Intel Alder Lake mobile CPU outpaces Apple’s M1 Max and M1 Pro in early benchmarks

Alder Lake's speed results in hunger.

Screengrab via Intel

After 15 years of partnership, Apple made the call to break up with Intel and its processors. But that move may not have been to the benefit of Apple’s performance superiority if early Alder Lake mobile CPU benchmarks are any indication.

Thanks to benchmarks from PCWorld and its sister site MacWorld, we now have an early comparison of the M1 and Alder Lake. PCWorld’s testing pit the new 12th-gen Intel 14-core Core i9-12900HK against an older 11th-gen Intel eight-core Core i9-11980HK and an eight-core AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX. Compared to the other two processors, the 12th-gen Alder Lake ran ahead of both competitors almost every step of the way across multiple benchmarks. Using this data, MacWorld then pit the 12th-gen Alder Lake against the M1 Max and M1 Pro.

MacWorld’s testing used a 10-core M1 Pro with eight performance and two efficiency cores and a 16-core GPU, a 10-core M1 Max with eight performance and two efficiency cores and a 32-core GPU, and the 12th-gen Intel 14-core Core i9-12900HK with six performance cores and eight efficiency cores.

Looking at results in Geekbench, a CPU benchmarking tool, MacWorld notes Alder Lake as holding a five-percent advantage over Apple’s silicon in multicore tests and a 3.5-percent advantage in single-core testing, amounting to a negligible real-world difference.

MacWorld’s Geekbench 5’s OpenCL graphics benchmark results are where things get more interesting and somewhat unfair. The M1 Max and M1 Pro GPUs slap Intel’s integrated Iris Xe graphics to the moon with a 183-percent advantage. But the kicker here is the laptop tested at PCWorld is an MSI GE76 Raider packed with an Nvidia GeForce 3080 Ti laptop GPU that absolutely crushes both M1 Max and M1 Pro options. Considering the mismatched graphics setup, this has no real bearing on Alder Lake’s status.

Lastly, MacWorld ran these competitors through Cinebench R23, a standard in testing rendering performance. Unfortunately, MacWorld’s data set is incomplete without the M1 Max results, but the picture is clear based on the M1 Pro’s performance. Alder Lake wins out in both single-core and multi-core tests with a 29-percent advantage, the heftiest of all the tests.

As far as power consumption goes, MacWorld and Anandtech clock Alder Lake as consuming a monstrous 100 to 140 watts at peak. Compare this to the meager 39.7 watts needed by the M1 Max and the power consumption division is stark. As MacWorld points out, the Alder Lake is packed into a gaming laptop, which serves a fundamentally different purpose than the more productivity-oriented Apple devices. Still, PCWorld and MacWorld put the battery life of the Alder Lake laptop at six and the Apple laptops at 17 hours.

Finally being able to compare Apple’s proprietary silicon to Intel’s latest and greatest paints an interesting picture. Considering the split between the two companies is relatively new and that the performance gap is slight but very clearly there, it may drive competition between the two companies. It certainly will for Intel’s CEO Pat Gelsinger, who’s hoping to outmaneuver Apple back into business following the split.

“Apple decided they could do a better chip themselves than we could,” Gelsinger said in an interview with Ina Fried. “And, you know, they did a pretty good job. So what I have to do is create a better chip than they can do themselves. I would hope to win back this piece of their business, as well as many other pieces of business, over time.”

Alder Lake’s narrow success in early benchmarks could be the start of Gelsinger meeting his goal of creating a better chip and winning back Apple.

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