In a test of the M1 MacBook Pro’s photo editing chops, it seems like Apple Silicon handles itself incredibly well — perhaps even better than a full-fledged desktop PC.
CNET‘s lead photographer in Europe, Andrew Hoyle, posted a comparison that stacked the 13-inch M1 MacBook Pro with 16GB of RAM up against both an Intel-based MacBook Pro and a Windows PC. Not only did the M1 impress, but it came out ahead of both in some tests.
What’s especially surprising about the result is that the Windows PC packs some exceptional hardware. In his post on CNET, Hoyle notes that the Windows PC — built with photo editing in mind — sports an AMD Ryzen 9 3950 X CPU Nvidia RTX Titan graphics and 128GB of RAM.
Before we get into the results, it’s worth noting that Hoyle tested some Adobe apps, including Photoshop, Lightroom and Premiere. Adobe only offers M1 support in the beta version of those apps, excluding Lightroom, which gained native M1 support last year. Lightroom Classic, however, is still Intel-only and requires Apple’s Rosetta 2 emulation layer to work on M1 Macs.
Hoyle notes in his article that most photography pros use Lightroom Classic. It’s worth keeping in mind that if you’re a big Lightroom Classic user, there isn’t a native M1 variant yet, and it’s not clear if or when one will arrive. However, Hoyle also says that in his testing, the emulated Lightroom Classic still ran well.
The M1 MacBook beat the Windows PC in some tests
With Photoshop, Hoyle ran a test to see how long Photoshop took to align 19 full-resolution RAW images and merge them into a focus-stacked image. For those unfamiliar, focus-stacking combines several pictures with different focus points and combines them in software to get the entire image in focus. Surprisingly, the M1 MacBook Pro did exceptionally well in this test:
“Intel-based Photoshop, via Rosetta 2, took 50.3 seconds to align the layers and 1 minute, 37 seconds to merge them… The PC took 20 seconds to align the layers and 53 seconds to merge them — a clear victory for the PC.
“I then ran the same tests on the beta version of Photoshop that supports Apple M1. It took 22 seconds to align the layers and 46.6 seconds to merge them — a faster overall time than my immensely powerful editing rig was able to achieve.”
Further, Hoyle compared the time it took for the computer to import 100 RAW images in Lightroom. The Windows PC took 7.1 seconds while the MacBook using the M1 version of Lightroom did it in 6.4 seconds.
Next up, Hoyle ran a test exporting video in Premiere. The Intel-based Premiere on the M1 MacBook Pro exported the video in 6 minutes and 25 seconds compared to 3 minutes and 24 seconds for the optimized M1 versions of Premiere. The Windows PC came out ahead in this test with an export time of 1 minute and 20 seconds.
Hoyle ran tests with a few other programs, noting that even software that isn’t optimized for the M1 runs reasonably well. “You’d never know that you’re running ’emulated’ versions of software,” he wrote.
While the test certainly shows the capabilities of Apple’s new M1 chips, it’s also worth considering the comparison uses a small pool of devices, tests and apps. Things could certainly change when Adobe’s M1 apps exit beta. Further, it’s worth keeping in mind that there’s only one M1 chip, which means it can be easier for developers to optimize for Macs that use it. That’s unlike the PC market, which has a variety of chips from both Intel and AMD.
Those interested can read Hoyle’s full analysis here.