After the introduction of the M1 chip, Apple’s MacBook Pro laptops now come in two variants. Those are powered by Apple’s own M1 chip and other models that run on Intel’s processors. Both are powerful in their own right, with their own advantages and disadvantages. Much like the iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch all run on Apple’s own processors, the company is transitioning its Mac lineup away from Intel and toward its own in-house chips. So is it still worth going for the 13-inch Intel MacBook Pro? Or does it make more sense to take the leap to Apple Silicon now? RefurbMe’s new guide helps to answer the question of how to decide which of the MacBook Pro M1 vs Intel 13-inch models is best for you.
A compiled view
The 13-inch MacBook Pro powered by M1 succeeds Apple’s entry-level Intel MacBook Pro and is virtually identical in all but the innards. The MacBook Pro M1 and Intel MacBook Pro that Apple still sells both share the same uniform, slab-like design, Magic Keyboard, and Touch Bar with Touch ID. Let’s first understand the differences between the MacBook Pro M1 vs Intel.
|MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1)||MacBook Pro 13-inch (Intel)|
|Display||13.3-inch Retina display||13.3-inch Retina display|
|Processor||Apple M1 with 8-core CPU, 8-core GPU, and 16-core Neural Engine||Quad-core Intel Core i5 or Intel Core i7 with Intel Iris Plus graphics|
|Memory||8GB or 16GB256GB||16GB or 32GB|
|Webcam||720p with Apple ISP||720p|
|Battery||Estimated up to 20 hours||Estimated up to 10 hours|
|Ports||2 Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports||4 Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports|
|Microphone & Speakers||4 Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports||Three-mic array with directional beamforming|
|Storage||512GB, 1TB, or 2TB||512TB, 1TB, 2TB, 4TB|
A quick glance might make you think you’re looking at two identical laptops, but a closer inspection should tell a different story.
Both have the same 13.3-inch Retina display with 2560×1600 resolution. The same 720p FaceTime HD camera and speakers with Dolby Atmos support. And the same-sized chassis. Both the MacBook Pro M1 vs Intel also comes with Touch Bar, Touch ID, Magic Keyboard, and Force Touch trackpad.
Apple’s M1 processor is quite efficient and intimidating. It’s an 8-core CPU with four performance cores and four efficiency cores and comes with an 8-core GPU. Plus the 16-core neural engine enhances certain machine learning algorithms. On the other hand, the two high-end 13-inch MacBook Pro models continue to use 10th-generation Intel Core chips. Both standard configurations use a 2.0GHz quad-core processor, which can be customized to a 2.3GHz quad-core Core i7 processor. Both Intel models feature Intel Iris Plus graphics.
By comparison, these components in the high-end Intel MacBook Pro are segregated on the logic board, which gives the M1 chip a number of performance advantages. When doing simple tasks like browsing the web or reading email the MacBook Pro engages the high-efficiency cores to preserve battery life, but for more system-intensive tasks like photo and video editing, the high-performance cores are used. Compared to the high-performance cores, the high-efficiency cores use a tenth of the power while still delivering the performance that Mac users need for everyday tasks.
The M1 MacBook Pro also has a much better webcam than the Intel version. Although both laptops have a 720p camera, Apple’s M1 computers also have the company’s image signal processor inside. The M1 MacBook Pro’s webcam had much better lighting, bolder color, and noticeably less grain than the Intel MacBook Pro.
Memory & Storage
If you need the most storage and memory you can get in an Apple laptop then your best bet is an Intel MacBook Pro. The M1 MacBook Pro faces limitations in memory and storage. It can only be configured with up to 16GB of memory (RAM) and up to 2TB of storage. Intel models can be upgraded to 32GB of RAM with up to 4TB of storage. Most people don’t need these upgrades, but they matter to professional videographers and photographers working with very large files and running multiple memory-hogging apps at once.
Battery life is the real reason to buy Apple’s M1 Pro laptop. The MacBook Pro 13-inch with Apple M1 doubles the quoted battery life of the MacBook Pro 13 with Intel hardware. The Apple M1 model claims up to 20 hours of battery life, while the Intel model promises up to 10 hours of time between charges. Both figures are a best-case scenario, so you can expect slightly less battery life in real-world use. Still, it’s clear that the Apple M1 chip is far more efficient. The size of the battery in each model is almost identical. The endurance gains are coming from a lower power draw, not a larger battery capacity.
Apple says the M1 chip’s CPU is up to 2.8x faster than the Intel chip in the entry-level MacBook Pro it replaces. The GPU speeds are up to 5x faster than Intel’s integrated graphics in the former model. That said, Apple hasn’t provided any performance comparisons with the existing high-end Intel MacBook Pro models it still sells. But recent Geekbench benchmarks are telling: The M1 chip has a 3.2GHz frequency and earns single-core scores that exceed 1700, and multi-core scores around 7500, which makes it faster than even 2019’s high-end 16-inch MacBook Pro models, which come with 10th-generation Intel Core i7 or i9 chips.
So to say, the M1 chip in the entry-level MacBook Pro offers single-core performance that is better than any other available Mac and outperforms the Intel-based MacBook Pro models that it is sold alongside. although it may not exceed them all in GPU performance. Even when emulating x86 under Rosetta 2, the M1 MacBook Pro is still faster than all previously released Macs.
One other point of note is that in addition to the USB-C ports on the M1 MacBook Pro being Thunderbolt 3. They also meet the USB4 specification. The important thing to remember is that USB4 is less a technical advance over existing Thunderbolt 3 ports. It is more an attempt to unify the confusing array of definitions related to USB3 and its generational variants.
It also represents Intel’s transition from a paid licensing scheme for its proprietary thunderbolt protocol to an openly licensed industry standard. This is why Apple has been able to develop its own custom Thunderbolt 3 controller for the M1. Like Thunderbolt 3, USB4 is able to allocate different levels of bandwidth to video and data transfers (up to 40Gb/s) when required simultaneously. But despite the name change, there is little practicable difference for the end-user.
Aside from the difference in ports, the Apple MacBook Pro M1 vs Intel versions look identical. They’re the same in size and thickness. They offer the same color options, silver or space gray. The Apple M1 model is lighter. They also share the same uniform, slab-like design, Magic Keyboard, and Touch Bar with Touch ID.
Microphone & Speakers
Both M1 and Intel 13-inch machines feature the same stereo speakers with a high dynamic range, wide stereo sound, and support for Dolby Atmos playback. However, the Intel model has a three-mic array with directional beamforming. Apple describes the mic array in the M1 model as “studio-quality” with a high signal-to-noise ratio, which could tip the balance for you if you make a lot of video calls.
When it comes to software compatibility, Apple has been clear that macOS virtualization software will be the only way to run Windows and PC software on a machine powered by Apple Silicon. Apps designed for the iPhone and the iPad will run on Apple Silicon natively. This means that you’ll be able to use a lot of your favorite iOS apps on the M1 MacBook Pro. This will depend on the extent to which third-party developers work to furnish Mac input controls like keyboard and mouse in their iOS apps, but the going assumption is that most future Catalyst apps will accommodate both touch and Mac input.
None of the above goes for the Intel MacBook Pro, which only runs x86-64 code for Intel’s architecture. The same can’t be said for the M1 MacBook Pro, which can run both iOS and x86-64 software, thanks to Apple’s Rosetta 2 translation layer. In some cases, apps built with x86-64 actually run faster in Rosetta 2 than they do on Intel Macs. Still, it’s worth noting that Apple considers Rosetta 2 to be a temporary solution for developers while they remake their existing Intel-based programs to run on Arm-based Macs, meaning they will eventually need to create native apps for Apple Silicon machines.
The M1 MacBook Pro’s speedy performance and long battery life alone make it the best choice for most people. In a sense, Apple is making your decision for you. The MacBook Pro 13 with Apple M1 is the new entry-level model. True professionals, especially more stationary ones, are likely the exception. If you need the most storage, ports, and memory you can get in an Apple laptop, your best bet is an Intel MacBook Pro. Similarly, if having the certainty that Intel’s platform offers when it comes to app compatibility is important, the M1 MacBook Pro also isn’t for you. At RefurbMe we have a selection of both M1 powered and intel MacBook pro for various refurbishers listed on the website.
It’s also worth noting that Apple is expected to release two new MacBook Pros in 14-inch and 16-inch sizes sometime this year that run on a new version of its chip, according to Bloomberg. If your current laptop is still working well, it might be worth waiting until the next version comes out.