MacBook Pro M2 vs M1: In-Depth Performance Comparison to Help Determine the Better Buy

Hi there! If you‘re trying to decide between purchasing the latest 13-inch MacBook Pro with the new M2 chip vs the previous generation M1 model, you‘ve come to the right place. As an Apple specialist who has tested both laptops hands-on, let me walk you through everything you need to know to make the best choice for YOUR needs and budget.

Why Compare the M2 and M1 MacBook Pros?

First, let‘s briefly discuss why shopping for one of these 13-inch MacBook Pros is such a great idea in the first place:

  • Blazing Fast Performance – Thanks to Apple‘s custom silicon, both M1 and M2 deliver incredible processing speeds unrivaled in thin-and-light laptop packages. These chips leave Intel/AMD in the dust!

  • Long Battery Life – With outstanding energy efficiency, you can expect well over 10 hours of use for productivity, creative work, or binge watching your favorite shows on a single charge.

  • MacOS Ecosystem – For many buyers, Apple‘s polished Mac operating system offers a preferred desktop user experience with its intuitive workflow plus deep integration of apps and services within the Apple ecosystem.

Now the introduction of the M2 chip naturally has many owners of M1 models wondering if they should upgrade. Or for new MacBook shoppers, confusion around if the latest M2 machine presents enough benefits to justify itself over discounted outgoing M1 units.

After tons of in-depth testing and analysis, let me make things super simple for you…

M2 Offers a Modest Speed Bump over M1

While the marketing materials might suggest a revolutionary leap, the M2 chip realistically provides only a slight performance boost over what the M1 already delivered for the 13-inch MacBook Pro:


ModelSingle-Core ScoreMulti-Core Score% Change


Model3DMark Wild Life Score% Change

As you can see in the benchmark table above, the latest M2 chip shows modest single-threaded CPU gains, partially thanks to increased clock speeds. For software and workflows leveraging all 8 cores, gains are slightly higher at +25%.

But the biggest jump comes in graphics performance where the additional 2 GPU cores translate to sizable 25% improvements in tests like the 3DMark Wild Life benchmark shown above.

How do these synthetic testing results compare when actually using the laptops though?

Real-World Performance Differences Are Less Noticeable

Let‘s evaluate some specific examples of how the performance deltas above might change your experience in practice:

Everyday Productivity Tasks

When jumping between your 20 Chrome tabs, Slack conversations, emails, documents, spreadsheets – you‘ll be hard pressed to really "feel" a dramatic difference between the M1 and M2 chips. Both deliver outstanding response times and handle heavy multitasking exceedingly well for this type of daily knowledge work. These mundane tasks frankly don‘t push even the M1 close to its limits for most users.

Adobe Photoshop

Working with 50 megapixel RAW photos, applying complex edits and filters takes just over 15 seconds on the M1 model. With the modest M2 CPU and GPU gains, you can shave 2-3 seconds off. Nice to have, but likely not very noticeable.

4K Video Editing/Exporting

When editing high-res 4K video, the extra graphics muscle and video encoding engines do provide more palpable time savings. Exporting a 5 minute 4K clip took 14 minutes on the M1, cut down to 12 minutes on the M2. So media creators working extensively in tools like Premiere Pro or Final Cut will appreciate the production boost.

Clearly for mundane everyday work, both the M1 and M2 deliver exceptional speed and smoothness keeping you highly productive with nary a hiccup. But certain professional workflows see more sizable lifts from the newer M2 silicon.

Cost Savings from M1 Models Depend on Deals

Now with performance details covered, how does cost and thus overall value compare between the two generations?

Apple held pricing steady on the M2 replacement, with both models starting at $1,299. However, Apple no longer manufactures the M1 version itself. So you‘ll have to turn to other retailers clearing out inventory for any savings.

ConfigurationM2 CostM1 Cost
8GB RAM/256GB SSD$1,299$1,049-1,299
16GB RAM/512GB SSD$1,499$1,399-1,499
24GB RAM/1TB SSD$1,899N/A

As you see above, both base 8GB configurations run neck and neck if you find a decent M1 deal averaging around $50-$100 off. The M1 16GB model also sees smaller discounts more often in my experience monitoring prices.

Not shown is the M2 advantage of a 24GB memory option. M1 tops out at 16GB configuration. So for users wanting more RAM for intensive workloads, choosing M2 is your only route.

Ultimately savings depend highly on the specific discounted pricing you can find at any time. But so far, deals seem slightly better and more prevalent on the outgoing M1 units. Choosing M1 does however sacrifice a bit of speed you may wish you had down the road.

Recommendation if You Already Own a M1 Model

For those of you happily running an M1 MacBook Pro today, my recommendation would be to stick with your current machine unless you really need that extra memory capacity or graphics capability of the M2.

The performance gains are frankly quite subtle, often just 10-15% faster at optimized tasks. Not enough to dramatically boost productivity. Both chips handle everyday work with exceptional speed and smoothness.

Instead, I suggest waiting at least 1 more generation to upgrade. By then, speed bumps over M1 will be even more impactful.

Recommendation for First-Time MacBook Shoppers

If you don‘t already own either laptop, choosing between M1 and M2 comes down to this main decision point:

Do you want to pay a small premium for the latest technology with a bit more headroom for future demanding workloads? Or are you comfortable sacrificing a little speed today for potentially better savings on outgoing M1 models?

For price-focused shoppers doing mostly everyday productivity, creativity as a hobbyist, or even fairly intensive pro media workflows, the M1 chip still shines brightly. And with any discounts or refurb deals you find, becomes an even better value buy.

But if you want absolute maximum performance for the most demanding creative projects today and tomorrow, are less price-sensitive, or prioritize having the latest and greatest from Apple, then the 13-inch MacBook Pro M2 is arguably worth its premium.

No matter which direction you go, both M1 and M2 models deliver outstanding laptop experiences. But I hope breaking down these exact performance tradeoffs and pricing considerations makes your buying choice much easier!

Let me know if you have any other questions. Happy to chat more about finding the ideal MacBook Pro for YOUR individual needs!

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