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

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

Mac computers were the domain of creative professionals – video editors, filmmakers, graphic artists and musicians. Through a combination of hardware and software successes, Apple expanded the Mac niche to audiences in other product categories. Intel faltered in 2010, leading to Apple betting on its own microprocessor design.

From a business perspective, it wasn’t a loss for Intel, as the Mac accounted for less than 5 percent of its notebook processor industry’s revenue. But it was an influential market that also underscored the winds of change in the computer industry. As of 2021, under CEO Patrick Gelsinger, Intel has its second coming. Its latest generation of Alder Lake processors (12th generation) has given birth to a new generation of laptops that, while aimed at gamers, are excellent devices for creative users, who Apple seems to have its fingers firmly on.

More efficient for creative professionals

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

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Although portability is affected by the size itself, you get a 15-inch screen with a 360 Hz refresh rate and the best Intel Core i9 processor based on the Alder Lake architecture. It also features 16GB Nvidia GeForce 3060Ti graphics and much more. If time is money, many video editors will swear by the Alienware x15 R2 over Apple’s latest – it has a higher performance threshold when plugged in. This means that tools like Adobe Premiere Pro will edit videos as fast as a MacBook Pro with an M1 Max chip. Importantly, it is relatively cheaper and more readily available.

Getting an Apple Mac with an M1 Max chip is very hard, even if you can afford it. The Alienware, with its discrete Nvidia graphics, is also a mean gaming machine, perfect for triple-A titles. With an Xbox Game Pass subscription, you’ll be able to play games like F1 22, Cricket 22, Forza Motorsport and FIFA 21 – something I’ve personally tested and compared with PlayStation 5. MacBook Pro can’t because macOS wasn’t friendly to game developers.

These days, in addition to graphic artists who make a living using tools like Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop, an extraordinary gamer-level graphics grunt also helps artists who design visuals for events. Video jockeys are rarely seen on the Mac, but the new generation of gaming laptops like the Alienware x15 R2 have now become commonplace. Architects also use “gaming laptops” for their graphical prowess.

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Creators who develop apps or content for the metaverse also get their hands on these Intel Alder Lake processor gaming laptops. Windows software is better for working in virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). In general, added graphics hardware helps make development faster and more reliable.

For musicians, the central processing unit (CPU) is perhaps the most important tool, and Intel’s improvements in the CPU line are evident as many manufacturers are now looking for gaming PCs with Alienware-like specs. While the Mac is a more advanced environment for DJs, producers and composers, the combination of Intel hardware and Windows software has evolved well enough that a gaming laptop can be a viable and cheaper alternative.

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Intel’s big comeback?

Intel’s earnings also fell to regular price points. The Mac saw a resurgence with the introduction of M-series processors and AMD silicon-based hardware. For example, the new Xiaomi Notebook Pro packs an i5 variant of Intel’s 12th Gen processor and is packaged in a super-slim MacBook Air-like design. For everyday use like browsing the web, working with documents and spreadsheets, watching videos, and light photo editing, it’s just as capable as the MacBook Air and rivals Apple’s best-selling laptop for masterful battery life. Wintel just received a new reinforcement.

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While Apple has made great strides at Intel’s expense, 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 poised 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 MacBook Pro models based on the M2 Pro and M2 Max next year. AMD is also in the mix as they announced their Ryzen 7000 line of CPUs, which also promise a lot.

Regardless, next year will be interesting as Apple, Intel, and AMD all have products that will interest not only creators but also the average user looking for a new laptop.

Views are personal.

(Edited by Humra Laeeq)


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