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Apple M3 Max vs Snapdragon X Elite: Which is best?

Qualcomm recently revealed its revamped PC chip, with the Snapdragon X Elite looking like a new dawn for Windows on Arm. Shortly after, Apple debuted its M3 family, with the M3 Max at the top of the tree. How do these compare?

Ever since the launch of Apple Silicon, the Mac range has led the way in providing a potent combination of performance and efficiency. A lot of kudos goes to the transition to Arm technology. Now, Windows may be following suit.

It’ll be the new Snapdragon X Elite that might help Windows catch up. The Snapdragon X Elite brings the fruits of the Nuvia team to Qualcomm’s range, with Nuvia being a startup consisting of former Apple employees that it acquired a few years ago. But, what does it mean for users? Let’s dive in.

M3 Max looks to have the multi-core performance edge

Going head-to-head on raw numbers, the M3 Max offers up a 16-core CPU versus the 12-core CPU on the Snapdragon X Elite. Specs aren’t everything but this difference does appear to have given Apple the edge.

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We can make some early comparisons through Qualcomm-provided Snapdragon X Elite benchmarks (which have to be taken with a pinch of salt) and an early appearance from the Apple M3 Max on the Geekbench website (via 9to5Mac).

Qualcomm touted that the Snapdragon X Elite can manage 15,382 in the Geekbench 6 multi-core test, while the leaked Apple M3 Max score comes in streets ahead at 20,785.

These benchmarks provide a decent indication of what we can expect from the high-end MacBook Pro and future Snapdragon X Elite devices, with Apple likely to win the day when it comes to multi-core workloads like complex database management, rendering, virtualisation and more. But, these scores are far from everything so we’ll be able to provide more concrete comparisons in this area come review time.

Single-core performance is neck and neck

Early multi-core signs seem to favour Apple’s flagship laptop chip but single-core is less distinguishable. The Snapdragon X Elite leads the way, with a score of 2,979, up against 2,971 from the M3 Max. This gap is negligible, meaning performance could be neck and neck in this area, with single-core power focused on providing performance within one application at a time and in basic workloads.

Snapdragon X Elite specs
Snapdragon X Elite specifications – Image Credit (Qualcomm)

As such, single-core performance for chips like the M3 Max is less of a focal point than multi-core, as it is a chip made for intensive creative tasking.

Snapdragon X Elite will offer greater hardware choice

This a bit of an obvious one, but you can only get Apple’s M chips on its devices, so right now you can only get the Apple M3 Max on the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro.

By comparison, the Snapdragon X Elite is set to be available across of a range of Windows laptop manufacturers. Microsoft, HP, Acer, Lenovo and Dell are all set to launch machines using the new chip by mid-2024.

Snapdragon offers Wi-Fi 7 and 5G

Qualcomm’s latest chip is set to have the lead over Apple when it comes to wireless connectivity. The Snapdragon X Elite chip will feature both Wi-Fi 7 and 5G, meaning you’re going to have a solid connection when you’ve got access to a Wi-Fi 7 router as well as when out and about with 5G connectivity. MacBooks don’t offer 5G at all, and they offer just Wi-Fi 6E.

Apple does slightly have the lead on port connectivity, with Thunderbolt 4 ports available on the M3 Max while Qualcomm has not touted Thunderbolt for its chips, rather USB 4 instead.

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