. In a Geekbench 5 test, the Surface Pro X was overtaken by the new MacBook Air M1 and also ranked behind a cheap HP Pavilion laptop running on an Intel Core i5 processor.
Another test was performed with HandBrake, an open-source software for transcoding videos. While the new MacBook Air with M1 chip turned a 12-minute 4K video into a 1080p H.265 format in about 23 minutes, the Surface Pro X ARM took 2 hours to complete the same operation.
SQ1 continued at about one frame per second, taking about two hours to transcode a 12-minute 4K video, Tears of Steel, in a 1080p H.265 format. Apple’s MacBook M1 simply blows the Surface Pro X.
At the end of the day, even with the improvements Microsoft has made to Windows, ARM machines are at a disadvantage compared to M1 Macs. Based on his tests, PCWorld says that “Windows on Arm needs a miracle” to get the performance of the new Macs with Apple Silicon chip.
But it’s hard to believe that further development will cover the vast gap in performance between Windows on Arm and Apple M1 Macs. In six months, Microsoft can boast that its emulation performance has improved significantly. But without the combined miracle of a much better processor from Qualcomm or another Arm chip maker and continuous improvements from Microsoft, the future of Windows on Arm looks bleak.
Interestingly, the developers managed to mimic Windows 10 on M1 Macs, and the Mac scored better on a Geekbench test than Surface Pro X running Windows 10 native on ARM.
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