Apple M1 shows off against Surface Pro X — this time running Windows 10 on ARM

MacBook Air (M1, 2020)
(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Apple's MacBook Air (M1, 2020) and MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020) have received rave reviews from just about everyone who has laid hands on them, including our own reviewers with both notebooks earning an Editor's Choice award. 

However, while we are also enjoying macOS Big Sur, there are plenty of users that need Windows 10 and would like to know how these impressive new laptops from Apple will perform outside of macOS. 

Wonder no longer. As reported by The 8-bit, an enterprising Amazon Web Services (AWS) engineer put Windows 10 on these M1 devices using open-source QEMU virtualization software and, as has so frequently been the case with Apple's new laptops, the results are pretty astounding (via ZDNet). 

The AWS engineer, Alexander Graf, was the first it seems to verify the capability and demonstrate that it wasn't showing a dramatic performance hit. Others like Twitter user @imbushuo have turned the same QEMU method on more familiar measurables to give an idea of what the performance difference is like between the Apple M1 and the Microsoft SQ1 in the Microsoft Surface Pro X.

as a quick aside, the comparison is to the SQ1 model and not the new Microsoft Surface Pro X (SQ2, 2020), but if you read our review you'll know that the performance improvements were negligible with our Geekbench 5 result coming in at 2,943. With that in mind, here are the results of @imbushuo's Geekbench 5 testing using the Apple M1 running in QEMU Virtual Machine against native Microsoft Surface Pro X. 

Apple M1 vs. Microsoft SQ1 Geekbench 5 results.

(Image credit: Geekbench)

At this point, you will not be shocked to see that the Apple M1 walked away with it, with roughly a 78% higher single-core result and approximately a 97% higher result on multi-core. 

So what exactly does this prove? For the most part, it is simply further evidence of what we already knew: The Apple M1 is unbelievably powerful relative to anything that Qualcomm is doing at the moment. We've just seen Qualcomm reveal its new Snapdragon 888 processor and while that is destined for mobile, it will likely be the basis for a new revision of the Snapdragon 8cx in 2021. 

Even Qualcomm's projections for it suggest a roughly 35% improvement in certain metrics. Even assuming that level of improvement with the 8cx Gen 3 or 9cx platform, it's unimaginable that Qualcomm will close the current performance gulf. Moreover, that is when compared to the current M1, we know Apple has a more powerful version coming by mid-2021.

Returning to the original point, as this was mostly a proof of concept, it proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that an M1 MacBook will be the best Windows 10 on ARM laptop if Microsoft allows it to be officially supported. Windows 10 fans that are drawn to the new M1 MacBooks will need to settle for solutions like Parallels Desktop for Mac or CrossOver 20 to run their Windows 10 app for now.

Sean Riley

Sean Riley has been covering tech professionally for over a decade now. Most of that time was as a freelancer covering varied topics including phones, wearables, tablets, smart home devices, laptops, AR, VR, mobile payments, fintech, and more.  Sean is the resident mobile expert at Laptop Mag, specializing in phones and wearables, you'll find plenty of news, reviews, how-to, and opinion pieces on these subjects from him here. But Laptop Mag has also proven a perfect fit for that broad range of interests with reviews and news on the latest laptops, VR games, and computer accessories along with coverage on everything from NFTs to cybersecurity and more.