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Apple M2 Vs. M1: All the differences, explained

During the WWDC 2022 event, Apple announced a future MacBook Air equipped with a new generation M2 chip. This is the second iteration of Apple’s own silicon, previously seen in many products under the names M1, M1 Pro, M1 Max and M1 Ultra.

Although the M2 announced during WWDC 2022 is not exactly the full-fledged version we will see in 2023, it still introduces a new generation of Apple silicon. How does M2 compare to M1? We will go over all the differences below.

Price and availability

Apple M2 logo.

So far, the M2 chip will make its debut in the 2022 version of the MacBook Air M2 lightweight, as well as a new 13-inch MacBook Pro. It is said that both laptops will be available starting in July 2022, each with its own set of specifications and prices.

When it comes to the MacBook Air, you’ll still be able to buy the M1 version of the laptop, which is only slightly cheaper. The MacBook Air M1 will now start at $ 999, while its updated version of the M2 will increase the price to $ 1,199 and more. The top model of the M2 Air is priced at $ 1,499 and brings improved storage, among other things.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro marks a return for the family, and both 13-inch models will come with an M2 chip. You will have to pay $ 1,299 for the basic version or $ 1,499 for the updated version. Pre-orders are now open on Apple’s official website.

Apple keeps the M1 MacBook at a cheaper price, but we don’t know yet if they will do the same for other M1 products. It’s safe to say that charging the MacBook Air M2 has more to do with the redesigned chassis and the new screen, and less to do with the chip upgrade.

The M1 chip can be found in a wide variety of Apple products, especially the Mac Mini. Of course, it has been extended to more powerful products. They also have a MacBook Pro, but these are the 14-inch and 16-inch versions and are equipped with the M1 Pro or M1 Max, priced between $ 1,999 and $ 3,499.

The best version of the M1, the M1 Ultra, can be found inside the $ 4,999 Mac Studio. M2 versions of these more powerful chips are unlikely to be released until 2023.

Specifications

MacBook Air M2 sitting on a desk.

Before Apple ever unveiled the M2, it already had a wide range of M1 chips of its own. Once the company decided to move away from Intel silicon, it continued to expand the M1 family step by step, first revealing the M1 itself, then the M1 Pro and M1 Max, and finally the M1 Ultra. Each has found its way into a different Apple product, and each has its own performance capabilities.

Comparing M2 with basic M1 does not make much difference, at least not on the surface. Both M1 and M2 have eight cores, but according to Apple, M2 has the advantage - the cores were made using Apple’s next-generation architecture. This is expected to increase performance by up to 18% compared to the base M1, according to Apple.

The M2 chip has many similarities with its older brother and if you look under the hood. Made on a refined 5 nm process node, it is manufactured in a manner almost identical to M1. Apple is saving major upgrades and changes for 2023 or later, and in the meantime, we have this mid-version of M2 to hold us back.

Apple’s M2 chip will come with up to 24 GB of LPDDR5 memory, up to 25% more transistors than M1, adding up to 20 billion and 10 graphics cores - two more than M1. The additional graphics cores are likely to be where we see the biggest improvement in performance, in addition to the inclusion of the same media engine that was included in the M1 Pro and M1 Max.

All in all, Apple promises that the processor will be up to 18% faster, and the GPU will see even higher gains - up to 35%. Apple also sees a 50% increase in memory bandwidth between M1 and M2.

The comparison of M2 with M1 Ultra is unfair and not really worth analyzing. No doubt Apple will release improved versions of the chip as time goes on, and we’ll be able to make a reliable comparison when that happens. For now, M2 will certainly be the winner in a “M1 versus M2” battle, but the numbers may not be as high as we might see in the future.

Ports

A top view of the MacBook Air M2 showing the MagSafe keyboard and charger.

In its basic form, the M1 chip did not have much to offer in terms of ports. M2 seems to be improving in this regard. Let’s make a comparison between the M1 MacBook Air and the new M2 version that will be released in July.

The M1 MacBook Air comes with two Thunderbolt / USB 4 ports that support charging, connecting an external monitor via DisplayPort, Thunderbolt 3 connections, and finally USB 4 and 3.1 connections. The laptop also came with a 3.5mm headphone jack.

The updated M2 still has only two Thunderbolt / USB 4 ports to offer, but it brings back an old Apple favorite - MagSafe 3. Strangely, the 13-inch MacBook Pro sticks to just two Thunderbolt / USB 4 ports and doesn’t support MagSafe 3 .

M2 is better, but this is just the beginning

Apple M2 Features Overview

Going by pure numbers only, it looks like the M2 chip will be better than the base M1. That shouldn’t come as a surprise. Although both chips are built on an almost identical architecture and have the same number of cores, M2 introduces some modifications. We get two more GPU cores, a larger number of transistors, despite maintaining the same size and various adjustments that, according to Apple, should bring an increase of almost 20% in performance.

However, as we noted in our initial chip coverage, the M2 we receive in 2022 is an improvement, but don’t expect a huge leap forward. It certainly marks an upgrade of the M1, but it will not have the same revolutionary effect that the original M1 had. For example, this is not a leap compared to the M1 with the M1 Ultra - it is just a small step on a road that will continue for many months to come.

It’s too early to tell where exactly Apple might take M2. The jump from M1 to M2 may remain a little less impressive, even as improved versions of the chip begin to appear over time, such as the M2 Pro or M2 Max. The real generational leap may not take place until (rumor) M3 finally appears.

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