Intel 12th-gen Alder Lake vs Apple M1 processors: Which one’s better?

Intel 12th-gen Alder Lake vs Apple M1 processors: Which one’s better?

Intel’s new 12th-gen Alder Lake processors are now official. The company unveiled its complete Alder Lake CPU lineup at CES 2022, adding as many as 22 desktop processors to the mix. On the notebook side, the new Alder Lake chips are split into three different series based on the performance: U-series goes up to 15W, P-series up to 28W, and the H-series starts at 45W to power the next-generation of gaming and content creation notebooks.

The U-series and the P-series chips will go inside the modern thin & light and the mainstream notebooks, respectively. The H-series chips, on the other hand, are the ones that we think are powerful enough to compete against some of the best mobile CPUs out there including the high-end chips from the AMD Ryzen 6000 series and the Apple M1 lineup. In this article, we’re going to take a look at the Intel 12th-gen vs Apple M1 matchup to see which one’s better.


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Intel 12th-gen vs Apple M1 processors: SKUs and Specifications

Intel’s new 12th-gen H-series is a collection of eight CPUs with the Core i9-12900HK leading the pack with 14 cores and 20 threads. Here, take look:

Specification Intel Core i9-12900HK Intel Core i9-12900H Intel Core i7-12800H Intel Core i7-12700H Intel Core i7-12650H Intel Core i5-12600H Intel Core i5-12500H Intel Core i5-12450H
Cores 14 (6P + 8E) 14 (6P + 8E) 14 (6P + 8E) 14 (6P + 8E) 10 (6P + 4E) 12 (4P + 8E) 12 (4P + 8E) 8 (4P + 4E)
Threads 20 20 20 20 16 16 16 12
Base Frequency 2.5GHz (P-core) | 1.8GHz (E-core) 2.5GHz (P-core) | 1.8GHz (E-core) 2.4GHz (P-core) | 1.8GHz (E-core) 2.3GHz (P-core) | 1.7GHz (E-core) 2.3GHz (P-core) | 1.7GHz (E-core) 2.7GHz (P-core) | 2.0GHz (E-core) 2.5GHz (P-core) | 1.8GHz (E-core) 2.0GHz (P-core) | 1.5GHz (E-core)
Max Turbo Frequency 5.0GHz (P-core) | 3.8GHz (E-core) 5.0GHz (P-core) | 3.8GHz (E-core) 4.8GHz (P-core) | 3.7GHz (E-core) 4.7GHz (P-core) | 3.5GHz (E-core) 4.7GHz (P-core) | 3.5GHz (E-core) 4.5GHz (P-core) | 3.3GHz (E-core) 4.5GHz (P-core) | 3.3GHz (E-core) 4.4GHz (P-core) | 3.3GHz (E-core)
L3 Cache 24MB 24MB 24MB 24MB 24MB 18MB 18MB 12MB
Default TDP 45W 45W 45W 45W 45W 45W 45W 45W
Max Turbo Power 115W 115W 115W 115W 115W 95W 95W 95W
Processor Graphics 96EU 96EU 96EU 96EU 64EU 80EU 80EU 48EU

With Alder Lake H, Intel is bringing its Hybrid CPU architecture to the mobile space. This means all the H-series have both high-performance Golden Cove P-cores and high-efficiency Gracemont E-cores. In addition to that, all the H-series CPUs include Intel Xe-LP graphics with 96EUs, support for up to four Thunderbolt 4 ports, support for DDR5, LPDDR5, DDR4, and LPDDR4X memory, and other connectivity options.

Apple has a pretty solid lineup of processors in its name too. With the new M1 Pro and the M1 Max joining the original M1 chip in 2021, Apple has quite the lineup of chips for its MacBook computing devices. Let’s now take a look at the specifications of the M1 chips that Apple is currently using for its MacBook laptops:

Specification Apple M1 (2020) Apple M1 Pro (2021) Apple M1 Max (2021)
CPU Cores 8 cores Up to 10 cores Up to 10 cores
CPU Performance Cores 4 cores Up to 8 cores Up to 8 cores
CPU Efficiency c0res 4 cores 2 2
GPU cores 7 or 8 14 or 16 24 or 32
Neural Engine Cores 16 16 16
Manufacturing Process 5nm 5nm 5nm
Transistors 16 billion 33.7 billion 57 billion
Unified Memory
  • 8GB
  • 16GB
  • 16GB
  • 32GB
  • 32GB
  • 64GB
Memory Bandwidth 68.25GB/s 200GB/s 400GB/s

Apple’s 8-cores M1 chip is essentially a combination of four “Firestorm” high-performance cores and four “Icestorm” energy-efficient cores. This type of hybrid architecture allows the chip to switch between the low power consumption cores for low-priority tasks and the high-performance cores for more resource-intensive tasks.

Schematic image of the M1, M1 Pro and the M1 Max

The subsequent M1 Pro and the M1 Max chips also have a similar architecture, but they’re offered in different core configurations. The eight-core option includes two high-efficiency cores along with six performance cores. The ten-core option, on the other hand, keeps the same amount of efficiency cores but adds two more performance cores. This results in a more powerful CPU that trades power efficiency in favor of raw performance in day-to-day workloads. This is also why the M1 Max-powered MacBook Pro notebook tends to have slightly less battery life. Your mileage is bound to vary based on several other factors but the chip itself contributes a lot to battery drain.

One of the highlights of the new M1 Pro and the M1 Max chips is they both feature increased memory bandwidth and interfaces. The M1 Pro features 256-bit LPDDR5 memory at 6400MT/s speeds, while the M1 Max features a whopping 512-bit wide LPDDR5 memory subsystem. The M1 Pro has 204GB/s of bandwidth while the M1 Max has a massive 408GB/s of bandwidth.

Intel 12th-gen vs Apple M1 processors: Performance

12900HK vs Apple M1 Max chip

We’re yet to get our hands on the laptops powered by the new 12th-gen Intel H-series chips, so we’ll mostly be looking at some of the performance numbers provided by Intel. The company is claiming some big numbers when it comes to the overall performance of the 12th-gen H-series chips. According to Intel, the Core i9-12900HK is the fastest mobile processor ever. It’s said to be up to 28% faster in gaming at 1080p compared to the last generation and the competition.

Intel 12900HK vs Apple M1 chip

Intel also claims to have taken the lead in the content creation space against both the Apple M1 Pro and M1 Max. The new 12900HK is said to perform up to 44% better than the competition across content creation applications such as Adobe Creative Cloud, Blender, and more. We’ll definitely have more to talk about the general performance of the 12th-gen chips as soon as we get our hands on the new gaming laptops, so stay tuned.

Intel 12th-gen vs Apple M1 processors: Final Thoughts

We already got a taste of Alder Lake’s hybrid architecture when we reviewed the Core i9-12900K and the Core i5-12600K unlocked desktop parts. The company’s new 12th-gen chips are definitely better than anything we’ve seen from them in recent history. That being said, it’ll be interesting to see how the new chips stack up against Apple’s M1 lineup. Apple surely has an upper hand when it comes to hardware and software integration, which is why a lot of the ad-hoc improvements with Intel’s 12th-gen chips may not be enough to trounce Apple’s silicon, especially when it comes to power efficiency.

It also comes down to personal preference when it comes to buying one of these laptops. Apple’s transition to its own silicon has been rather smooth so far, and we don’t see them using Intel chips for any of the Mac devices in the future. It also goes without saying that Apple’s M1 chips aren’t going to be available to other OEMs for powering their own notebooks. A full-fledged comparison between the two is definitely in order but it largely comes down to whether or not you want to buy a Mac or a Windows-powered machine that’s using one of these new Intel chips.

About author

Karthik Iyer
Karthik Iyer

Karthik covers PC hardware for XDA Computing. When not at work, you will find him yelling at his monitors while playing video games.

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