Apple Silicon Mac vs Intel Mac: Which Mac should you buy?
Apple recently refreshed its iPad Pro lineup with the M1 chip-equipped iPad Pro 2021 but it wasn’t the only device it announced with Apple Silicon. The 24-inch iMac also received a major overhaul both in terms of design as well as the internals. The M1 chip debuted on the MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and Mac Mini in the latter part of 2020 and since then has caused a lot of excitement among tech enthusiasts because of how powerful it is.
This may make you wonder — should you get the new 24-inch iMac with the M1 chip or pick up the older, but tried and tested 27-inch iMac? While the answer isn’t straightforward, we’ll try to explain why you should buy an Apple Silicon Mac versus an Intel Mac in 2021.
There are a few factors that will make your buying decision lean towards an Apple Silicon Mac versus an Intel Mac. We’ll highlight all the major factors that contribute to this and also tell you why we think it’s smarter to opt for something like the 24-inch iMac with the M1 chip over the 27-inch iMac, even though the latter might seem more compelling due to its bigger size or if you just go by the numbers on the spec sheet.
Advantages of an Apple Silicon Mac vs an Intel Mac
Apple M1 chip is Newer and Faster
Apple Silicon, in a lot of ways, was a huge leap forward in terms of computing technology. All the claims of performance gains (ha, poetic much!) made by Apple aside, the M1 chip actually stood up to its expectations in real-world tests. The MacBook Pro M1, for example, even beat the top-of-the-line 16-inch MacBook Pro with a Core i9 Intel CPU to become one of the best laptops in the market indicating how capable the M1 chip actually is. Compared to the Intel chip found on the 27-inch iMac, the M1 is both newer and faster in terms of CPU processing, so if you’re planning to get a Mac for productivity tasks, the 24-inch iMac with M1 is a better option.
Better Thermal Management
Apart from great performance, a major advantage that Apple Silicon Macs have over Intel Macs is thermal management. Apple has managed to keep the power requirement of the M1 quite low, due to which the heat generated is also much less compared to an Intel Mac. The best example of this is the fact that Apple got rid of the fan from the new MacBook Air with M1 since it doesn’t require any active cooling. Intel Macs, on the other hand, run quite hot which can throttle the performance or require high-speed fans that can get noisy.
Updated and Slim Design
A direct by-product of better thermal management is a slimmer chassis which is exactly the case with the new 24-inch M1 iMac. The older 27-inch Intel iMac has a bulkier design since a lot more surface area is required to dissipate the heat generated from the CPU. Since the 24-inch iMac uses Apple Silicon, they could shave off a large chunk of extra space in the chassis, thus making the new iMac as slim as 11.6mm. Compared to the older 27-inch iMac, the new 24-inch iMac looks a lot more modern.
Apple’s Hardware and Software Integration
If you’ve ever used an iPhone or iPad, you’ll know how fluid the entire experience is. Right from the UI to the apps, Apple offers a refined experience largely due to the fact that both the hardware and software on those devices are managed by Apple and are therefore very well integrated with one another. With Apple Silicon for Macs, they’re bringing the same experience to their computers as well. What this means is that macOS will natively feel a lot snappier on the 24-inch iMac with M1 when compared to an Intel-based iMac. Apple’s first-party apps like Notes, Safari, iMovie, Final Cut Pro, etc, will function smoother on Apple Silicon since they are better optimized for the hardware.
Support for iPhone and iPad Apps
Another notable advantage of picking up an Apple Silicon Mac is the fact that you can run your favorite iOS and iPad OS apps on your Mac natively. So if there’s an app you use regularly on your iPhone or you want to play your favorite games on the bigger screen of your Mac instead of your iPhone, you can do it on the new 24-inch iMac since it has the M1 chip along with macOS Big Sur.
Extended Software Support
Apple is gradually transitioning away from Intel Macs to Apple Silicon completely which means sooner or later, older Intel Macs will be phased out to make way for newer Apple Silicon-based Macs. As a result, software support for older Intel Macs will be affected since Apple will focus on improving and releasing newer updates for its own Apple Silicon-based Macs. While this is not an issue right now, it’s something you should consider in the long run if you plan on using your iMac for 5-6 years.
Conclusion: Buy the Mac with Apple Silicon
Apple has surely nailed the performance aspect of its custom Silicon along with battery life on the MacBook Air and Pro. Given that this is just the first generation of Apple Silicon we’re looking at, the subsequent iterations will only keep getting better. There are a few downsides too if you’re getting the new 24-inch iMac, like fewer ports but if you have a Thunderbolt 3 laptop, you can use the same dongles even with your iMac. With WWDC 2021 right around the corner, let’s hope Apple introduces newer Macs with updated Apple Silicon.