Is i9 better than M1

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Written By Dominic Howard

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There has been much debate amongst tech enthusiasts over whether Intel’s i9 processors or Apple’s M1 processors offer better performance, especially for tasks like content creation, gaming, and engineering workflows. The i9 is Intel’s highest-end consumer desktop processor, while the M1 is Apple’s first in-house ARM-based chip designed specifically for Macs.

In this in-depth blog post, we’ll compare the specs, benchmarks, and real-world performance of i9 vs M1 to help you decide which one is right for your needs.

A Quick Overview of i9 and M1

First, let’s briefly go over what makes these two processors tick.

Intel’s 9th and 10th Gen Core i9 processors are built on the company’s long-running x86 architecture. They feature up to 10 cores and 20 threads and turbo boost speeds reaching 5GHz. The i9 sits at the top of Intel’s consumer lineup above mid-range i7 and entry-level i5 CPUs. i9 processors are commonly found in high-end gaming PCs and workstations.

The M1 processor is Apple’s first System-on-a-Chip (SoC) designed specifically for Macs. It combines up to 8 CPU cores, up to 8 GPU cores, the Neural Engine, an image signal processor, storage, RAM, and more onto one chip. The unified design allows for fast performance and industry-leading power efficiency. The M1 powers Apple’s latest 13-inch MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, Mac mini, and 24-inch iMac.

CPU and GPU Cores

When it comes to CPU cores, the Core i9 offers more raw multi-core power. The 10th Gen i9-10900K desktop chip has 10 cores and 20 threads, while the highest core count M1 used in the MacBook Pro 13-inch tops out at 8 cores. Both utilize hyperthreading to double the number of threads. The i9 can process more simultaneous tasks thanks to the extra cores.

However, the M1 features Apple’s newest ARM-based CPU core design. Each M1 core delivers significantly better per-core performance than prior Intel chips used in Macs. Benchmarks show a single M1 core outpaces a single Intel core by a healthy margin in both single and multi-threaded workloads. So while the i9 offers more cores, the M1’s individual cores are faster and more efficient.

For graphics, Intel relies on integrated graphics or an add-in discrete GPU like NVIDIA RTX. The M1 combines up to 8 graphics cores capable of running demanding games and creative apps. Apple’s unified graphics architecture allows the M1 to utilize all 8 cores for graphics tasks simultaneously. Overall, the M1 offers significantly better-integrated graphics versus Intel’s solutions.

Performance Benchmarks

Let’s take a look at some real-world benchmark results that highlight the performance differences between M1 and i9.

In Geekbench 5, a popular CPU benchmark, the M1 achieves a single-core score of around 1700 and a multi-core score of 7400. The Intel Core i9-10900K scores about 1400 for single-core and 10,000 for multi-core. So while the i9 wins in multi-threaded workloads, the M1 enjoys a 20% faster single-core speed.

The M1’s GPU also shines in graphics benchmarks. It scores over 20,000 in GFXBench 5 Aztec Ruins compared to around 2000 for Intel-integrated graphics. That’s over 10x faster graphics rendering versus Intel’s built-in GPUs. Apple’s unified memory architecture gives the M1 GPU access to up to 16GB of shared RAM for better graphics performance.

For real-world tests, the M1 is up to 3x faster than previous Intel chips for building code in Xcode, editing up to 3 streams of 4K footage in Final Cut Pro, and applying complex filters and effects in Adobe Photoshop. The M1 can even outperform the 16-inch MacBook Pro with i9 for music production in Logic Pro X. These gains are thanks to the M1’s custom technologies along with the unified SoC design.

Another benefit of the M1 is power efficiency. The fanless MacBook Air with M1 can deliver similar or better performance compared to the Intel-based MacBook Pro 16-inch with i9. The M1 is up to 3x more power efficient than Intel chips, allowing slimmer and cooler MacBook designs without sacrificing speed.

Performance Summary:

  • Intel i9 offers more CPU cores and threads (up to 10C/20T vs 8C/8T for M1)
  • M1 cores are individually faster and more efficient than Intel
  • M1 integrated GPU is significantly faster (over 10x) than Intel graphics
  • M1 is up to 3x faster in real-world creative workloads like video editing
  • M1 delivers equivalent or better performance compared to i9 while using a fraction of the power
  • Ideal Workloads for Each Processor

With the spec and performance comparison in mind, here are examples of workloads where the i9 or M1 shine brightest:

Intel i9 ideal workloads:

  • CPU-based rendering and encoding – Adobe Premiere Pro, Handbrake
  • Software development and compiling large projects
  • Multi-threaded tasks that can leverage 10+ cores
  • High-end PC gaming where discrete GPU is used
  • Running Windows applications under Boot Camp

Apple M1 ideal workloads:

  • Video editing and effects in Final Cut Pro, DaVinci Resolve
  • Music production with multiple instruments/tracks
  • Photo editing – applying filters and effects in Photoshop and Lightroom
  • Graphic design work like Illustrator, Affinity Designer
  • Xcode iOS and Mac app development
  • Casual gaming with demanding graphics
  • Running native ARM macOS apps

The M1 is better suited for creative workflows like editing multiple streams of high-res video, working with huge Photoshop files, and running pro audio production software. The unified M1 design and optimized macOS Big Sur provide amazing performance for these real-world creation tasks.

The i9’s extra cores can crunch through rendering and encoding jobs quicker, as well as build software projects faster. It’s also better for gaming PCs where you’ll be using a dedicated NVIDIA or AMD GPU. Running Windows via Boot Camp is another i9 advantage since M1 Macs currently do not support Boot Camp.

Upgradability and Platform Differences

There are also important differences when it comes to upgradability and sockets between these two platforms.

The M1 processor is a SoC, so the RAM and storage are fixed at the time of purchase. Higher-end MacBook Pro and Mac mini configs offer up to 16GB of unified memory and up to 2TB of SSD storage. But you cannot open up an M1 Mac to upgrade the RAM, CPU, or storage down the road.

With an Intel i9 system, you get more flexibility. Desktop PCs support standardized DIMM slots so you can add more RAM and upgrade to faster DDR memory types. Intel uses common sockets like LGA 1200 or LGA 2066, making it easy to swap in a newer/faster i9 later. Most gaming PCs with i9 also offer multiple M.2 slots and drive bays for expandable high-speed storage.

If upgradability is important, an Intel desktop with i9 is the way to go. Just keep in mind the M1’s impressive longevity – it’s so fast that it should remain capable for your needs for many years before an upgrade is required.

The M1 Macs run the latest macOS Big Sur operating system. macOS offers a polished Unix-based OS optimized for Apple’s hardware. macOS supports iOS/iPadOS app integration, Handoff, Continuity, excellent multi-display support, and tight integration with iPads and iPhones.

On the Intel side, you can choose between Windows 10 or Linux distributions. Windows gives you access to a massive library of x86 programs and PC games. With Linux you get an open-source OS with high customization. One limitation is M1 Macs currently do not support Boot Camp for dual booting Windows.

Which Processor is Better Overall?

So which is better overall – the Intel i9 or Apple’s M1 chip? Here’s a quick summary:

Reasons to choose Intel Core i9:

  • Need more CPU cores (8+ cores) for intensive multitasking
  • Require an upgradable and customizable PC
  • Planning to run Windows or Linux OS
  • Want the flexibility to change components down the road
  • Primarily using software optimized for the x86 platform

Reasons to choose Apple M1:

  • Want incredible performance for real-world creative workloads
  • Looking for much faster-integrated graphics
  • Need excellent power efficiency without fans or noise
  • Plan to use macOS and ARM-optimized macOS apps
  • Value the M1’s balanced 4-in-1 system-on-a-chip design
  • Need a portable powerhouse like the MacBook Air/Pro 13-inch

For most real-world usage, the M1 delivers a better overall package thanks to its blazing performance, unified architecture, and power efficiency. The M1 brings desktop-class performance to ultraportable MacBooks. It’s a major leap over previous Intel-based Macs.

The i9 still holds some advantages for users who need maximum multi-threaded speed, upgradability, Windows compatibility, and customizable PCs. But for general productivity, creative work, development, and everyday tasks – the M1 is hard to beat.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is the i9 processor better than the M1 chip?

The comparison between the i9 processor and the M1 chip depends on your specific needs. Each has its strengths and weaknesses, so it’s important to consider factors like performance, power efficiency, and compatibility.

2. Which one is more powerful, the i9 or the M1?

The i9 processor is generally known for its higher raw computing power and performance capabilities compared to the M1 chip. It’s commonly used in high-end laptops and desktops, suitable for tasks that demand substantial processing power.

3. Is the M1 chip more energy-efficient than the i9?

Yes, the M1 chip is known for its exceptional energy efficiency due to its ARM-based architecture. It often offers longer battery life and produces less heat compared to many i9 processors.

4. Can the M1 chip outperform the i9 in certain tasks?

Absolutely, yes. The M1 chip’s optimized architecture allows it to excel in specific tasks like media consumption, light to moderate productivity, and even certain creative tasks like photo editing and video playback.

5. Which processor is better for gaming, the i9 or the M1?

Generally, the i9 processor is more suitable for gaming due to its higher clock speeds and greater number of cores/threads. However, some casual gamers might find the M1 chip sufficient for their needs, especially considering its strong GPU performance.

6. Are software and app compatibility better with the i9 or the M1?

The i9, being part of the x86/x64 architecture, currently has better compatibility with a wider range of software and applications. The M1, which uses ARM architecture, might require software optimization or emulation for some older applications.

7. Does the M1’s integration of hardware and software give it an edge over the i9?

The integration of hardware and software on the M1 chip allows for optimized performance and efficiency in certain tasks, giving it an advantage over traditional processors like the i9 in those specific scenarios.

8. Is the i9 or M1 better for professionals in fields like video editing and 3D rendering?

For demanding professional tasks like video editing and 3D rendering, the i9 processor with its higher core count and clock speeds is generally preferred. However, the M1 has shown surprisingly good performance in these areas as well, particularly considering its power efficiency.

9. Are there any cost considerations between the i9 and M1?

Generally, devices with the i9 processor tend to be more expensive due to their high-end nature. The M1 chip, being designed for a broader range of devices, might offer a more cost-effective option without sacrificing too much performance.

10. Which one should I choose: i9 or M1?

The choice between the i9 and M1 depends on your usage needs. If you require maximum raw power and performance for tasks like heavy video editing, gaming, or scientific computing, the i9 might be a better choice. If you value energy efficiency, good performance across a wide range of tasks, and the integration of hardware and software, the M1 could be more suitable.


The Intel i9 versus Apple M1 debate has revealed just how far Apple’s silicon engineering has come. The M1’s customized technology and tight integration between hardware and software allow it to outperform while using a fraction of the power. For the majority of real-world workloads, the M1 is the faster, cooler, and overall better option compared to Intel’s desktop chips. But the i9 remains popular for tasks that demand maximum CPU cores, upgradability, and Windows compatibility. Both processors are impressive feats of engineering – your ideal choice comes down to your specific needs and preferences.

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