Comprehensive Mac vs PC content creation face-off shows Apple has caught up with Windows on performance per dollar — but still lacks when it comes to sheer scalability and versatility

MacBook Pro M3 Max (2023)
(Image credit: Future)

Apple silicon has unquestionably come a long way since the tech giant introduced its game-changing M1 MacBook Pro in 2020. With successive M2 and M3 releases - and the recently announced M4 - Apple has delivered impressive performance boosts with every generation. But how do these modern Macs stack up against traditional PC hardware? 

PC manufacturer Puget Systems last compared Macs to PCs four years ago and wanted to see how things have changed. It did so by pitting the top-end M3 Max MacBook Pro and Apple M2 Ultra Studio against an Intel Desktop PC, AMD Desktop, AMD Workstation (with and without a dual GPU), and its own 17-inch Puget Mobile laptop. 

Comparing PCs and Apple Macs is akin to comparing oranges to, well, apples. Macs on Apple’s silicon use Arm-based architecture rather than x86 and employ a SoC design that tightly integrates the CPU, GPU, RAM, and VRAM. This setup allows MacBooks to have larger memory pools for the GPU but smaller for the CPU, and while the RAM is faster for the CPU, it is slower for the GPU compared to PCs.

PCs win (mostly)!

Puget compared models with similar costs but also included some high-end PC builds to show how far it’s possible to push a modern desktop. 

You can see the full results and benchmarks on the Puget site, but in summary, the company found the latest M3 Max MacBook Pro excels in Photoshop and After Effects overall but falls short in Premiere Pro, especially in Multi-Frame Rendering, where PCs trounce it.

In DaVinci Resolve, Macs lag behind, particularly in GPU effects and AI features, with PCs significantly outperforming them. CPU rendering is dominated by PCs, with AMD’s Threadripper PRO giving a substantial lead. In GPU rendering, Apple lags behind Nvidia RTX GPUs (unsurprisingly), making PCs a better option for high-performance rendering tasks. 

Puget ends its comparison on a positive note for Apple, however, stating, “We have been very impressed by the performance Apple manages to get in a relatively light, quiet, and cool machine [the M3 Max MacBook Pro]. It is a fantastic laptop, and the fact that it can stand toe-to-toe with a desktop workstation is an accomplishment.”

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Wayne Williams

Wayne Williams is a freelancer writing news for TechRadar Pro. He has been writing about computers, technology, and the web for 30 years. In that time he wrote for most of the UK’s PC magazines, and launched, edited and published a number of them too.