MacBook Pro M1 vs MacBook Pro Intel: What’s the Difference?

Before M1 MacBooks got immensely popular, there was a time when Intel chip-based MacBooks dominated the market. Even after the release of M1-powered MacBooks, Apple didn’t get rid of the Intel versions.

Despite their differences, both MacBooks are extremely powerful. The 2020 M1 MacBooks came with just 2 thunderbolt ports and 16 GB RAM.

On the contrary, Intel MacBook has 32 gigs of RAM, 4 thunderbolt ports, and double the SSD capacity.

However, with the 2021 M1 MacBooks Pro release, Apple solved some of the issues.

In this article, I’ll compare head-to-head MacBook Pro M1 vs. MacBook Pro Intel to make the right buying choice.

Quick Overview of MacBook Pro M1 And MacBook Pro Intel

With the release of two new 2021 M1 MacBook Pros, I think the M1 MacBooks have a huge advantage over the Intel ones. These 2021 MacBooks have a more powerful and efficient CPU and double-sized battery.

The 2021 14-inch MacBooks indeed cost a couple of hundred bucks more, but I bet you don’t want to miss the goodies the M1 versions come with.

Before making any comparison, let’s take a quick look at the details of MacBook Pros.

MacBook Pro M1

Right off the bat, we’re going to take a look at MacBook Pro M1 versions.

13-inch MacBook Pro M1 (2020)

2020 apple macbook pro 13 inch with apple m1 chip
13-inch MacBook Pro M1

I’m going to start with 13-inch MacBook Pro M1. It’s the first Pro version laptop that came with an M1 chip.

Featuring an 8 core CPU, this MacBook will make your user experience smooth.

Because of its 8GB of RAM, it’s capable of multitasking quite well. Fortunately, you can increase its RAM capacity up to 16GB.

If you want to accomplish any graphic-heavy task, the 8-core GPU might help you.

Due to the lack of Thunderbolt ports, this laptop was not as pro as it could have been. It has only 2 thunderbolt ports.

You have two storage options available when purchasing this MacBook.

It’s worth mentioning that they did a great job with the magic keyboards. It feels very satisfying when typing. To keep the inside cool, it comes with a fan.

14-inch MacBook Pro M1 (2021)

2021 apple macbook pro 14 inch with apple m1 pro chip
14-inch MacBook Pro M1

14-inch MacBook Pro is the precise update from 2020 M1 Macbook and the direct competitor of Macbook Pro Intel.

Combined with the M1 chip and other hardware improvements, this MacBook is the real pro version consumers were looking for.

It features an 8-core CPU and 16-core neural engine that is fast enough to handle any workload you throw at it.

As far as the GPU goes, it has a 14-core unit that ensures you can play games or complete any video processing task efficiently.

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Thanks to the 16GB ram, switching between apps and multitasking has never been easier.

You can store tons of files in this MacBook because of its 512 GB SSD. Moreover, you’ll be able to transfer those data at a blazing fast speed.

Impressively, the battery of this MacBook can keep it juiced up for a maximum of 17 hours.

Featuring a 1080p HD camera, six-speaker sound system, and high-quality mic, ensure you get a top-notch video calling experience.

MacBook Pro Intel

apple macbook pro with intel processor
Apple MacBook Pro with Intel Processor

In the first quarter of 2020, Apple introduced the 13-inch Intel MacBook Pro (2020) to us. It solved a few problems Apple faced with their previous models.

However, the irony is, it got outdated in the same year of 2020. Because in the last quarter, Apple released Macbook Pro M1.

MacBook Pro Intel comes with a quad-core i5 CPU with 8 threads and 6MB cache, allowing it to gain up to 3.8 GHz clock speed.

For helping the MacBook to handle any graphical load, it’s equipped with Intel Iris GPU.

The good thing is that it comes with 16GB of RAM and 2 TB of SSD from the get-go, so you don’t have to configure it later.

If I talk about the most impressive feature of this model, then it’d be the inclusion of 4 thunderbolt ports and the Magic keyboard.

On top of that, the screen size of this MacBook is 13.3-inch and consists of a 2,560 x 1,600 Retina display that can achieve a maximum brightness of 500 nits.

Comparison Table of MacBook Pro M1 and Intel

Before getting into an in-depth explanation, let’s take a look at the key differences at a glance.

ParametersMacBook Pro Intel13-inch MacBook Pro M114-inch MacBook Pro M1 (2021)
PriceDiscontinued~$1299~$1,999
Resolution2,560 x 1,6002560 x 16003024 x 1964
CPU CoreIntel Core i5, i788/10
GPUIntel Iris8 Core16/32 Core
Storage2TB  256GB to 4TB512GB to 8TB
Memory16GB8GB, 16GB, 32GB16GB, 32GB
Port4 Thunderbolt2 Thunderbolt3 Thunderbolt, SD Card, HDMI, MagSafe
Weight3.1 pounds3.0 pounds3.5 pounds

MacBook Pro M1 vs MacBook Pro Intel: In-depts Analysis

A quick glance is never sufficient to know the details. Fret not! In this segment, I’ll elaborate on every important detail:

CPU

First of all, you should know which CPU you prefer: the M1 or the Intel one. Because depending on the CPU, the performance will vary a lot.

If you want sheer performance, look no other way and get the M1, no matter the version. The chip of the M1 version is far more efficient and powerful. Both M1 versions feature an 8-core CPU, allowing it to tackle any heavy workload smoothly.

On top of that, the 16-core neural engine dramatically boosts its machine learning performance.

As for the Intel version, it has a quad-core CPU that can run at a boost clock of up to 3.9 GHz.

GPU

The M1 MacBooks also excels in the GPU area. Having an 8-core GPU, M1 MacBook Pro (2020) really does handle graphical tasks impressively.

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On the contrary, M1 MacBook Pro (2021) can come with up to 32-core GPU, allowing it to smoothly handle any graphics-intensive task such as photo editing, video production, or gaming.

As for the Intel version, it features its own Intel Iris GPU that performs well but doesn’t hold a candle in front of the M1 variants.

RAM

On paper, MacBook Pro Intel comes with 16 GB or 32 GB of RAM. You might be thinking, the M1’s 16GB of RAM can really hold a candle here?

You see, the M1 MacBook utilizes Unified Memory Architecture that significantly decreases the bottlenecks of CPU and GPU while further boosting the performance.

That’s the reason the 16 GB ram of M1 performs better than the Intel version.

Display

The display is an important fact to consider when buying a MacBook. In this area, M1 Pro (2020) and Intel MacBook closely resemble. They have a 2,560 x 1,600 resolution display, making the viewing experience sharp and vivid.

However, 14-inch MacBook Pro M1 (2021) comes with a 3024 x 1964 resolution display that expands the viewing area a bit.

Webcam

Nowadays, webcams have become far more important than ever. M1 Pro (2020) and Intel Pro are equipped with a 720p FaceTime HD camera.

Conversely, the M1 Pro (2021) has a superior quality 1080p FaceTime HD camera that redefines the quality of webcams.

Benchmark Scores

Let’s take a look at the benchmarks:

ParametersMacBook Pro Intel13-inch MacBook Pro M114-inch MacBook Pro M1
Geekbench 5.44,3995,92512,477
Video transcoding12:437:444:51
PugetBench Photoshop569649806

As you can see, MacBook Pro M1 (2021) crushes all its competition here. If you look at the GeekBench 5 score, you’ll know right away that M1 Pro (2021) has double the performance of the other versions.

The CPU of M1 Pro (2021) is that much powerful. For example, the video transcoding, 14-inch MacBook Pro M1 takes the crown even in this criteria with its super-fast encoding result.

Overall, MacBook M1 Pro (2021) turns out to be the winner of whatever segment you check out.

Software Compatibility

In M1, all the apps are run on a Rosetta 2 simulator instead of the typical x86 architecture. Meaning it can run all the iPad and iPhone software without any issues. But other software doesn’t run as well.

Conversely, Intel MacBook runs on x86 architecture, so any MacBook or other software such as Adobe, Microsoft, Software Development tools, Docker, and many more runs extremely fast on this machine.

Microphone and Speakers

All MacBooks come with stereo speakers that support Dolby Atmos playback and have a high dynamic range.

But the Intel MacBooks come with directional three-mic, and the Apple features a studio-quality mic with noise cancellation.

Keyboard and Trackpad

Keyboards of all Macbook Pros are quite remarkable. Apple calls them Magic Keyboard, which is Backlit. Depending on the region, you’ll get 78 or 79 keys with 12 functions and 4 arrow keys.

It includes Touch ID, which makes accessing the MacBook lot easier.

The TrackPad feels precise and has the pressure-sensing ability, enabling you to effortlessly force-click, scroll, or draw sensitive things.

Operating Requirements

When using M1 MacBook Pros, you’ll see an operating temperature of 50 to 95-degree Fahrenheit. M1 MacBooks uses fast and efficient SSD.

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Thus the temperature will stay between -13 to 113-degree Fahrenheit. Even if you’re above 10,000 ft altitude, you’ll have no problem using it.

The frequency will always remain within 50 – 60hz.

Storage

If storage is your only concern, the Intel MacBook might be the better deal here. With this model, you get 1TB of space as soon as you open it. Moreover, you can extend it up to 4TB.

Meanwhile, the M1 versions don’t offer that many storage options right away, but you can add additional storage if you want.

Battery

The battery life of a MacBook is another key factor to consider. Thanks to the efficiency of the M1 silicon chip, it boosts performance and increases battery efficiency dramatically.

Depending on which Pro model you use, you can get a humongous 20 hours of battery life with a single charge. If it isn’t ground-breaking, I don’t know what is!

M1 Macbook Pro 2020 has a built-in 58.2 wh lithium-polymer battery, and to charge it, you’ll get a 61w power adapter.

On the other hand, M1 MacBook Pro 2021 comes with a 70wh lithium-polymer battery and a 67w charger.

Intel MacBooks are typically power-hungry; you won’t get as long battery support. You can get up to 10 hours of battery life with intel ones with a single charge.

You can charge the intel one with the 61W USB-C charger.

Ports

For pro models, ports are actually a requirement. M1 MacBook (2020) falls behind in this segment because it comes with only two thunderbolt ports.

However, M1 Pro(2021) model makes up for that. It comes with three thunderbolt-4 ports that can transfer data extremely fast.

Both M1 variants have an HDMI port, 3.5mm Headphone Jack, MagSafe 3 port, charging port, display port, and USB 4 port.

Although the winner of this round is MacBook Pro Intel because it features four thunderbolt ports along with DisplayPort, charging port, and USB 3.1 Gen 2 port. But the caveat is the thunderbolts are from the previous generation.

Pricing

Let’s assume that you’re a professional and you need a MacBook that can do-it-all. It’s safe to say the MacBook Pro M1 (2021) should be your top choice. You get everything that a MacBook can offer. Whether you’re thinking about performance, battery life, working efficiency, and other cool stuff, you get all from it.

MacBook Pro M1 (2020) can be a great pick if you’re extremely tight on budget.

As for the Intel one, it shouldn’t be a wise choice to get now. However, if you get a tempting deal on Black Friday or Cyber Monday, don’t miss out on the chance.

MacBook Pro M1 vs MacBook Pro Intel: Which One Drops the Better Deal?

All that being said, if you’re a professional and don’t want any compromised performance, then you shouldn’t look any other way and go for the MacBook Pro M1 (2021).

Frequently Asked Questions

Do the M1 MacBooks have the latest thunderbolt ports?

Yes, the M1 MacBook comes with thunderbolt 4 ports that can transfer data at a speed of up to 40Gbps.

How’s the software compatibility of M1 chips?

The M1 chip utilizes an emulator named Rosetta 2 to run all the x64/86 apps. But make no mistake, the M1 chip can run those apps excellently well.

Which MacBook to get if my budget is under $1500?

Our suggestion would be, head to the Apple store and get yourself a MacBook Pro 13″ (2020).

Can I add an additional SSD to my MacBooks?

Unfortunately, this is not possible. Storage is soldered to the logic board of MacBook Pro models introduced in 2016 and later, so you can’t upgrade internal storage after purchase.

Conclusion

I hope that the MacBook Pro M1 vs MacBook Pro Intel comparison made your buying decision much easier.

The superior performance and jaw-dropping battery life alone should make the M1 MacBook Pros clear winners. The crystal-clear audio and video quality is bound to impress your co-workers. In the home-office and remote works era, M1 laptops also come in clutch.

On the other hand, Intel MacBooks can be a practical choice if you need most ports, storage, and memory. But it’s always wise to go for the new MacBook Pro with Apple M1 chip.

Chris Martin is a professional tech writer. He's been covering tech tutorials, hardware reviews, and more as a professional writer for over seven years now and it doesn't look like he'll be stopping anytime soon! In addition to writing about the latest gadgets on the market, he also covers topics such as how to set up your home network or troubleshoot any computer problems you may have.

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