Apple M1 Macs are Leagues Ahead of Windows on ARM Devices: Here’s Why
When Apple launched its M1 chips for Macbooks, it marked a momentous shift in the consumer desktop computing space. The move helped push ARM-based desktop machines into the spotlight, and Apple did what Microsoft failed to do even after years of trying.
The question is, how did Apple manage to make a desktop OS work better on ARM chips than Microsoft? Let’s take a look at the reasons why macOS running on M1 chips is miles ahead of Windows 10 on ARM.
Apple Doesn’t Need to Support a Lot of Hardware Configurations
With the increase in the number of hardware variations, it becomes difficult to ensure software compatibility between these variants. This phenomenon is called “fragmentation.” And although OS manufacturers like to downplay this issue, it remains one of the biggest problems that every OS manufacturer has to deal with.
For instance, Android is on more than 70% of all smartphones on the planet. Android smartphones range from cheap phones to ultra-expensive foldable devices. Android manufacturers can customize the OS any way they want. From altering the UI to tweaking underlying technologies, Android manufacturers make significant changes to the core OS to stand out from the competition.
This diversity of hardware and software makes it impossible for Google to guarantee reliability, app compatibility, acceptable performance, and timely updates.
Apple doesn’t suffer from the problem of fragmentation because it doesn’t have too many hardware designs to consider. This advantage translates to macOS pretty well. Apple knows what model it is going to make and how many different hardware designs that it needs to support. So, Apple can design and tailor the experience just the way it likes.
Microsoft can’t do that.
First, there are a lot of PC manufacturers and they are constantly releasing new ARM-based PCs. Making sure all of these models can run Windows 10 well is quite hard for Microsoft.
Add to this the problem of updates and we can see why Windows 10 on ARM is struggling to catch up to macOS running on M1 chips.
M1 Chips Have Dedicated Emulation Hardware
The biggest issue that has always plagued Windows on ARM is performance. Even Microsoft’s latest in-house attempt to bring Windows to ARM-based devices, the Surface Pro X, doesn’t have good performance.
The Microsoft SQ2 chip that powers the Surface Pro X is a powerful ARM chip. But it doesn’t handle emulation well. Lag, stutters, program crashes, programs failing to start, and general instability are all products of faulty emulation that Microsoft does through SQ2.
This isn’t a problem with SQ2 exclusively. All ARM chips that manufacturers use to make Windows laptops just aren’t optimized to emulate x86 apps. And this is exactly where Apple has a massive advantage with its M1 chips. Apple M1 chips also have built-in hardware to translate x86 code.
In other words, Apple’s M1 chips don’t need to strongarm x86 apps. They have hardware that can translate x86 code into something that ARM chips can easily emulate. This results in better app compatibility, better overall software stability, and way better performance.
The Famous YouTube channel LinusTechTips has a video comparing the performance of Apple’s M1 chips with Microsoft’s SQ2 and the difference in performance is huge. Where M1 chips dominated in every benchmark, they also doubled or, in some cases, more than doubled their performance lead over the Microsoft SQ2.
In short, one reason why Windows on ARM isn’t as good as macOS on ARM is because of the underlying hardware or the lack thereof.
Apple Has Full Control Over the Hardware and the Software
Apple maintains a closed ecosystem, unlike Microsoft.
In other words, Apple makes the software and the hardware. Apple gets to say the final words about what can be installed on your machine or not. This allows Apple to tightly control the software experience including the transition to ARM-based devices.
Put simply, if Apple wants people to move on to M1 devices, it can just simply stop supporting older machines because they have a closed ecosystem. So, Apple can focus most of its efforts on ARM-powered devices the results of which we are seeing now.
Microsoft doesn’t have the luxury of a closed ecosystem. You can freely pick components from the market and make your PC. You can also install anything you want on your PC no matter the source. This also means that Microsoft can’t focus all of its resources on developing Windows for ARM-based machines as the company has a lot of legacy models to support.
In essence, it is a lot more difficult for Microsoft to get Windows on ARM right than it is for Apple.
Apple Has a Lot of Developer Support
Perhaps the biggest reason apps perform better on the M1 devices is because of developer support. Developers have shown quite a lot of interest in ARM-powered Macbooks. For instance, Adobe apps like Photoshop, Premiere Pro, and Adobe XD among others run natively on M1 devices.
Surprisingly enough, the only Adobe app that runs natively on ARM-based Windows devices is Adobe Photoshop. All the other apps run under emulation which hugely impacts the performance.
In other words, the developer support for M1 Macbooks is a lot better than the developer support for Windows on ARM. This translates to an overall worse user experience on Microsoft’s product.
M1 Macs Give a Glimpse at The Future of Desktop Computing and Windows Needs to Catch Up
No matter how you look at this, Apple has hit a home run with their M1 Macbooks. They work well, have amazing battery life, and the developer support is encouraging.
Unfortunately, we can’t say the same about Windows on ARM.
Windows doesn’t run well on ARM-based computers and the battery life is worse than M1 devices. Add poor developer support to the mix and you can see why Windows is playing catch-up with Apple’s offerings.
Let’s hope Microsoft gets its act together and makes Windows on ARM competitive with macOS running on M1 chips.
If you’ve installed Windows on your Mac in the past, there are some changes coming with Windows 11 and M1 Macs you should be aware of.
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