Apple M1 Silicon Performance Running Windows 10 Impresses
We got our mitts on an M1-based Mac mini, and a full review comparing it to the previous generation of the system, and much more, is coming soon. However, we also wanted to give HotHardware readers an early taste of what Apple Silicon can do against the other Arm64 platform: Qualcomm's Snapdragon 8cx running Windows 10, as well as Intel's Tiger Lake platform, of course running natively. We know this isn't entirely a fair fight—the Mac mini is a small form factor desktop with a more robust cooling solution, while the Samsung Galaxy Book S we have here is a thin and light fanless laptop. We also have Dell's XPS 13 2-in-1 here for comparison and it employs a tradition actively-cooled laptop thermal solution, again powered by Intel's 11th Gen Tiger Lake platform. Unfortunately, we don't have a MacBook Air handy, so these comparisons will have to do, for now.
Setting Up Windows 10 On An Apple Silicon MacSetting up QEMU to boot Windows 10 is pretty simple. First, we had to join the Microsoft
To get QEMU set up without using the command line, we used ACVM, an open source utility. ACVM let us set the number of cores available to the virtualized guest and choose how much RAM to give it. Because our Mac mini only has 8 GB of memory, we stuck to the defaults of four cores and 4 GB of memory for the guest. Because we wanted network access, there was a little bit more to go through to install RedHat's virtual network adapter, but all of that was pretty simple, and is meticulously detailed on ACVM's GitHub page.
Windows 10 Performance On The Apple Silicon-Powered Mac miniSo after all that, how does the Apple Silicon Mac mini run Windows 10 in a virtualized environment? Apple made some bold performance claims, but now we can finally compare things a bit. We ran Geekbench, JetStream 2, and Browserbench 2.0. The charts below only compare the Galaxy Book S (which, again, is a notebook and potentially thermally constrained) to the Mac mini and the
Meanwhile, we don't think these web test numbers tell the whole story. Again, the M1's performance is outstanding and, without giving anything away, its Speedometer and JetStream scores outclass even the previous-generation Mac mini with a Core i5-8500B. The Snapdragon 8cx loses out on Speedometer by more than 2:1 and the Apple system wins JetStream by more than 50%. However, the Mac mini doesn't have any video drivers in Windows 10. Using Windows to browsing the web is kind of a painful experience because scrolling isn't smooth and animations lag. That's not true in Safari or Chrome in its native macOS, but we don't think you'd really want to use Windows inside QEMU for web browsing on the M1 Mac mini.
If this whet your appetite, stay tuned. There's much more where this came from, and we'll have much more to say about the M1 Mac mini soon. As these quick tests illustrate, it's obvious that Apple has a strong custom silicon solution on its hands with the M1. The company is very confident in its new processor, and these benchmarks start to bear that out. We'll see if these claims hold try in a lot more workload scenarios, in our full review that's coming soon.