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Apple in the fight for its life against Qualcomm and Windows

by on11 April 2024

Even the Tame Apple Press admits Qualcomm’s chipset is better

The Tame Apple Press is starting to admit that Apple is in grave trouble with the arrival of Qualcomm’s latest chipset for Microsoft and its partners.

Since the arrival of the much overhyped M1 chip, the Tame Apple Press was able to spin a yarn claiming that MacBook Pro and MacBook Air were better than anything else on the market. If that were ever true, the arrival of Qualcomm’s new chipset is not something that hacks and hackettes loyal to the silicon Valley cargo cult can hide.

This week, Qualcomm demonstrated the X Elite chipset to several reporters, giving them open access to reference design hardware to experience the platform and test several games and apps. While not in real-world settings, the broad state of the X Elite can be understood.

According to Forbes it means that Jobs’ Mob is about to get a good kicking. Not only will it be cheaper, but it will come with performance gains and extended battery life. All this will make a MacBook just an expensive slower machine that can’t run Windows 11 or any serious software.

Benchmarking-wise, Qualcomm offered several that allowed for a direct comparison with Apple’s current hardware, although some match-ups were noticeable by their absence.

Rushing to Apple’s defence Tom’s Hardware pointed out that in terms of Apple comparisons, Qualcomm was a bit thin, only covering multi-threaded CPU performance in Geekbench 6. Qualcomm claims the X Elite beats the M3, 15,610 to 12,154. Single-threaded performance and graphics weren't mentioned, and Qualcomm didn't mention the M3 Pro or M3 Max, either.

However one of the most demanding areas of Windows computing is gaming, where every frame counts, every polygon is needed, and every bit of performance can make a critical difference to the outcome. No matter what a benchmark number says, it's not right if it doesn’t feel right when playing. Qualcomm showed off Baldur’s Gate 3 running on its reference hardware laptop. While it was not a specific gaming laptop, it delivered what appears to be a solid experience.

The demo showed Qualcomm's typical Snapdragon X Elite reference laptop with 32GB of DDR5 running the critically acclaimed role-playing game Baldur's Gate 3. According to the X user who filmed and shared the demo, the game was running at 1080p with a framerate "hovering around 30 FPS." For reference, 30 frames per second is generally considered the minimum playable game framerate.

What is more Baldur’s Gate 3 was running under emulation rather than as a native ARM-based application. Given the weakness of emulation under the Windows On Arm project, this is one of the areas where the X Elite has to deliver.

The next area where the Tame Apple Press claims that their favourite company is ahead is processing and export tasks in Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, where Snapdragon X Elite was slower on denoise tests. However, that comparison might not be fair as Adobe does not run this function on the NPU but on the GPU. While emulation improvements are an expected feature of Windows 11 version 24H2, it's worth noting now that GPU performance has always been pretty bad in emulation, with OpenGL compatibility issues and more.

Meanwhile Laptop Mag’s Mark Anthony Ramirez testing the native capability of a Windows laptop running on ARM hardware. While emulating Intel-based apps on ARM-based hardware is crucial in the short term, native ARM-based apps will offer more power and potential in the future.

To illustrate and experience this, Ramirez tested Blackmagic’s Davinci Resolve video editor for his test of the X Elite laptops. It’s fair to say that video editing is seen as one of the fortes of the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air, which makes Ramirez’s report even more interesting.

"Where do I begin? Does it work? Is it smooth? How quickly does it render? Yes, yes, and fast! But to dig in a little more, Resolve runs beautifully smooth on the X Elite demo system, smoother than on most MacBook Airs, and lower-spec MacBook Pro M3s I have used. Yup, I said it, I mean it, and I will throw hands in defense of this statement."

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