Intel Macs Can’t Handle the Best New macOS Monterey Features

It’s all about the silicon

Key Takeaways

  • MacOS Monterey brings many M1-only features to the Mac.
  • Most of these features rely on custom chips in Apple’s hardware. 
  • Many M1-only Monterey features also can be found on iPhone and iPad.
Apple's all new M1 iMac in blue and pink


MacOS Monterey is here with a slew of neat new features—unless you're still using an Intel Mac. 

Last year, Apple's then-new M1 Macs shipped with macOS Big Sur, but there's a solid argument to be made that Monterey is the first version of macOS that exploits Apple's chips. While the update is welcome whichever Mac you're using, you'll only get the coolest new features if you're running an Apple Silicon Mac.

So why has Apple left Intel users out? The short answer is that those machines aren't up to the task. The long answer? Let's see.

"The reason for the unavailability of several Monterey features on Intel-powered MacBooks is simply that Apple has completely shifted to its custom silicon. It is also a prompt for customers to only purchase the latest Apple silicon powered MacBooks," tech enthusiast Nathan Hughes told Lifewire via email. 

FaceTime Portrait Mode 

Most of the M1-only features in macOS Monterey rely on custom Apple Silicon hardware. For instance, FaceTime's new background-blurring portrait mode requires the same Neural Engine that the iPhone and iPad use, and now the Mac uses, to capture and process photos. This special chip can run trillions of operations per second and is essential for quick live-processing of images and video. 

FaceTime in portrait mode on macOS Monterey.


While it's possible that Intel Macs could brute-force their way through some of these tasks, they would be a lot slower, and they would heat up the machine, spin up those fans, and drain your battery in short order. 

Most of the features that Apple "left out" of the Intel versions of Monterey, then, are down to the fact that they don't support them in any practical way. It's like asking why a black and white television set can't be updated to show color movies. 


One area where Apple did adopt the brute-force approach is in Maps. With the initial Monterey betas, Intel Macs could not show the interactive globe view that lets you tour the world with a trackpad swipe. After early complaints, Apple relented and added this feature to Intel models in later builds—although Apple’s feature list for Monterey shows the interactive globe as M1-only. 

Also missing from Maps for Intel Mac users is the new enhanced 3D view of cities, which shows more details for elevation, roads, trees, buildings, and landmarks.

A screenshot of New York City in Apple Maps on an M1 Mac.

Object Capture

Object capture is pretty wild. It lets you use your iPhone's camera to snap images from multiple angles around a single object and then stitches these together into a 3D object. It's kind of like a 3D panorama. You'll need third-party software like PhotoCatch to use it, but the results are impressive. For example, sellers of all kinds could use this to create 3D models of their wares to display in their stores. 

The catch? Object Capture requires an M1 Mac or an Intel Mac with at least 16GB RAM and 4GB VRAM. So you can do it on an Intel Mac, but, says Apple, "Processing time will vary based on object complexity and other factors." [Emphasis added.]

Siri On-Device Speech-to-Text

Monterey has added on-device dictation to the Mac and also lifted the time limit on dictation, so you can speak an entire chapter of your novel and have it transcribed live. Previously you were limited to just a minute of chit-chat before your Mac cut you off. 

This all takes place on the device, which is great for privacy, but also for speed. The speech-to-text transition should happen faster and more reliably. Also new is that your Mac will learn your vocal foibles over time, improving the more you use it. 

An M1 MacBook displaying a model creation software.


Going Forward

As we’ve seen, most of these features rely on hardware that’s exclusive to Apple’s M1 chips, which is why many of them are also available on the iPad and iPhone. If you’re still using a new Intel Mac, this is probably annoying. On the other hand, nobody expects Apple to hold back on exploiting its own custom-designed hardware to do things that old Intel chips cannot. That’s the whole point of custom silicon after all—and Apple surely won’t shed any tears if people buy new M1 Macs to keep up. 

And this is just the first wave. Who knows what kind of crazy stuff the Mac will be able to do in the future, now that Apple is in charge of everything?

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