Intel Core i9 vs. Apple M1 Max
Intel’s 12th Generation “Alder Lake-H” mobile CPUs offer loads of speed, but Apple’s M1 Max answers with even better power efficiency. We tested—which should you choose for your next laptop?
It’s a new day in the ongoing battle between Mac and PC. The competing computer ecosystems have been at odds with each other for decades, but with the introduction of laptop versions of Intel’s 12th Generation processors (dubbed “Alder Lake-H”), and Apple’s line of M1 processors over the last two years, the fight is fiercer than ever before.
A couple of years ago, Apple dealt a major blow to Intel, announcing that it was going to drop Intel processors from the entire Mac lineup by the end of 2022. Apple is well on its way to meeting that goal, having launched several new members of the Mac family that use Apple Silicon, starting with the M1 processor for the MacBook Air and the Mac mini, and extending to the higher-powered M1 Pro and M1 Max found in the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros and the iMac desktop.
Fast forward to last month, when Intel released its 12th Generation processors for laptops, starting with the high-powered Core i9-12900HK. You can see our full rundown of the Intel processor’s capabilities in our writeup of our first batch of tests on the new CPU, but a larger question looms: Is the M1 Max better than the latest Core i9? Where do things stand now, when sizing up Intel versus Mac processors?
Hybrid Architecture: The Hot New Trend
Both the M1 line and Intel’s 12th Generation processors offer something different than we’ve seen in laptops past, leveraging heterogeneous cores—a mix of two different core types, one for high-powered performance and the other for low-powered efficiency.
Apple’s M1 processor was the first to bring this mixed-core approach to mainstream laptops, but it builds on technologies used in phones and tablets for several years. Intel’s adoption of the new high- and low-tier approach to chip structure cements this as a new era of processor technology rather than a passing fad.
And it makes perfect sense. The approach has worked well in phones and tablets because it offers a mix of processing muscle for demanding applications and energy-sipping efficiency that can be applied to less demanding tasks. The result is a device that offers long battery life without sacrificing performance when it’s needed.
With laptops handily outselling desktops these days, computing needs are no longer about pure power—they’re about battery life and mobility, too. The hybrid approach promises to squeeze more usability out of existing battery technology, while still delivering support for gaming, content creation, and other processor-intensive tasks that you expect your system to handle.
Alder Lake vs. M1 Max: Specs Compared
But as both Apple and Intel embrace more complex chip architecture, it does get a little more difficult to compare processors between the two brands.
The two companies use different terminology and slightly different technologies, but they still have several points of comparison. Both support newer memory formats, like DDR4 and DDR5, and the two processors offer plenty of power for high-performance tasks.