Apple Silicon M1 and M2 Processors, Tested and Compared
M2 Max against M1 Max M2 Pro against M1 Pro Which chip of Apple's second series of custom-built processors is the best? To provide some preliminary insight, we evaluate and dissect the M1 and M2 options found in the MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, Mac Studio, and Mac mini.
Apple Silicon M1 and M2 Processors OR M2 Pro and M2 Max Apple silicon CPUs, found in the most recent Macs, offer more power, greater graphics processing, and better energy efficiency than the M2 model.
Of course, the M1 processor family was the first to be introduced in 2020, and M1 chips are still found in some of Apple’s top systems. However, the second-generation Mac CPUs began shipping in the summer of 2022, the same month that the MacBook Pro 14-inch and MacBook Air were given the first M2 processor.
Apple introduced two new M2 line models in early 2023, the M2 Pro and M2 Max, upgrading the top-tier M1 processors with second-generation versions. But that brings up certain issues, such as “What’s the difference?” and “Should I upgrade?”
All of these processor-equipped devices have been examined, and we gave them every benchmark and real-world test we could think of.
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It’s time to carefully assess whether you should buy a new Mac in light of the advances Apple’s new processing hardware delivers. But first, some context.
Table of Contents
Apple Silicon: A Brief History
The first system on a chip (SoC) created internally by Apple, the Apple A4, debuted in 2010 and was used in the original iPad and the iPhone 4. This is where the tale of Apple silicon (in a broader, big-picture sense, with a small “s”) begins. It utilised a single-core ARM CPU and was Apple’s first contemporary chip design.
It was the first of many chips that would be found in the Apple TV streaming devices as well as the iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, and other devices. Since then, newer models have gotten faster, had more cores added, and have integrated graphics capabilities that eventually compete with laptop and desktop rivals.
The ability for Apple to leave Intel, which had been supplying processors for Apple’s Mac devices since way back in 2006, eventually became apparent.
Apple said in 2020 that it would stop using Intel processors and switch the whole Mac family to its own CPUs, beginning with the M1 processor.
Apple Silicon, Generation One: The M1, M1 Pro, M1 Max, and M1 Ultra
The M1 processor was introduced in 2020, and Apple immediately improved upon it. When we first observed the M1 in the Apple MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and Mac mini, as well as once again when it appeared in the new colourful iMac, we were quite impressed.
The M1 Pro and M1 Max followed, which improved upon the M1 design by adding more processor cores and GPU cores. Finally, Apple unveiled the top model in the M1 family, the M1 Ultra, with the release of the Mac Studio(Opens in a new window) desktop in 2022.
This powerful chip essentially quadrupled the power of the M1 Max by putting two M1-Max-level circuits onto a single die.
The four M1 chips were eventually made available throughout the full range of Mac devices, with the notable exception of the Mac Pro.
It’s unclear whether Apple’s professional desktop, the last Mac to use Intel processors, will get an upgrade with Apple’s own processors or if the Pro series will be discreetly discontinued and replaced with tiny desktops.
as the Mac Studio, which may offer some of the workstation features that the Mac Pro was best known for (but not all of them).
Apple Silicon, Generation Two: The M2, M2 Pro, and M2 Max (So Far)
The introduction of the M2 chip coincided with the announcement of the first second-generation Apple Silicon model in June of 2022. The M2 SoC features a faster CPU, a more potent GPU, and better memory bandwidth using an improved version of the 5-nanometer manufacturing process used on the M1 devices.
The updated Apple MacBook Air debuted shortly after the 13-inch MacBook Pro, which was the first device to use Apple’s M2. But in an unexpected turn, Apple has still offering the MacBook Air with an M1 processor as the entry-level model.
The M2 Pro and M2 Max processors, which update the M1 Pro and M1 Max with more CPU cores, GPU cores, and transistors crammed onto the silicon in billions, have now been unveiled by Apple.
Apple’s Media Engine, which was previously exclusive to the M1 Pro and Max chips, is now available on the entry-level M2 model as well, improving the potential for video and media production even on Apple’s most affordable models.
The M1 Ultra is the only chip that hasn’t yet received an M2 version, but with the release of the M2 Max, it seems like a small step to double up on it to create an M2 Ultra. The speculation is legitimate, but Apple hasn’t yet made any such announcements.
But along with the M2, M2 Pro, and M2 Max came a fresh set of Macs, ranging from the Mac mini to the MacBook Pro. The items we’ve reviewed that make use of second-generation Apple Silicon are listed below.
Testing the Apple M1 vs. M2 Families: Benchmark Scores Compared
The systems we’ve tested that Apple Silicon M1 and M2 Processors models are already listed, and we’ve seen a lot. However, there will be some overall variation amongst them with such a variety of models—some desktops, some laptops, with different amounts of memory and storage. In a perfect world, we’d have identically constructed models with only the processor varying between them, allowing us to conduct unbiased comparisons between various CPU types.
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Instead, we are presented with a list of twelve Apple products, each of which has unique configuration issues. Even though it isn’t perfect, it can still be useful in demonstrating the general differences in performance between various CPU models.
Apple laptops and desktops do employ the same CPUs, however the temperature environment varies for each machine.
We’ve actually reduced the amount of goods we’re comparing to 10 in an effort to minimise this variability when we can.
In order to compare Apple’s mid-tier processors, we’re also taking a look at the Apple MacBook Pro 14 (M1 Pro) and Apple Mac mini (2023, M2 Pro). Even though comparing a laptop to a desktop isn’t ideal, we were able to do so with the M1 and M2 Pro models because to the new Apple Silicon-based systems we evaluated in the lab.
Benchmark Tests: M1 vs. M2 Browser Performance
We put every Mac through a series of browser-based benchmark tests (JetStream, Basemark, and WebXPRT) to obtain baseline data about how well each system does the most crucial task of any modern system, web browsing, even though we don’t necessarily quote the figures in our assessments. This enables us to contrast the new MacBooks with other Apple products, such as the iPad.
It’s intriguing to note that the M1 Ultra does not predominate this list, though. The top CPU may have more raw power for operations like producing graphics or performing complex calculations.