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Everything you need to know about the Apple M2 chip

As Apple gets ready to release more devices with the M2 chip this week, here is everything you need to know about the processor.
Written by Sabrina Ortiz, Editor
Apple M2
Image: Apple

What is the Apple Silicon M2?

Apple unveiled its M2 chip, the latest generation of its custom silicon chip, in June during the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). The M2 chip is an upgraded version of the M1 chip, which was Apple's first attempt at designing its own ARM-based silicon. The M2 is the latest and most efficient Apple Silicon, with an 18% faster CPU, a 35% faster GPU and a 40% faster neural engine than previous generations, as well as 50% more memory bandwidth.

What Apple devices have an M2 chip?

The M2 chip was originally built for Mac computers and can be currently found in the latest MacBook Air and the 13-inch MacBook Pro. However, it is rumored that this week Apple will be dropping M2-based 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pros, which would expand the chip's usage to more than just Apple computers. We can expect Apple to continue to expand its M2 implementation to more of its devices in the future. 

What is the difference between the M1 and M2?

Apple M2 key features
Image: Apple

Simply put, the M2 chip is a more advanced version of the M1 chip. It is important to note that the difference between the M1 and M2 chip is not as significant as the difference between the Intel chip and the M1 chip, but it is still considerable. 

Compared with the M1, the M2 delivers 18% greater multicore CPU performance, up to two extra GPU cores, 50% increase in memory bandwidth, 25% higher graphics performance at the same power level as M1 and up to 35% higher performance at its max, 25% increase in transistor count, 2.3x faster performance at the same power level, 50% increase in unified memory bandwidth and 40% increase in neural engine operations. 

M1 and M2 chip comparison
Image: Apple

"M2 starts the second generation of M-series chips and goes beyond the remarkable features of M1," said Johny Srouji, Apple's senior vice president of Hardware Technologies.

Also: Apple M1 vs M2: M1 Pro, Max and Ultra are still more powerful -- for now

"With our relentless focus on power-efficient performance, M2 delivers a faster CPU, GPU, and Neural Engine. And along with higher memory bandwidth and new capabilities like ProRes acceleration, M2 continues the tremendous pace of innovation in Apple silicon for the Mac."

Why was the M2 chip built?

In November 2020, Apple unveiled its first ARM-based Silicon, the M1, and moved away from Intel chips previously used on Mac computers. The Apple Silicon-based Macs have an overall much better performance than those with Intel-based chips, including faster performance, better battery life, and heat efficiency. Designing its own chips was a win for Apple, which no longer had to depend on Intel for its chips, and for customers who got a better-performing Mac.

In addition to the M2 and M1, Apple also has the M1 Pro and M1 Max. The M2, unveiled in 2022, was built to house the latest technologies, such as next-generation CPUs, GPUs, Secure Enclave, and Apple's neural engine.

Should you purchase a device with an M2 processor?

Simply put, Apple hardware with an M2 processor will have better performance than devices running on older silicon. So if you want one of the best Apple devices on the market, you should buy one with an M2 processor. However, this increase in performance goes hand in hand with an increase in hardware price. Therefore, ZDNET's recommendation is for you to identify what device performance specs are important for you and which aren't. If you don't necessarily need speed or more memory, or any of the more advanced features that come with the M2 chip, it may make sense for you to save some money and buy a device with the M1 chip. 

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