MacBook M1 vs M2: How Do These Powerful Chips Compare, And Which Is Better For You?

You may have heard the exciting news – Apple recently unveiled their next-generation MacBook chip, the M2! This new piece of silicon builds on the incredibly impressive M1 chip first introduced in late 2020. But with many users still considering M1 MacBook models, you might be wondering – how exactly does the M2 stack up?

As an Apple silicon expert, let me walk you through everything you need to know about the M1 versus the M2. I‘ll compare them side-by-side on performance, efficiency, pricing, and more to help you determine if upgrading to the M2 is worthwhile. I‘ll also project what the future holds for the M-series chips powering MacBooks.

So read on to get some clarity in your buying decision! This comprehensive guide has you covered on all things M1 and M2.

From Intel to Apple Silicon: The Backstory

To start, let me provide some helpful context. For years, MacBooks relied on Intel processors to power their hardware and software. But in 2020, Apple started their two-year transition to using their own in-house designed chips built on ARM architecture, allowing for better integration between hardware and macOS.

The first generation of these new "Apple Silicon" chips was the M1,released late 2020. It delivered massive improvements over previous Intel MacBook processors – we‘re talking 2-3x jumps in CPU speeds, 5-6x faster integrated graphics, way better power efficiency leading to all-day battery life, and more. The Mac community was thrilled.

The follow-up to the industry-leading M1 chip is the aptly named M2, launched in new 2022 MacBook Air and Pro models. The M2 keeps pushing boundaries, bringing more speed, efficiency gains and new capabilities.

But with the M1 received so well, should you consider saving money by buying discounted M1 Macs still available? Or is the M2‘s performance uplift worth paying extra for? Let‘s explore this debate in detail now…

M1 vs M2 Silicon Specs: A Generational Leap

First, I want to overview the baseline hardware specs and components behind the M1 and M2 chips powering MacBooks:

table comparing M1 and M2 chip specs

There are key differences highlighted here responsible for the performance improvements of the M2 over first-gen Apple silicon. For one, the M2 uses an enhanced second-generation 5-nanometer transistor process allowing for greater power efficiency and space for more cores.

You also get two additional GPU cores in the M2. Plus the unified memory bandwidth is 50% higher, now hitting a blazing 100GB per second. That allows smoother concurrent access to memory for the CPU, GPU and other on-chip engines.

These major architectural upgrades translate into real-world speed, graphics and video editing gains, as we‘ll now explore…

CPU: Faster Clocks and Efficiency For 18% Uplift

The M2 chip sports the same 8-core CPU configuration as the M1, made up of four high-performance Avalanche cores and four high-efficiency Blizzard cores. But clock speeds have improved to reach 3.49 GHz turbo boost, nearly 10% faster than the M1‘s.

Additionally, Apple has enhanced the actual core architecture itself for better per-core performance. Benchmarking shows around a 15-20% gen-on-gen jump in cpu-based tests:

M2 MacBook CPU benchmark
CPU performance gains of M2 MacBook Air over M1 model. Credit: Tom‘s Hardware

So between modestly faster clock rates and architectural optimizations for greater throughput per core, the M2 CPU achieves roughly 18% quicker processing based on Apple‘s numbers.

What does this mean for you? Well you‘ll see workflow tasks like video export, code compilation, 3D rendering and more finish around 15-20% faster. The M2 keeps the same world-class energy efficiency too, meaning no hit to amazing 20+ hour battery life.

I‘ll be honest – an 18% CPU bump is nice, but not necessarily worth upgrading to M2 solely for. However, once you factor in graphics and video gains, the appeal of the M2 grows…

Up to 10-Core GPU Brings Huge Graphics Improvements

While the M1 utilizes an 8-core GPU, the M2 maxes out at a brawny 10-core graphics processor – a 25% increase in resources. For GPU-accelerated tasks, Apple says this translates into over 35% faster graphics performance. That‘s far more impactful than the CPU differences!

The two extra GPU cores empower big improvements to video editing in apps like Final Cut Pro, effects and filters in Photoshop, 3D modeling software, Apple‘s new RealityKit 2 AR capabilities, and even games.

Let‘s visualize some of these major performance gains the M2 GPU enables:

Chart showing over 35% faster Adobe Photoshop applying filters on M2 MacBook Air over M1 model

Over 35% quicker filter effect rendering in Photoshop on M2 MacBook Air. Credit: Apple

The M2 can also drive more external monitors than M1-based Macs, useful for creative pros. And new video encode/decode media engines in the M2 chip make professional video editing buttery smooth.

Clearly when it comes to graphical horsepower, the M2 leaves its predecessor far behind. For visual creative workloads, this is likely the single biggest argument for stepping up to M2.

More Memory Bandwidth and RAM Options

Besides brute force upgrades to processing cores, the M2 chip also sports superior memory capabilities over the M1.

For one, M2 models can configure all the way up to 24GB of superfast unified memory, whereas M1 MacBooks peaked at 16GB RAM. This allows running more intensive creative software.

Additionally, the M2 boasts 50% higher bandwidth at 100GB/s, allowing snappier concurrent memory access for the CPU and GPU. This keeps both sets of cores optimally fed for peak performance.

The expanded memory ceiling and bandwidth does come at a cost when configuring though. Going from 8GB base RAM up to 16GB or 24GB adds $200-$400 to the price. So lighter users may not need to splurge here. But for developers, video editors and creative pros needing lots of memory access, M2 has a clear advantage.

Thermal Design, Power Efficiency, and Battery Life

Now as you know, I love geeking out over efficiency metrics. And the M2 continues strong battery life pedigree from M1 MacBooks thanks to intelligent power management.

The M2 skews power delivery towards maxing performance core speeds when necessary. But during lighter workflows, the efficiency cores sip power for extraordinary battery endurance. M2 systems scale intelligently…

And while the M2 can draw more wattage than M1 under full load, Apple has tuned the thermal design to sustain performance. The fanless M2 MacBook Air shows off this engineering, maintaining speeds despite no active cooling.

So in real world use, expect equivalent or slightly better battery runtimes on the M2, unless you‘re gaming or graphically rendering for hours on end. Light browsing, Office work, streaming video etc. will all enable over 15+ hours of mobile use before needing a charge – still class-leading.

Cost: M2 Chip Means $100-$200 Price Bump

Given its faster speeds and greater capabilities, you might expect the M2 chip to demand a steep price premium. But Apple has kept pricing in check.

Let‘s compare starting prices:

  • M1 MacBook Air – $999
  • M2 MacBook Air – $1,199

So stepping up to the latest M2-powered design costs about 17% more. Once you factor in additional memory upgrades or storage though, you‘re looking at around a $200 price difference for similar-tier specs.

There‘s less discrepancy between M1 vs M2 MacBook Pros at $1,299 a piece. However, the M2 model still demands roughly $100-$150 more for equivalent memory or storage amounts.

Of course that extra cost doesn’t just get you faster speeds. You also benefit from modernized chassis designs and improved displays on the M2 models. Still, Apple has priced things reasonably considering the big performance gains.

Future-Proofing: What Comes After M2?

You might also be wondering…okay, the M2 is faster than M1 today, but what comes next? Does buying into M2 future-proof me any better?

Intel used to be on a yearly upgrade cadence for Mac processors, making your model outdated quickly. Thankfully, Apple Silicon appears on a 2-year roadmap rather than annual release pattern:

  • M1 – Released November 2020
  • M2 – Released June 2022
  • M3 – Estimated Release in 2024

So you can expect the blazing fast M2 chip powering a 2022 MacBook purchase to feel speedy and performant for at least 3-4 years, likely even longer. Software and macOS updates will be optimized to take advantage of M2‘s hardware for ages.

In that sense, yes – jumping to M2 now does buy you more years of future-proofing than buying a capable M1 MacBook today. The M2 is built to power the next generation of software and creative workloads.

Recommendation: Who Should Get M1 vs M2 MacBooks?

Okay, after all that comparing and contrasting…should you upgrade to M2, or save money by purchasing previous gen M1 MacBook models?

Here is my straightforward advice:

Get the latest M2 MacBook if you:

  • Do professional video, 3D or graphical work
  • Need tons of memory and GPU power
  • Want your system to feel fast for 5+ years
  • Like staying on the cutting edge

The M1 MacBook still satisfies if you:

  • Mostly browse, stream, office-task
  • Have moderate computing needs
  • Prefer saving $100-$300+
  • Don‘t require advanced creative software

I recognize everyone‘s needs and budgets differ. But in summarizing everything we covered, the M2 does provide definitive performance, efficiency and future-proofing gains that high-demand users can justify paying extra for.

However, for many everyday tasks, the mature M1 silicon still shines – now at nicely discounted prices too giving great value. Unless you really benefit from the optimizations in the M2 chip, an M1 MacBook likely fulfills your needs at less cost.

Either way, I hope mapping out M1 compared to M2 here gives clarity. Both remain incredibly impressive systems! Let me know if any other questions come up in your buying decision process.

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