MacBooks crush Windows laptops in these three key areas

A lot has changed since the old days of discussion between Mac and PC. Windows laptops weren’t the bulky, flaky devices they used to be.

But with the launch of the M1 family of chips, especially in the latest MacBook Pro, Apple has taken the lead once again. It’s clear that these more efficient chips delivered impressive performance, especially considering how quiet these laptops are. But even then, we’ve come up with three main areas where Windows laptops will struggle to compete with MacBooks in 2022.

Battery life

Battery life is at the top of our list. As Apple’s M1 chipset is greatly improved and modified specifically for macOS, this is one area where Windows PCs need improvement significantly. MacBooks always seem to have a better battery than Windows PCs, which is something that really needs to change.

You can buy a laptop like the Razer Blade 14, which we’ve positioned as the best gaming system, but you only get eight hours of battery life for surfing the web. Even newer devices with 12th-generation Intel P-series chips that don’t have a dedicated GPU, like the Yoga 9i, don’t get the best battery. It lasted nine hours in our web browsing tests.

Finally, when we tested it, the MSI Creator Z17, which we said was likely a MacBook killer, it only lasted 4.5 hours in our web browsing tests. Compared to the 16-inch MacBook Pro with the M1 Max, this is pathetic. You might get quite a bit of processing power on these Intel systems, but the power doesn’t hold up very long when separated from the wall.

Those battery life numbers are a far cry from what we got when we tested the MacBook Pro 13 M1. It lasted 16 hours for web browsing, and the MacBook Air M1 lasted 15.5 hours.

Front view of the Apple MacBook Air M1 showing the bottom portion of the screen and keyboard.

On the Windows front, the best battery life comes from laptops powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processors. These always-connected devices are powered by an ARM-based SoC like Apple’s latest systems, so they have better battery life than laptops with Intel chips. Take the ThinkPad X13s as an example.

Unfortunately, though, emulation of apps holds these devices back for most people when compared to MacBooks. And on other laptops with Intel processors meant to challenge MacBooks, factors like OLED displays, touch screens, power-hungry Intel H-class CPUs, and Nvidia GPUs come into the picture and severely impact battery life as well.

It’s a shame to see Windows PCs struggling this bad, and I really hope the next wave of Intel processors can fix this.

Amplifiers

Side view of the Apple MacBook Pro showing the keyboard deck and ports.

Next in the list of speakers. With the rise of teleconferencing and the lifestyles of working from home, speakers are becoming more and more important in a laptop. You want a system that performs well but also looks good. Apple’s latest MacBook Pro has great speakers, and Windows needs to catch up across all levels — not just the premium side.

With Windows PCs, speakers are stressed and lost. If you pay an extra penny, you might get a system with a good speaker setup, but most laptops aren’t high-end. Take the LG Gram 17 or the Asus Vivobook Flip 14, which both have lowered-down speakers as an example. This makes the sound incredibly muffled, which can be frustrating after spending a lot of money on a laptop.

But some laptop makers are trying to turn things around. A system like the HP Elite Dragonfly Max is different. It has four tuned Bang & Olufsen speakers. That’s two upwards shooting on each side of the keyboard and two downwards firing at the bottom of the case. However, we didn’t find it as good as the MacBook.

There are also new speakers on the Surface Laptop Studio or XPS 17. The Studio has a quad speaker setup — two under the keyboard and two on the sides of the laptop. The XPS 17 has a quad-speaker setup with Waves Nx 3D audio.

Speakers on the HP Dragonfly laptop.

On the 16-inch and 14-inch MacBook Pro, there’s a six-speaker High-Resolution Audio system that includes two high-resolution speakers and four tweeters. In our tests, we got some deep bass and highs, and we found that they sounded even better than our Bluetooth speakers. There is even support for spatial audio as well.

I really wish these awesome speakers were standard on all Windows laptops. It’s great to see that laptop makers are pushing premium audio experiences on premium hardware, but that should become the norm. Just as 720p webcams no longer cut it, good headphones shouldn’t be a second thought.

Best bundled software

Dell Mobile Connect app running on iPhone.

One of the best things about MacBooks is the built in apps. You get FaceTime and iMessage, both of which sync with your iPhone. Then there’s also iMovie or GarageBand, which can be used for music and video editing. Then there’s the iWork suite of apps, which, unlike Microsoft Office, don’t cost much more. It’s these bits of included software that make the most difference to most people in the Mac versus PC debate, and they’re where computers need to catch up.

I say this despite the fact that Windows 11 laptops come with a lot of great apps. You can get Phone Link, which can bring your Android phone and PC closer together. There are also Widgets, Weather, News, and other system apps that Microsoft pre-installs. But Macs are still better if you have an iPhone in your pocket, and always will.

If you own an iPhone and want to see your text messages, photos, or video calls on your computer, you’re in luck. The phone link does not support this. Currently, Windows PCs only work well with Android phones. If Microsoft and its partners want Mac hardware from Apple, they need to take advantage of the fenced garden and find a way to make iPhones work with Phone Link.

And it’s not as if this isn’t possible. Dell lets you do these things on XPS and select other systems using Dell Mobile Connect, so I’m sure there are solutions Microsoft can use.

A woman uses the FaceTime app on her MacBook.

The final part of this touches on video editing. All new PCs running Windows 11 have a free inbox app built in and a video editor known as Clipchamp. It’s a web-based experience that’s pretty basic for quick videos, but not complete enough for longer projects like podcasts or feature films. It also only releases in 1080p on the free tier.

I would really like to see Microsoft build that and focus on encoding a complete video editor for Windows PC, just like iMovie. Creators often turn to Macs for these kinds of reasons, and it’s unfortunate that there is no free competitor to iMovie on Windows to convince people to buy computers. Just like clicking iPhones might help sell more computers, creating an iMovie-like app would.

And it’s not like there are no computers that aren’t ready for video editing. The new H-series and P-series chips from Intel are able to make this happen. These chips contain new performance and efficiency cores that are close to M1 in terms of conductive performance. Just take a look at our review of the Asus ROG Flow Z13 as an example or upcoming laptops like the Lenovo Slim 7i Pro X, which combines Intel H-series chipsets with Nvidia GPUs.

Computers are still good and getting better

Despite all this, PCs are still better than Macs in many ways and sometimes inspired by them. For example, computers have better displays with an aspect ratio of 16:10, and Apple was a pioneer in this field. Computers also support touch and OLED technologies or even touch the screen with a stylus. Inspired by the MacBook Pro, computers now also have capacitive touch panels, as in the Surface Laptop Studio. Don’t forget that the new wave of 1080p webcams is now standard.

The old battle will continue, and it may always be a comparison between Apple and Orange, but at least PCs can be inspired by PC-inspired Macs and Macs.

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