M1 Migrants from Intel: Your Thoughts on VoiceOver Performance

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macOS and Mac Apps

This message is for those who have used VoiceOver on an Intel Mac and have moved to an M1-based MacBook Air, Pro or a Mac mini.

I'm looking for an honest evaluation of how VoiceOver performs under conditions where it is working with tons of UI views on screen. For example, multiple playlists in Music, very large arrays in Numbers, audio editing programs with lots of tracks, web pages with lots and lots of Java Script.

Does the M1 processor make a significant difference? I'm coming from a Core i5 running at 2.3 GHz with 8 GB of RAM on an Intel MacBook Pro. I'd describe VoiceOver performance with these complex UIs as slow.

I'm looking at upgrading to a MacBook Pro running the M1 Pro or M1 Max and want to know whether we are talking a difference measured in orders of magnitude or a scale that's more linear.

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Comments

Submitted by Alan on Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Short answer: don't expect the wow factor at all.
I don't know, maybe it's because voiceover is not being optimized,. I upgraded 8 months ago from an intel i7 to an m1 Mac, and yes, X Code works better, some other tasks, such as rendering on reaper has improved, but my desktop windows machine still needs less time to start, Safari sometimes is busy, busy, busy on simple web pages, and changing between apps has no noticeable super power ups.
The battery is incredible, of course, but in terms of raw power, I think voiceover users are somewhat left behind.
To be honest, programming and working on the new Mac for a while, then switching to a good windows machine with nvda feels like: oh my god, what a powerful machine, I almost forget how lightful and responsive can a screen reader be.

Submitted by John Hope on Tuesday, October 19, 2021

My use case is primarily browsing, email, and text editing, so I can't meaningfully answer your question. However, I have to say that for my very undemanding use case, the switch from a 2015 i5 MBP to an M1 MacBook Air was incredibly disappointing in terms of VoiceOver performance.

Perhaps I was unrealistic, but I truly expected “busy, busy, busy” to be a thing of the past. I would say that it's somewhat improved... probably going away quicker. But, it's still too prevalent than I would expect considering the performance claims of the M1 chip.

I have to agree with the previous poster in wondering if Apple has failed to tuned VoiceOver to take advantage of the extra power under the hood.

The M1 Pro and M1 Max are clearly a big step up from the M1, but so is your use case compared to mine.

Maybe a reminder of Apple's no questions 14 day money back policy is in order here ☺️

Submitted by Dennis Westphal on Tuesday, October 19, 2021

VoiceOver is a little bit faster but you still have the feeling that NVDA for example is so much more responsive that I personally coldn't justify spending money on a Mac.

That leaves me with a 2015 Macbook Air in base configuration which is way too slow to do anything with it and Windows machines that are four years old that outperform the Macbooks in every category accept for the battery and the speakers.

I have bought three Macbook Airs with M1 and did give them back cause there were too much lag compared to my Windows machines with NVDA. Sad because I would relally love to use Macs and have them as performant as say the iPhone or iPad.

It seems like there needs to be a complete overhaul of VoiceOver on the Mac which I don't see Apple undertaking any time soon.

Submitted by PaulMartz on Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

I believe the Safari busy busy busy problem is related to the current Safari v15 and exists independent of processor. It has been discussed in a couple other forum threads. Here's one.

Submitted by Piotr Machacz on Tuesday, October 19, 2021

I came to M1 from using a late 2013 Pro with an I7 that I used extensively for 5 years, which later I gave to a relative around Catalina's release because I did more work on Windows and the web which VoiceOver wasn't very good at. Not going into more broad details where Mac OS has advantages over Windows, I now come away very happy with my M1 air which has mostly became my primary machine.

Is VO perfect? No, and there are occasional moments where Windows screen readers still have advantages on some websites. At the same time, I found that now it works much faster and more consistently than it used to. The massive Safari busy spikes people have mentioned are indeed a recent thing that was introduced last month that effect all Macs that got Safari 15, and fortunately Apple has started addressing this in Safari 15.1 and Monterey betas.

For audio, I've used Reaper+OSARA extensively with a range of plugins, both intel and M1 optimized, and everything always felt snappy and responsive - I can actually load more resource intensive plugins on this Mac than on my I7-6700 Windows desktop.

Full disclosure, I don't need to use many office applications for detailed word processing or spreadsheets, or business oriented communications like teams or Slack so I haven't tested any of these. I have used some other large electron apps though, like VSCode or Discord, the latter of which is still running under Rosetta. All of these have been running great.

Something else worth talking about I think is also future prospects for these machines which is partly why I got back into the Mac. Mac VoiceOver is behind iOS VoiceOver now in many ways, but we're starting to see Apple sharing more and more code between the 2 platforms, and we've seen what the neural engine can do for accessibility with features like screen recognition. I wouldn't be surprised if a year or two from now we're going to start seeing features like this on the Mac, which would be huge for accessibility.

Submitted by Holger Fiallo on Wednesday, October 20, 2021

All nice CPU and whatever makes the mac work wells would not make a difference if Voiceover does not work well with OS. Also with the apps that suppose to make the experience great. The key here is VO.

Submitted by Oliver Kennett on Wednesday, October 20, 2021

As others have said, it's just VoiceOver not being very good. I don't see that changing even with something punchy under the bonnet. NVDA shows that screen readers can work well with less power too so, it's software, not hardware.

I'd jump ship if I could find a windows machine of good build quality... But mainly I don't want to jump because of this great resource of Apple VIS of which there is no equilvient, that I'm aware of, for any other OS.

Submitted by Mathieu on Friday, October 22, 2021

Hello,

I used a 2016 MacBook Pro, and switched to an iMac 24 and a MacBook Air.

I am incredibly happy with the performance! I'm French, the Nuance Voices with Intel were incredibly slow, now It's perfect!

With Monteray I find VoiceOver even faster, especially in Messages or Podcast.

I am very amazed to read people who are disappointed with the Mac m1. In my opinion, there is a huge progress related to VoiceOver.

Open Logic Pro natively, and open it with Rosetta, and we find the same bugs and slowness as on a Mac Intel. For me, VoiceOver has been improved and will be improved again on m1 Macs, I no longer recommend buying an Intel Mac.

Submitted by Eric Davis on Friday, October 22, 2021

We have to take the processor and memory together as a unit with the M1. I got 16 gigs of memory and have relatively no complaints. The new MacBook Pro's are crazy with their system configurations. If you have enough money to afford one, go for it have fun! Remember, always get the most memory with a system that everything is integrated on. I don't care if you are running windows or Mac the same statement applies. I know that it may seem expensive to get the most system memory, but you can always attach an external hard drive which are far cheaper than the hard drives which you can spec inside your MacBook. Those are just my few bits of advice: from personal experience. You can tell me I am full of stupid but opinions are like elbows and belly buttons everybody has at least one or two of them.