New MacBooks vs. Windows Laptops – Choosing The Right One For Your Workloads

CG Director Author Petar Vukobratby Petar Vukobrat   /  Published 

Creatives around the globe are always on the lookout for a new piece of gear, something that would speed up their workflow but also inspire them.

Thinner bezels, for instance, aren’t going to make you a better graphic designer or videographer, but they will make your display — your canvas, if you will — that much more enjoyable to look at.

A fast refresh rate isn’t going to speed up your rendering times, but it will make using your operating system an absolute joy. Ditto for a wireless mouse, a mechanical keyboard, a silent computer, a comfortable chair, and so on.

It’s all about eliminating as much friction as possible so that nothing is standing in the way between us and our creative endeavors.

But these are all ancillary tools and additions, peripherals and bonuses that can serve as a boon to one’s creative process — they’re not the foundation nor the most important element. That’s the hardware one uses to create.

If your processor isn’t powerful enough, for instance, then it doesn’t really matter what kind of mouse you have or how pretty your Laptop’s bezel is, as you’re already facing a tremendous hindrance and a most debilitating bottleneck.

That’s why having the right kind of computer is so important across many different aspects.

Apple Silicon — Let’s Talk Performance

Many words have been written (and videos made) on this particular topic; Apple’s latest MacBooks took the world by storm, and, well, there’s a very good reason why.

Their performance, their efficiency, and even their price, too — all of these things and parameters made them stand out. The base M1 MacBook Air is still, to this day, the best laptop on the market in its price range, despite it being two years old at this point.

The original M1 is still ahead of the curve, which really speaks volumes about Apple’s deft engineering and ability to stick the proverbial landing.

Now, let’s get one thing straight: these machines (while undeniably spectacular) will not yield a tremendous performance difference when it comes to your day-to-day tasks: browsing the web, typing out emails, filling up Excel sheets, watching YouTube videos, and so on; today’s most powerful processors/chipsets can handle these simple operations without breaking a sweat.

Intel, AMD, Apple — it really doesn’t matter.

One of them might be a bit faster than the other, but we’re talking nuances here — a minute difference most folks won’t even be able to notice.

The most important question you ought to ask yourself is, what exactly do you need a laptop for? What’s your workflow, and how demanding of a user are you? These are all incredibly important questions, so do give them some thought.

MacBooks are sensational for certain workflows, but they’re not perfect.

Video editing, for instance, is an absolute breeze. It’s so good and seamless it actually boggles the mind, and there’s no equally sized Windows laptop on the market that can compete.

That, however, isn’t the case when it comes to Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, for instance.

Moreover, if you have a 3D heavy workflow, if you do most of your work in Blender, Houdini, Autodesk Maya, or any similar kind of program, then you definitely should not go with Apple’s latest MacBooks.

Then again, that’s probably the only workload these ARM-based machines aren’t particularly good at — not yet, at least.

So, what will you be creating? Which programs and software suites do you need most? Some of them work great on all kinds of different hardware; others, however, are a bit more demanding.

And, well, there’s also the topic of software compatibility — certain applications still haven’t been optimized for Apple silicon and, therefore, need to run through an emulation layer which incurs a (sometimes tangible) performance penalty.

New ARM MacBooks: Why Are They So Good?

Apple’s ARM architecture is an absolute feat of engineering. This Cupertino-based tech giant was able to devise an SoC (system on a chip) that can offer best-in-class performance at a fraction of the power draw.

It is the de facto most efficient option on the market and, needless to say has received widespread acclaim for a very good reason.

It features a hybrid configuration with both high-performance and energy-efficient cores, both of which work in unison to spread out and handle your workload with aplomb.

These SoCs also house numerous other components, including the GPU, RAM, Neural Engine, Media Engine (for dedicated video decoding and encoding), storage/USB controllers, and so on.

But the most awe-inspiring thing about this particular chipset isn’t its sheer strength but rather its efficiency. The M1-based Mac Mini from 2020 draws a meager 7W when idle.

At maximum load? Just 39W, and yet it delivers a level of performance that — one would expect based on years and decades of experience — would require two or even three times as much power.

These chipsets excel at a wide range of workflows, especially those that fall under the “creative” umbrella.

That aforementioned Media Engine has made editing 4K/6K/8K H.264 and H.265 footage (to say nothing of ProRes) on the go a reality.

You can, quite literally, edit footage straight from an ARRI Alexa on a base M1 MacBook Air. It sounds like science fiction but it’s actually true.

Editing and exporting photographs in Lightroom is also a breeze thanks to its incredible performance and the fact that the entire Adobe suite has now been fully optimized and can run natively on Apple silicon. Ditto for Photoshop, Illustrator, Premiere Pro, and so on.

Another thing you need to keep in mind is that while certain processors from Intel and AMD can compete on even footing in certain workloads, they’re not as efficient.

The laptops in which they are housed often run way too hot and are, as a result, quite loud. Today’s best MacBooks, on the other hand, offer a near-silent experience, even when pushed to their limits.

These are no small benefits. You’re basically getting all the performance (and then some) without any concrete drawback or weakness — assuming your software has been optimized to run natively, of course.

If that’s not the case then your experience might not be all that pleasurable; this varies wildly from one program to another.

Windows Laptops: Why They’re Still Relevant

The x86 realm sort of blossomed and transformed recently, and while that’s no doubt a positive change and shift, we’d be remiss if we didn’t say that it was nothing but a reaction rather than Intel or AMD’s benevolent urge to push the envelope and reinvent the proverbial wheel.

M1 vs Intel vs AMD power to performance

Source: wccftech

For these two perennial tech giants to compete and rub shoulders with Apple, they needed to step up and deliver, and, fortunately for us, their great efforts bore fruit. Intel’s Alder Lake series of mobile CPUs is absolutely tremendous.

It’s not at all efficient, but if you’re mostly going to be tethered to a wall outlet then that’s not much of a concern.

These processors draw a lot of juice but their phenomenal performance justifies it.

AMD, however, took a different route: efficiency and multi-core performance. Their latest chipsets (and, presumably, all forthcoming ones) pretty much combine the best of everything.

They can, therefore, compete with Apple’s ARM-based SoCs on an even footing.

If you need a well-rounded package, a laptop that’ll both excel at a myriad of different workloads but also keep up with your “on-the-go” lifestyle, AMD’s Ryzen CPUs/APUs should definitely be a top priority.

Read the ‘Fine Print’

Windows laptops come in various different shapes and sizes — too many, in fact. This is incredibly important as no two CPU or GPU implementations are the same.

Different laptop manufacturers have different tendencies and methodologies when it comes to cooling these vastly powerful components and, well, some of them are more successful than others.

Always read as many reviews as you possibly can; delve deep into the nitty-gritty.

Take NVIDIA’s RTX 2050 for instance. Most implementations range from 30W to 45W. It is an “entry-level” dedicated GPU that’s basically a souped-up MX570 with double the VRAM.

Still, if a manufacturer decides to up its TDP — as Honor did — then it can, by all means, compete with the RTX 3050 and 3050 Tis of the world (most of them, at least), despite being a fair bit inferior on paper.

Moreover, powerful internals are useless if they’re not cooled properly.

Some mobile Core i7 CPUs throttle so badly they end up performing as well as Core i5s — if not even worse. That’s the problem with Windows laptops: they don’t always perform as advertised.

With MacBooks, there’s no real conundrum: there’s just a handful of them and their performance can easily be checked and verified online.

So, if you’re leaning more towards the Windows side of things, make sure to do your homework, lest you end up with a laptop that is insufficiently capable.

Which MacBook Should You Buy?

That depends on both your budget and, well, how demanding of a user you really are.

A standard MacBook Air will actually suffice for most workflows, even though it doesn’t look all that powerful and is passively cooled.

The 14” and 16” MacBook Pros, however, are definitely a cut above. They’re geared towards the consummate professionals — those whose livelihood depends on the speed at which their work is rendered.

If your budget can cover it, spring for the Pro and Max chipsets as they’re vastly superior to Apple’s “base” offerings. And if you happen to be confused by the whole M1 vs. M2 debate, make sure to check out the following article.

Which Windows Laptops Should You Buy?

There’s actually a surprising number of exceptional Windows laptops nowadays. That, too, is a direct consequence of Apple’s shift to ARM — a tectonic change if ever there was one.

Most models now come with high refresh rate panels that are up to 3K in resolution, some of them OLED, others IPS; they also have potent dedicated GPUs and processors that are incredibly powerful.

There’s really nothing to point out as a negative.

Some models are more well-rounded than others, but the point stands nonetheless. Gaming laptops are, coincidentally, a very good option if you’re a creative looking to get some work done on the go. They come with the most powerful internals and, more often than not, color-accurate displays.

That last bit, however, is by no means guaranteed, so definitely make sure to read the spec sheet!

Here are some concrete recommendations, models that should by all means be capable enough to fit both your needs and, hopefully, budget:

Dell XPS 13/15/17

Dell XPS 13

Source: Dell

Beautiful, best-in-class displays, immaculate build quality, and internals that are powerful enough for most workloads one might “throw” their way.

Dell’s XPS line of laptops excels at many different things and has stood the test of time for a very good reason.

HP ENVY 16

HP Envy 16

Source: HP

100% sRGB. 97% AdobeRGB. 99% P3. Talk about a color-accurate display! The ENVY 16 is basically the direct competitor to the XPS 15 but is a bit more appropriately priced (there’s no XPS tax, in other words).

It’s not as well built but whatever it might lack in craftsmanship it more than makes up for in sheer value for money.

It has vapor chamber cooling, two pretty sizable fans, two M.2 slots, and, perhaps best of all, you can upgrade both its RAM and its Wi-Fi (6E) card. That’s absolutely amazing for a laptop in 2022, hence our recommendation.

Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio

Surface laptop studio

Source: Microsoft

There’s nothing quite like it. Whether that’s a good or a bad thing is up to you to decide.

The Surface Laptop Studio is a potent laptop that can be used in a myriad of different ways thanks to its wholly unique design. It’s not as safe a pick as, say, an XPS, but it sure is more versatile.

Razer Blade 14/15/17

Razer Blade Laptops

Source: Razer

Often referred to as the “MacBooks of the Windows world,” and, well, it’s easy to understand why: Razer’s laptops share their immaculate design, are machined from a single piece of aluminum, and have some of the best and most powerful internals money can buy.

They’re obviously geared toward gamers, but if you need sheer horsepower, going with a Blade 14/15/17 sure does make a lot of sense.

ASUS G14/G15/M16

Asus Zephyrus g15

Source: ROG ASUS

ASUS sort of stands out as a happy medium: not as obscenely expensive as Razer, but still a cut above the rest. These three models warrant an easy recommendation.

ASUS Flow X13

Asus Flow X13

Source: ROG ASUS

A very fascinating model, one that blends multiple different form factors and potential use cases.

It’s also one of the most powerful 13” laptops on the market nowadays with an incredibly potent CPU and a dedicated GPU that can suffice for both gaming and (relatively light) video editing.

If you value portability and want a bright, beautiful display that’s also a touch screen, ASUS’ Flow X13 should definitely be atop your list of priorities.

ASUS Flow Z13

Asus Flow Z13

Source: ROG ASUS

Much of the same can be said for this peculiar 2-in-1.

It is the de facto most powerful tablet on the market and can pack one heck of a punch due to its H-series CPU from Intel and (up to) RTX 3050 Ti graphics. It does, however, have an “Achilles’ heel” — battery life.

Lenovo Legion 5 Pro

Legion 5 Pro

Source: Lenovo

A “bulletproof” recommendation, one that’ll suffice for both professional creatives and hardcore gamers alike.

It’s not the most beautiful laptop around but it is wholly versatile and much more well-rounded than one would expect.

A great 16:10 display, a keyboard you’ll love typing on, solid build quality, and some of the most powerful internals money can buy these days in a portable form factor. What’s not to like?

New MacBooks vs. Windows Laptops — Which One Is Right For You?

Let’s distill it all down to just a few straightforward bullet points — a TL;DR, if you will:

Buy an ARM-based MacBook If:

  • You want an astonishingly fast machine that, depending on the model, can even be passively cooled
  • You want best-in-class battery life
  • You need consistent performance even when you’re away from the wall outlet
  • You’re a video editor/videographer
  • You want a laptop with a high-res, color-accurate display
  • You’re a graphic or UI designer, photographer, or anyone dealing with color-critical work
  • You want a laptop that’ll hold its resale value for years

Buy a Windows Laptop If:

  • You’re mostly going to be doing graphic design or 3D
  • You’re against Apple’s closed-off approach
  • You want to game a bit (or a lot) on the side
  • You don’t want any software-related compatibility issues

FAQ

Let’s go over a few potential questions you might have regarding this particular topic:

What’s Better for Creative Work: A MacBook or a Windows Laptop?

The latest MacBooks are, without a doubt, better for creative work — unless you’re super into 3D-related workloads and need as few compatibility issues as possible.

For those use cases, Windows-based computers — be they portable or not — are still the better option.

Which New MacBook Is Best For Creative Work?

If you’re an enthusiast or someone who doesn’t necessarily need an inordinate amount of power, the MacBook Air and Pro will by all means suffice.

If, however, you’re rendering on the daily and need as much horsepower as you can get, then do think about springing for a 14” or 16” MacBook Pro. They’re vastly more powerful.

Which Windows Laptop Is Best For Creative Work?

There’s no “one-size-fits-all” kind of answer.

How big of a display do you want? What do you value most: battery life or performance? What about fan noise — how much of it can you tolerate?

Just make sure to buy an SKU with a color-accurate display as there are still some nasty, subpar panels being sold nowadays.

ASUS, Lenovo, DELL, and HP definitely stand out for their versatile (and yet wholly capable) offerings.

Over to You

Are you a fervent member of the Windows ecosystem or have Apple’s latest “conquests” made you reconsider your allegiance? Are these breakthroughs of any interest? Let us know in the comments section down below and, in case you need any help, head over to our forum and ask away!

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Petar Vukobrat - post author

I first sat down in front of a Pentium II in 1999 and it feels like I’ve been sitting in front of a computer ever since.

And, well, until mankind comes up with something better and more entertaining, that’ll keep being the case.

If you have any questions — or just want to talk about all things PC and Apple — leave a comment down below!

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