Apple’s new ARM-based M1 chip has been widely praised for their excellent performance and extra long battery life compared to their Intel-powered equivalents. But one major criticism of the new M1 Macs are their inability to run Windows with the removal of Apple’s Boot Camp utility on macOS Big Sur.
Despite this, an intrepid developer managed to get a virtualised Windows 10 on ARM to run on his new M1 MacBook. The feat is even more impressive considering the device clocks better performance than Windows ARM’s “reference” Microsoft device.
The developer, Alexander Graf tweeted a photo claiming he managed to get Windows 10 on ARM to run on his M1 powered MacBook. According to Graf, he managed to virtualise the Windows ARM64 Insider Preview ran it through Apple’s Hypervisor.framework, which is designed for virtualisation. Using this method he is able to use the virtual environment to execute ARM code directly through the M1 without the need to emulate or translate it using Rosetta 2.
It turns out that Graf utilised a modified version of the open-source virtualiser QEMU and added some patches to get Windows to run smoothly on the new Apple Silicon device.
That said, the solution isn’t perfect but Graf said in a later tweet that Windows ARM64 can run x86 applications really well. It’s not as fast as Rosetta 2, but close. M1 Mac owners who want to try to run Windows software might want to wait for something like Codeweaver’s CrossOver instead.
Once Graf open-sourced his patches, others took to the project and posted their benchmark scores in Geekbench 4 and 5. Based on those scores, the M1 manages to score roughly 1300 in a single-core test and about 5500 in the multi-core benchmark in Geekbench 5.
Interestingly, the performance of virtualised Windows 10 on Apple’s M1 chip manages to outperform Microsoft’s current ARM device, the Surface Pro X. According to Geekbench scores, the Surface Pro X only manages about 800 and 3000 on single- and multi-core tests respectively. This would mean that the M1 is between 60 – 85% faster than Microsoft’s fastest ARM device.
Though Graf’s experiments are still at an early stage, he believes that others can reproduce his results.
How much difficulty should one expect to encounter when trying to build QEMU with these patches? Is it realistic to expect others to replicate what you’ve done? How stable is it? I’m considering trying this to test the ARM Windows port of my software.— Brian Smith (@BRIAN_____) November 27, 2020
We previously reported that the new Apple developed chips are capable of running Windows 10, but it depends on Microsoft to change its Windows 10 ARM licensing to make it available on M1 Macs.
It is worth mentioning that there is a massive price difference when comparing Apple’s M1 Macs against the Microsoft Surface Pro X. Even the cheapest M1 powered laptop, the MacBook Air, can be specced up to 16GB of RAM and 1TB of SSD storage, which totals up to RM7,300. Take note that the price mentioned is based off the Singapore price as all M1 Macs are still not available in Malaysia yet. That being said, this still makes it cheaper compared to the Surface Pro X, that comes with 16GB of RAM and 256GB SSD, with a keyboard (purchased separately) which costs RM7,669.
That being said, it is not clear which MacBook model was used to run the virtualised Windows in the benchmark. There is a chance it could have been the more powerful MacBook Pro which comes with an active cooling system which should provide better performance during heavy loads compared to the fanless MacBook Air.
So, what do you think of these benchmark scores claiming Windows on ARM’s performance on the new Apple M1 chip? Impressive? Has it convinced you to go out and buy one? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.