Gamers, editors, developers, designers—An Intel comeback is taking the bite out of Apple

Gamers, editors, developers, designers—An Intel comeback is taking the bite out of Apple

Apple made great strides at the expense of Intel. But Chipzilla's Alder Lake processors are proving to be a better match than M1 Max chipsets found in MacBook.

Representative image: The Alienware R3 gaming laptop | YouTube

Representative image: The Alienware R3 gaming laptop | YouTube

In recent years, Apple has risen partly due to its excellent semiconductor design arm, which made custom processors based on the ARM instruction set — not just for the iPhone, but also for the Mac, Apple Watch, AirPod, and iPad. The Mac is particularly interesting because, until 2020, Apple used Intel microprocessors, the company behind the “silicon” in America’s Silicon Valley.

Macs have been the domain of creative professionals — video editors, filmmakers, graphic designers, and musicians. Thanks to a combination of hardware and software achievement, Apple extended the niche of the Mac to audiences in other product categories. Intel had been faltering in the 2010s, which resulted in Apple betting on its own microprocessor design.

Business-wise, this wasn’t a loss for Intel as the Mac accounted for less than 5 per cent of the revenue of its laptop processor industry. But it was an influential market that also underscored the winds of change in the computer industry. Since 2021, under CEO Patrick Gelsinger, Intel has been having a second coming of sorts. Its latest generation of Alder Lake (12th Gen) processors has spawned a new generation of notebooks that, though geared toward gamers, are excellent devices for creative users on whom Apple seemingly has a strong grip.

More efficient for creative professionals

For creative professionals, time is money. And Apple’s latest offerings — MacBook Pro models with the M1 Pro and M1 Max chipsets — provide an unprecedented blend of performance, functionality, portability, and battery life. But notebooks such as the Alienware x15 R2 are turning the tide back in favour of the Wintel duopoly — the Microsoft Windows-Intel alliance that defined the PC era.

While portability gets affected due to the sheer size, you get a 15-inch screen that has a 360 Hz refresh rate and the beefiest Intel Core i9 processor based on the Alder Lake architecture. It also features 16GB Nvidia GeForce 3080 Ti graphics and much more. If time is money, many video editors will swear on the Alienware x15 R2 over Apple’s latest — when plugged in, it has a higher threshold of performance. This means that tools such as Adobe Premiere Pro will edit videos as fast as a MacBook Pro with the M1 Max chip. Importantly, it does so while being relatively cheaper and more easily available.

Getting an Apple Mac with the M1 Max chip is very hard even if you can afford it. The Alienware, with its Nvidia discrete graphics, is also a mean gaming machine, perfect for triple-A titles. With a subscription to Xbox Game pass, you’ll be able to play games such as F1 22, Cricket 22, Forza Motorsport, and FIFA 21 — something I tested personally and benchmarked against a PlayStation 5. The MacBook Pro can’t do this as macOS hasn’t been amenable toward game developers.

These days, apart from graphic artists who live on tools like Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop, the extra gamer-level graphical grunt also helps out artists who design visuals for events. Video jockeys are rarely seen with a Mac, but the new generation of gaming notebooks like the Alienware x15 R2 have now become staples. Architects are also using “gaming notebooks” because of their graphical prowess.

Creators who are developing apps or content for the metaverse are also getting their hands on these Intel Alder Lake-powered gaming notebooks. Windows software is better for working on virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). Generally, the added graphical hardware helps in faster and more reliable development.

For musicians, the central processing unit (CPU) is perhaps the most important tool, and Intel’s improvements in its CPU line are apparent as many producers are now looking towards a gaming PC with specifications similar to Alienware. While the Mac is a more developed environment for DJs, producers, and composers, Intel’s hardware and Windows software combination has evolved well enough so that a gaming notebook can be a viable, cheaper alternative.

Also read: Battery about to die—if this message panics you, buy Pixel 7 Pro, S22 Ultra, iPhone 14 Plus

A big Intel comeback?

Intel’s gains have also trickled down to mainstream price points. The Mac saw a resurgence with the launch of the M-series processors and AMD silicon-based hardware. For example, the new Xiaomi Notebook Pro packs the i5 variant of the Intel 12th Gen processor and is packaged in a super slim MacBook Air-like design. For general use like browsing the internet, working on docs and spreadsheets, watching videos, and doing light photo editing, it is as proficient as a MacBook Air and competes with the masterful battery life of Apple’s best-selling notebook. Wintel has just got a new boost.

While Apple has made great strides at the expense of Intel, mainly in the PC market, ‘Chipzilla’ is making a comeback — slowly but surely — and there are already signs of huge improvements. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Intel’s new graphics processing units (GPUs) called ARC are set to challenge the duopoly of Nvidia and AMD. Its 13th Gen Raptor Lake processors will make things even more competitive on the CPU side. This will happen as Apple is set to launch the M2 Pro and M2 Max-based MacBook Pro models next year. AMD is also in the mix as it has announced its Ryzen 7000 series of CPUs, which are also promising a lot.

Regardless, next year, things will be interesting as Apple, Intel, and AMD will have products that will not only catch the fancy of creators but also the average user looking for a new notebook.

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(Edited by Humra Laeeq)