I’ve already written an article about the reasons why Apple Silicon might be a good and not so good choice. There is no doubt that technically this is a huge step forward for the whole computer industry. It’s fast, efficient and you can actually use your MacBook on your lap without fear of potential burns.
However, today I wanted to talk about the top reasons why you should reconsider using Apple Silicon chips and instead stick with x86 architecture at least for now. We never know what the next day might bring and maybe ARM-based machines will become mainstream and provide a choice of different operating systems, software, and possibilities.
But for now, we primarily have Apple Silicon and Raspberry Pi as major platforms and only Apple Silicon is an ARM-based platform that gives a proper performance for everyday tasks.
What are the main reasons why you might want to avoid Apple computers on Apple Silicon chips?
It’s a closed Software platform
Seriously. Once you move away from Linux or even Windows solution you start to feel like you are obligated to do things an “Apple way”. There are third-party solutions like HomeBrew package manager, there is still a way to side-load applications without a Mac App Store, but you somehow feel a pressure to switch doing things the Apple way.
Here are a few examples:
- Apple Disk Images (DMG): Those are very convenient to mount and have access to any of your files. You can even encrypt those. However, because this is not an industry-standard and it’s hard to find utilities to use those images on Linux or Windows you will realize that you have locked yourself to a solution that is not compatible with anything. Want to try to send those images out to your friends? Good luck.
- Safari: I still believe that Safari might be indeed the best browser for Mac. It’s fast, much lighter on the battery than other solutions, and fast overall. There is only one catch. It’s only available for Mac. You get used to Safari and the way it works and then there is no way to transfer that experience to other platforms. Again, you have voluntarily locked yourself to that browser.
- iOS and Mac paid applications. I truly believe that the quality of apps on the iOS and Mac platforms is high. Even though the quality of Mac OS releases is not that high because of frequent updates, the quality of Mac apps is good. But imagine that one day you would want to migrate to Windows or Linux. There is no way to transfer most of those apps in any form to your new platform. You just invested so much in Mac that at this point you will most likely buy a new Mac computer. Once again — you are locked. In the case of Windows or Linux apps, the solutions are typically available. Thanks to WINE technology you are at least able to run many Windows apps on Linux and many Linux applications are open source and available on any platform (in many cases — free of charge).
- Time Machine, FileVault, and other custom Apple solutions. I love the TimeMachine backup solution. You just plug a hard drive, back up on it and it’s all good. Never have to worry about your computer getting lost or stolen… It’s just if you want to restore it you would need to buy a Mac again. Simple solution: just buy a new device or just live without your data.
- Apple controls everything. It’s not like there are solutions if you want to do things non-Apple way. There are some utilities to a certain extent, but Apple has a right to remove applications from the Mac App store any day for any reasons, they might remove support for 32-bit applications (which they did in Mac OS Catalina and forced me to stay on Mac OS Mojave) or they might block the installation of third-party software entirely. Right now they have put limitations on the ability to install only signed software and you still receive plenty of warnings if you want to install certain applications downloaded from the Web. One day Mac App Store might be the only available solution to install apps. I hope that never happens, but it’s nothing more than hope. It’s an Apple platform, not yours.
It’s a closed Hardware platform
Okay, we are aware that the Software side of things is quite limited and you cannot easily move away from Mac OS.
Let’s talk about the hardware side of Apple Silicon chips for a bit:
- Mac computer’s lifecycle is limited. I have a couple of Mac computers from 2006 and 2008. After Apple has dropped Mac OS support for those I’ve installed Linux and Windows on those since they have Intel chips there. It was a relatively easy solution and it prolonged the useful life of computers by several years. Those machines are still functioning and receive software updates. This is not the case with Apple Silicon. Once Apple decides to stop updating your devices — you are out of luck. Your machine could go straight to the trash can. It’s worth nothing then. When does Apple decide to stop the support? Only Apple knows.
- It’s incompatible with anything else. Since it uses custom processor chips there is no BIOS, there is no configuration, there is no way to modify things. There is just nothing for you and only “hacky” kind of solutions are available. There were custom boot-loaders like rEFInd to load alternative operating systems, but even those were known to have issues and Apple tried their best to make installations of those challenging. They have added T2 security chips and things like that to limit your ability to use the hardware you have purchased for your own usage patterns.
- You feel obligated to purchase other products of Apple. Sure, you can just use your Mac alone. But then you see a shiny iPhone/iPad, Apple Watch, and their new subscription service. It’s hard to resist and in many cases, it’s a reasonable service. You buy more devices only to realize at some point that there is no escape route anymore. You are 100% into Apple hardware, software, and way of doing things. Switching to another solution will cost you time and money.
- They don’t like to admit their faults. I’ll give a couple of specific examples. My 2008 iMac used to have a certain noise from a headphone jack out. There were some hardware issues with a sound output that have caused that. Some people were returning and exchanging their iMacs only to find out that the replacement most likely had the same kind of issues. The second problem was with the 2013–2014 MacBook Pros. Many people found out that it might just brick the computer after the upgrade to a Big Sur version of Mac OS. In both those cases, Apple tried their best to avoid that problem, not admitting that the problem actually exists. Eventually, those issues were resolved.
- Good luck fixing it yourself. I have a generic computer from 2012 where I have swapped hard drives, added memory, upgraded a BIOS, might even change more stuff. Every time my MacBook failed to operate I switch back to my good old Linux laptop. There are still a couple of things I can upgrade in the 2014 MacBook, but the one with the M1 chip? Not really sure. My Linux laptop might have issues, but I have solutions available for almost any kind of fault. And if it fails completely I can just remove the hard drive and stick it to any other computer. And it will continue to work, can you believe that?
And this are just a few examples of how locked hardware makes things harder for everyone. Probably there were more examples and we will see this trend continue especially now when everything is controlled by Apple in their Eco-system.
If it was industry-standard hardware and we would have seen a faster response from a community overall. It's even more exclusive now with Apple Silicon.
I’ve been a Mac user for more than 10 years. I’ve enjoyed many solutions provided by Apple and the quality of their software used to be unbeatable. Top-notch.
This article is just a letter of warning for those people who are planning to go all the way to an Apple solution. I’m not here to teach you what you should or shouldn’t do. It’s always your own choice and I’m glad that we do have a choice.
Apple M1 chips are awesome in terms of performance. There are also unique in every single way and transform the whole industry. I would even go as far as saying there is nothing else comparable right now.
However, that way of doing things the “Apple” way at some point might really get on your nerves and might hit your wallet really hard. And when you realize that you might want to recall reading this article some time ago that warned you.
So, here it is. A letter of warning from 2021.
UPDATE: Thank you everyone for the feedback. The goal of the article was not to discourage you from buying Apple tech or make you feel back about the macOS. No, the goal of this article was to show my personal opinion on the state of things in the Apple world and my concerns about it. I know many of you have mentioned the “click-bait” nature of the article. It’s simply not true. You can check my other articles and see for yourself that expressing my own opinion on things is my way of thinking.
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