why Apple’s latest chip isn’t the best

The Apple M2, presented at WWDC 2022, represents the second generation of Apple Silicon chips for Macs and iPads. However, it is not necessarily the best Apple chip at the moment.

The Apple M2 is finally here, or almost. Unveiled at WWDC 2022, this new SoC will make its grand debut on June 24 with the 13-inch MacBook Pro. It will also equip the new MacBook Air in July, bringing great improvements over the M1. The Cupertino company promises a processor (CPU) up to 18% faster and graphics performance (GPU) up to 35%. The memory system is also evolving to configure the M2 with up to 24 GB of RAM and 2 TB of storage. Finally, there is an increase in memory bandwidth, improvements for the multimedia part and a new-generation neural engine (40% more performance than the M1).

Logically, the M2 chip is superior to the M1 and this raises a question when choosing. Is it still worth going for a Mac with an M1 Pro, 1 Max or M1 Ultra? As our colleagues at Macworld explain, just because the second generation of Silicon SoCs is coming to an end doesn’t mean the first generation is coming to an end. Indeed, Apple seems to want to play the continuity card with the M2 and it is still relevant to opt for a variant of the M1. This is why.

The Apple M2 only succeeds the M1

Apple impressed when announcing its M1 chip and knew it was expected to unveil the M2. Inevitably, the surprise effect is no longer so strong and there is not really a “revolution” before the arrival of these second generation Silicon SoCs. The Cupertino company does not need it and masters the subject, giving it the opportunity to refine the subject and keep the competition under pressure.

© Apple

In terms of performance, the M2 is comparable to its predecessor called M2 rather than the multiple variants of the first generation. More recent and efficient, the latter have not yet left their place and are higher in the hierarchy of the American giant. Even without a benchmark, the M1 variants widen the gap on paper and confirm their targeting of more powerful machines.

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M2 vs M1 Pro

For example, the M1 Pro chip has 10 CPU cores with 8 performance cores and 2 efficiency cores. The new M2 chip has a total of 8 cores, but only 4 performance cores and 4 efficiency cores.

The M1 Pro came with about 60% better CPU performance than the M1 when it was released. Apple now claims the M2’s processor is 18% faster than the M1, and that seems to be confirmed in the benchmarks. The Pro variant should therefore maintain a comfortable edge with multi-core performance that should be about 35% better than that of the M2.

Apple M1 Pro
The features of the Apple M1 Pro. © Screenshot/Apple

The trend is confirmed on the graphics section, with an even more striking difference. Even though the M2’s GPU is 35% faster than the M1’s; the M1 Pro has 16 GPU cores (compared to 10 for the M2) and offers much more memory bandwidth. We can expect the M1 Pro to still be about 40% faster than the M2.

Note that the M2 chip also offers more maximum memory (24 GB) and memory bandwidth (100 GB/sec) than the M1. However, the M1 Pro allows up to 32 GB of memory and 200 GB/sec of memory bandwidth.

As for the improvement in the multimedia engine, the M2 is updated by overtaking the M1 Pro to better keep the “simple” M1 chip at bay.

Finally, it is at the neural motor level where the M2 has a distinct advantage over the M1 Pro. While both chips have a 16-core neural engine, the M1 Pro shares the same neural engine as the M1 (and the A14), capable of 11 trillion operations per second. The M2’s next-generation 16-core neural engine can handle 15.8 trillion operations, making it over 40% faster.

M2 vs M1 Max

The M1 Pro chip is still more powerful than the M2 in most situations. You guessed it, this will also be the case with the SoC M1 Max which is even more efficient. The latter uses the same CPU architecture as the M1 Pro and we can expect performance to be about 35% faster than the M2.

Apple M1 Max
The features of the Apple M1 Max. © Screenshot/Apple

The gap should widen in other areas, thanks to a GPU with up to 32 cores, twice the RAM and a bandwidth of 400 GB/s (twice as much as the M1 Pro). Expect GPU performance about 2.5 times that of the M2; without forgetting the presence of two media engines dedicated to encryption and decryption.

As with the M1 Pro, the M2 once again stands out thanks to its next-generation neural engine.

M2 vs M1 Ultra

The last “opponent” of the first generation is none other than the M1 Ultra. In a nutshell, it’s actually two M1 Max chips ‘sewn’ together to form a single chip. The M2 and the M1 Ultra do not evolve in the same category and the name of the chips should not be trusted. Multiply by 2 what you find in the M1 Max to better understand the power of the M1 Ultra: 20 CPU cores with 16 performance cores and 4 efficiency cores, up to 64 GPU cores and four multimedia encoding and decoding.

Apple M1 and Ultra
© Apple

The Ultra solution promises to be 2.5 times faster than the M1 on the processor part and probably 5 times faster for the graphics part. There is no match between the two and the M1 Ultra even beats the M2 on the motor neural field. This ultimate version of the M1 has two 16-core neural cores; allowing it to claim a performance 40% higher than that of the M2.

Should we wait for the M2 Pro, the M2 Max or the M2 Ultra?

As you will have understood, the M2 chip is an interesting upgrade from the M1 chip. This will allow Apple to refresh its range, but you should not rely solely on the version number when choosing. The variants of the M1 chip are relevant and should even be preferred by users who need a lot of power.

For now, we’re not quite sure what to expect from the M2 Pro, Max and Ultra. It’s likely that Apple will follow the same strategy as the M1, playing on the number of processor and GPU cores, memory bandwidth and multimedia engines; while retaining the same Neural Engine. The only exception remains the future M2 Ultra.

It will probably be necessary to wait at least until the end of 2022 for an M2 Pro and/or an M2 Max to arrive. We may not see these chips until mid-2023; given the market situation and that of Apple. Again, these solutions will arrive in the most expensive laptops in the range. The housing of the M2 Ultra chip has been different since Apple launched its M1 Ultra last March. This powerful monster is currently only available in the Mac Studio, a powerful desktop computer.

As it stands, there is no need to wait for future chips from Apple. The current solutions remain very efficient and the choice on other elements, such as the screen, the design and necessarily your wishes.

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