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Microsoft make big advances, is it enough to beat the M1 chip?

M1 Macbook vs. Microsoft Surface. Which one will emerge as the winner? 

MacBooks and surface laptops are both high-end machines that sport a wealth of features. But there can only be one winner in this battle of the giants. 

Over the years, every new version of the Surface gets closer to MacBooks’ speed and performance. But now Apple has launched the M1 chipset, which could prove to be a game-changer.

Price

First things first, both the M1 Macbook and the Surface 4 cost about the same. So, you won’t save much money by opting for either laptop model. 

Both of them have a starting price of about one grand. Prices rise with improved specs like greater RAM, more GPU cores, and processing power. 

The top-of-the-line Surface 4 has 16 GB RAM and 512 GB SSD for about $1,700.

But the best M1 Macbook model boasts 16 GB RAM and 1 TB SSD for about $1,650. 

Bottom Line – Starting prices are more or less identical. But with top-of-the-line models, the M1 Macbook wins with its 1 TB SSD, which has twice the capacity of the most powerful Surface 4 (512 GB SSD). The price of this M1 Macbook is also $50 lower, if that matters.

Design

Macbook and the Surface are ultra-portable laptops that are remarkably slim for their power. Bezels for both are fair enough but they could be thinner.

The Macbook, as well as the Surface both, have a premium aluminum chassis. However, the Surface offers more color choices than the Macbook. You can choose from the vibrant Sandstone shade or the Ice Blue finish when buying a Surface 4. If you prefer, you can opt for the soft and comfortable Alcantara deck. 

The Macbook, on the other hand, has the usual Silver, Space Gray, and Gold finishes. Fans would like to see more variety. Apple will likely add more color options in the next Macbook model.

One may conclude that the Surface sports a better design thanks to its richer color options.

Ports

You will find 2 Thunderbolt ports towards the left side of the Macbook. However, the Surface 4 does not have Thunderbolt ports. 

2 x USB-C Ports on the M1 Macbook

Thanks to its Thunderbolt ports, the Macbook comes out on top with its unmatched charging power and data transfer rate. 

The Thunderbolt boasts 100-watt power capacity and 40 Gb/s data transfer rate.

This is way superior to the far more modest USB 3.1 port in the Surface 4.

The Macbook is the clear winner as far as ports go.

Display

The Surface and the Macbook have wonderful displays that provide breathtakingly vivid imagery whether you are watching movies, playing games, or surfing the web.

The Macbook screen measures 13.3 inches with a 2560 x 1600 resolution retina display and a 16:9 aspect ratio.

The Surface 4 screen, on the other hand, measures 13.5 inches combined with a 2256 x 1504 resolution and 3:2 aspect ratio.

Clearly, the Macbook has better resolution, and its Retina display is top-class. However, some might have a preference for the 3:2 aspect ratio of the Surface 4.

If you have no issue with the rather outdated 16:9 aspect ratio of the MacBook, then this model stands out with its higher resolution and Retina display. 

But Surface has one excellent feature that the Macbook lacks. The screen is touch-enabled. There is also a pen for higher precision when using the highly responsive touchscreen of the Surface 4.

For some reason known to itself, Apple refuses to deploy touchscreens in MacBooks.

Touchpad and Keyboard

Apple fans can heave a sigh of relief that the iffy Butterfly keyboard is replaced by the tried and tested Chiclet-style keyboard. 

However, the Surface 4 still has a more comfortable keyboard.   

The highly tactile click of the MacBook keyboard certainly feels good. However, Macbook keys feel stiffer than Surface keys. MacBook keys require a greater actuation force compared to the Surface.  

There is almost no difference in key travel. Both are about the same. 

You will find slightly better results for the Surface on typing tests thanks to its bouncy keys and lighter actuation force. Hence, you may conclude that Surface has the better keyboard.

The Macbook has a mega-sized 4.7 x 3.2-inch touchpad. The trackpad surface is silky smooth, due to which you have good control.  The touchpad responds accurately to gestures and touch.  

You can say more or less the same for the Surface, except that its touchpad is slightly smaller at 4.5 x 3 inches. The Surface touchpad feels just as smooth, accurate, and responsive.

Thanks to the more comfortable keyboard that requires less actuation force, the Surface here outshines the MacBook.

Performance

The M1 chipset is indeed a game-changer. When Apple announced that the M1 chipset would be the fastest and most cost-effective on the market, they weren’t exactly kidding. The incredible processing power and speed of the M1 is truly unprecedented. But despite its processing, it still does not require a fan for cooling.  

Apple folks were right when they claimed that the M1 is not an upgrade, rather it is a breakthrough. 

As you might have guessed by now, the M1 thrashes the Surface Intel i7 by a big margin. Geekbench 5 score of the Surface stands at about 4800. In contrast, the M1 leaves the Surface in the dust with its 7600 Geekbench 5 score.

The Macbook is the clear winner on the performance front. Here is how this performance advantage translates in real-world applications.

While the Surface requires around 17 minutes to convert a video from 4K to 1K, the MacBook takes just over 9 minutes to do the same job. 

The Surface SSD may be faster than previous versions of the laptop model. But even then, it is nowhere near as fast as the MacBook. The Surface SSD can duplicate 25 GB multimedia files at over 560 MBps. However, the MacBook Air SSD is a blistering fast 2800 MBps. 

Both models make use of integrated graphics. When tested for Civilization VI: Gathering Storm, both laptops were evenly matched. The MacBook managed a very decent 37 frames per second at the 1440×900  graphic setting, while the Surface reached 30 frames per second at 1K resolution.

Battery

Both batteries have very respectable battery times. But the MacBook battery is in a league of its own. When surfing the internet using Wi-Fi at 150 nits brightness, the MacBook battery lasts over fourteen and a half hours.

The Surface, on the other hand, manages over ten and a half hours which is quite good. 

Despite the decent performance of the Surface battery, it is clear that the MacBook is far ahead.

Verdict

It seems that MacBook is the clear winner with its stellar processor speed, battery life, SSD speed, better graphics, and Thunderbolt ports. 

It’s not that the Surface is slow. Rather it is quite fast and performs according to expectations just like a premium laptop should. But MacBook exceeds expectations by a huge margin.

Why MacBook Wins

Even the M1 Macbook Air is lightning fast – capable of handling Photoshop with relative ease

The secret to the MacBook’s success is its in-house developed M1 chipset. This fantastic piece of hardware is more than just another marginally faster chipset on the market. It is sheer magic.

This may sound like an exaggeration, but the truth is that the M1 is in a league of its own. No other chipset can come close, let alone match its performance. 

Apple said that the M1 MacBook is not an upgrade. Instead, it is a breakthrough. The M1 represents a giant leap forward in the Apple universe. It has completely disrupted the PC market with its superior performance. 

Apple fans are excited and pleased to run their iPad and iPhone apps directly on their Macs. The big advantage here is that  Apple fans finally get desktop viewing for their iOS apps. The good news is that most of these iOS apps support trackpad and mouse use. They also have other desirable features built into them, like the menu bar and resizable windows. These are just some of the sheer benefits that the M1 chip purveys to the Apple crowd. But the benefits don’t end here; they are just beginning.

The M1 chipset is known as a SOC or a single system on a chip. This means that all chips, including those for processing, Memory, and security, are baked into one physical platform. Before this, these chips were separate. 

This integration or unification has led to unprecedented boosts in performance, speed, and battery life. And the amazing bit is that power consumption is low despite the immense power. Apple brags that the M1 chip consumes just a quarter of the power that ordinary chips consume to provide the same level of power. 

Apple has managed to pack an incredible 16 billion transistors into the M1 SoC. This is by far the largest number that Apple has ever crammed in its chips. 

The unified memory architecture is responsible for the low-latency and high-bandwidth Memory. In fact, Apple has reinvented the concept of how RAMs work to boost performance.

Graphics are a key factor to consider when buying a laptop. In the M1, the integrated chipset manages all graphics operations on one platform. The obvious benefit of this is that there is no longer a need for a separate processor that will consume lots of power. This factor lends the M1 a massive performance boost over other high-end chips.

The neural engine contained in the M1 is another marvel to behold. To say that its performance is excellent would be an understatement. The neural engine crushes 11 trillion operations each second, which is way higher than the 5 trillion operations per second of the iPhone 12 chipset. This means that the machine learning performance of the M1 is unmatched.

As computer geeks know all too well, exceptional processing power can come at the expense of battery life. But the M1 excels on this front as well. The highly integrated SoC delivers high performance while drawing much less power. 

The heat output is so low that the M1 sports a fanless design. This sounds incredible considering the blisteringly high processing performance. 

The M1 outshines previous Intel-powered Macs. There is a marked difference in performance between the M1 and Intel-based Apple laptops, as shown by Geekbench and other performance benchmark scores.

What sets the M1 apart is its unique RISC-based design which relies on the ARM instruction set. This implies that the M1 is much closer to ARM chips found in tablets and smartphones than chips used in laptops and desktop computers. This fact makes the M1 quite unusual. 

The M1 is not just the processor that you are used to. Rather, it is a comprehensive system on a chip. Unlike other computers, all components of the M1 are built into one unified platform. This contrasts with ordinary computers where individual components are installed in different parts on the motherboard. Hence, the M1 seamlessly integrates the image signal processor, SSD controller, secure enclave, and the unified Memory on one chipset.

Breaking Down the M1 Macbook

The M1 has the following specialized components installed on it.

  • Central Processing Unit – This processor powers most of the code found in apps and the OS.
  • Graphics Processing Unit – Manages all tasks related to graphics like 3D games and the app user interface graphics.
  • Image Processing Unit – Speed up various tasks commonly performed by image processing apps.
  • Digital Signal Processor – Runs mathematically intensive tasks like decompressing multimedia files.
  • Neural Processing Unit – This exotic processor is a key component in high-end premium smartphones that work with camera processing, voice recognition, and other AI tasks. 
  • Video encoder/decoder – Runs multimedia file conversions with high power and efficiency
  • Secure enclave – Manages security, authentication, and encryption.
  • Unified Memory – Facilitates rapid information exchange between GPU, CPU, and remaining cores at high speed and efficiency. 

Bottom Line – M1 MacBook vs Surface

The MacBook wins with its unrivaled performance. The exotic device sports a unique architecture that has forever changed the face of computing. Other computers are still no match for it. 


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