The M2 processor is exactly what its name implies, the second generation of Apple Silicon for Mac. It replaces the M1 as the entry-level chip and has slightly more performance and GPU cores. The 13-inch MacBook Pro and MacBook Air are the first devices to use the chip.
● Latest Apple Silicon processor
● 18% faster CPU
● Up to 35% faster GPU
● Available in the 13-inch MacBook Pro
● Shipping in the M2 MacBook Air on July 15
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The processor is around 18% faster than the M1 it replaces, has 25% more transistors, and can be configured with up to 10 GPU cores. While it has only been announced for the M2 MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro, Apple is expected to roll the chip out into its other consumer-grade products.
The M1 was announced in 2020 as the first chip that would transition the Mac lineup from Intel to Apple Silicon. Apple then spent the following two years updating each of its products to use the M1, M1 Pro, M1 Max, or M1 Ultra.
It isn't clear how long it will take Apple to move each of its processors to the second generation, nor if there will be new additions to the chip lineup, like a faster top-end processor. Uncertainty in the supply chain and other global problems may mean a slower cycle for Apple's next-generation processor.
The baseline M2 processor
The M2 includes eight processing cores and up to ten GPU cores. The processing cores are split between four high-performance cores and four efficiency cores, like with the M1.
The integrated GPU delivers up to 35% more performance over the previous generation when configured with ten cores. Apple says this translates to 1.3x faster gaming performance.
It also features 100GB/s memory bandwidth, 50% more than M1. Users can also upgrade the RAM from 8GB to up to 24GB.
The Neural Engine is slightly faster despite having the same 16 cores. It can now perform up to 15.8 trillion operations per second compared to the 11 trillion operations in the previous processor.
The CPU is 18% faster thanks to hosting 25% more transistors on a slightly larger chip. Power efficiency remains similar across generations despite the improved capabilities, so battery life is unaffected in upgraded machines.
Apple also included the Media Engine first introduced in the M1 Pro/M1 Max processors. This is a significant advantage for the M2 since pro video and photo workflows will vastly improve on machines with the entry processor.
Benchmarks show that the M2 outperforms the M1 in line with Apple's numbers. The single core score of 1869 for the M2 is a slight bump over the M1's 1707. Graphics, however, show a significant jump from 7395 to 8900.
The M2 doesn't outperform the higher-end M1 Pro, M1 Max, or M1 Ultra, nor is it meant to. This is a replacement for the base chip and has performance characteristics relative to that position.
Also, the M2 still has the single Thunderbolt-connected display limitation. Even on Macs with multiple ports, only one external monitor can be connected at a time.
Anyone upgrading from a Mac with an M1 processor to M2 won't be surprised by the configuration options. The RAM limit has jumped from 16GB to 24GB, but otherwise, everything else is the same.
Apple is bringing MagSafe to new M2 computers like the M2 MacBook Air, so the two Thunderbolt port limitation is less of an issue. Now users can provide power to their MacBook without taking up a vital Thunderbolt port.
So far, all M2 Macs have an 8-core CPU with the option of an 8-core or 10-core GPU, depending on the model. For example, only the 10-core GPU option is available for the 13-inch MacBook Pro.
Customers can choose between 8GB, 16GB, or 24GB of RAM and up to 2TB of storage.
Computers with M2 processors
- 13-inch MacBook Pro
- M2 MacBook Air
M2 Pro and beyond
The M2 is expected to see a similar upgrade path to the M1. Ultimately, Apple is expected to announce an M2 Pro, M2 Max, and M2 Ultra.
Apple promised the transition to Apple Silicon would take about two years, and every Mac has moved to Apple's in-house processor with one exception — the Mac Pro. While it seemed Apple would complete the transition with an M1-based processor in its high-end Mac, that may not be the case.
Now, rumors point to a future M2 processor even more powerful than the M1 Ultra. It could be a chip with 20 or 40 CPU cores, and graphics options with either 64 or 128 cores.
Given the gains of the M2 over M1, the second-generation processor line is expected to be a worthwhile upgrade over the first. However, ongoing supply chain issues and global economic pressure mean an uncertain release schedule for the new processors.