Here is everything we know and expect about the M2 family’s high-end chips.
In 2020, Apple began incorporating its desktop processors into its Macs, beginning with the M1 processor’s introduction in the MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro, Mac mini, and 24-inch iMac. Since then, the M1 Max and M1 Pro, which debuted in the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros in October 2021, and the M1 Ultra, which debuted with the new Mac Studio in March 2022, have been released in higher-end models.
Now, Apple has disclosed the specifics of its second-generation silicon. We’ve gathered all the latest information regarding Apple’s M2 system-on-chip, its upcoming variants including the M2 Pro, Max, and Ultra, and the Macs that will be equipped with them.
When will the M2 Pro, M2 Max, and M2 Ultra be made available?
- M2: July 2022
- M2 Pro and M2 Max: November 2022 (expected)
- M2 Ultra and M2 Extreme: 2023 (rumored)
In June and July 2022, the first M2 chips shipped with the MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro, and M2 MacBook Pro.
Predicted M2 Pro, Max, and Ultra chip specifications
Similar to the M1 base model, the M2 is intended for consumers rather than professionals. It emphasizes energy efficiency and general performance improvements over its predecessor. Compare M2 with M1, M1 Pro, M1 Max, and M1 Ultra.
The M2 features an eight-core CPU, a ten-core GPU, and up to 24GB RAM. It has more GPU cores than the M1, which had 8 GPU cores, and more RAM than the M1, which had a maximum of 16GB RAM.
Now that we know what the standard M2 chip offers, we can extrapolate possible specifications for the rest of the M2 series. These predictions are based on the same duplication of M1-series components.
The M1 chips provided the subsequent:
- M1: 8-core CPU, 8-core GPU, up to 16GB RAM
- M1 Pro: up to 10-core CPU, up to 16-core GPU, up to 32GB RAM
- M1 Max: up to 10-core CPU, up to 32-core GPU, up to 96GB RAM
- M1 Ultra: up to 24-core CPU, up to 64-core GPU, up to 64GB RAM
- M1 Extreme (predicted): 48-core CPU and 128-core GPU cores, up to 128GB RAM
Therefore, based on what we know, we can assume the following about the M2 chip family:
- M2: 8-core CPU and 10-core GPU, up to 24GB RAM
- M2 Pro: up to 10-core CPU, up to 20-core GPU, up to 48GB RAM
- M2 Max: up to 10-core CPU, 40-core GPU, up to 96GB RAM
- M2 Ultra: 24-core CPU, 80-core GPU, up to 192GB RAM
- M2 Extreme: 48-core CPU, 160-core GPU cores, up to 384GB RAM
However, we may not see such high specifications as those listed above. Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman predicted in October 2022 that the M2 Ultra’s configuration options will include 24- and 48-core CPUs, 76- and 152-core GPUs, and up to 256GB of memory.
Based on the M2, Apple may not increase the number of CPU cores for the remainder of the M2 series, but this does not necessarily imply that the CPUs in the new chips will be no better than those in the M1 series. Improvements in CPU performance have been observed due to changes in the way chips are manufactured, regardless of the number of CPUs.
The M2 employs second-generation 5-nanometer technology, while the manufacturing process remains at 5nm. The next generation N4P process from TSMC is an improved version of the 5-nanometer process that is expected to deliver approximately 11 percentage points more performance and nearly 22 percentage points more efficiency than the conventional 5-nanometer process (used for the production of A15 and M1, M1 Pro and Max).
Apple’s claims appear to meet these expectations. According to Apple, the M2 has “an 18% faster CPU, a 35% more powerful GPU, and a 40% faster Neural Engine,” which corresponds to our benchmarks. There is also 50% more memory bandwidth compared to M1, as well as up to 24GB of fast unified memory, which contributes to improved overall performance.
According to reports, Apple is moving to a 3nm process, which could mean even more powerful variants of the M2 series due to increased transistor density. However, according to Digitimes, this advancement may not occur until the M3 series is released, as TSMC, which manufactures the chip for Apple, was forced to postpone its 3nm plans due to process complexities in December 2021. It should be noted that Apple moved to a 4nm process for the A16 in the iPhone 14, so the M2 chips could use the same.
Based on our testing, we can demonstrate the M2’s advancements over the M1, as detailed below.
Even before the M2, we heard that Apple would keep the same 8 CPU cores as the M1 with the M2, and this is correct; however, the improvements offered by the M2 should mean that the new Macs are significantly more powerful and energy efficient than the predecessor.
The previously mentioned N4P process allows for higher transistor density, which may allow individual cores to be clocked slightly faster than in the M1. There are 25% more transistors than in the M1, allowing for memory controller and memory bandwidth improvements.
The M2 CPU cores, like the M1, are divided into high-performance and high-efficiency variants. According to Apple, the faster performance cores are paired with a larger cache, while the efficiency cores see even greater performance gains.
“Compared to the latest 10-core PC laptop chip, the CPU in M2 provides nearly twice the performance at the same power level,” Apple claims.
When compared to PCs with more CPU cores, the M2 delivers nearly the same performance while consuming a fraction of the power. “M2 provides nearly 90% of the peak performance of the 12-core chip while using one-fourth the power,” according to Apple.
In our tests of the M2 MacBook Pro, we found that the multi-core result was still lower than the M1 Pro, but it beat the M1 Pro in single-core.
Apple also increased the performance of the graphics card to ten graphics cores, two more than the current M1. This was expected.
Because of the larger cache and higher memory bandwidth, Apple claims the 10-core GPU provides “up to 25% higher graphics performance than M1 at the same power level.” Apple claims that at full power, this is 35% better.
Apple also claims that the GPU outperforms the latest integrated graphics by 2.3 times (while using a fifth of the power).
The M2 outperforms the M1 due to the additional GPU cores, 10-cores rather than the M1’s 8-core limit, but it still falls short of the M1 Pro’s 14-cores. None of this should come as a surprise.
The M2 has more RAM than the M1; the M1 has a maximum RAM capacity of 16GB, whereas the M2 has a maximum RAM capacity of 24 GB. As a result, the M2 Pro, Max, and Ultra are expected to support more RAM, up from 32GB, 64GB, and 128GB in the M1 series.
Furthermore, the M2’s memory controller provides 100GB/s of unified memory bandwidth, which is 50% greater than the M1.
Battery life of the M2
Apple’s claims about power efficiency may lead you to expect longer battery life, but the M2-powered MacBooks still have an 18-hour battery life.
Which Apple devices will be equipped with the M2 processor?
The M2 has already been added to the MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro. We anticipate that the Mac mini will receive a similar update in October. In addition, the iPad Pro is expected to receive an M2 update.
Which Macs will be equipped with the M2 Pro and Max processors?
The M2 Pro and Max are expected to be added to the following Macs:
- MacBook Pro 14- and 16-inch Mac mini
- Apple still sells an Intel version of the higher-end Mac mini, so that model is expected to get an M2 processor update this fall. Furthermore, the higher-end MacBook Pro machines will almost certainly get a spec bump at the same time.
In our Mac processor guide, we compare Apple’s M1 and M2 processors to Intel.
Which Macs will be equipped with the M2 Ultra and Extreme processors?
A new Mac Studio with the M2 Max and M2 Ultra is expected in 2023, but a new Mac Pro with the M2 extreme processor is also possible. We don’t know when this announcement will be made, but Apple teased it at the Peek Performance event in March.
And the M3…
With the M2 arriving about a year and a half after the M1, we can expect the M3 chips to be available in late 2023. That processor, like the A-series iPhone chips, is expected to provide a larger performance boost due to architectural changes and the transition to a new 3nm process.
If the 3nm process is not used for the yet-to-be-released M2 chips, the M3 is almost certain to arrive.
According to Digitimes, the first 3nm processor-based products will be released in the first quarter of 2023, with production beginning at the end of 2022. Qualcomm, Samsung, and Intel have all announced plans to use the 3nm process. According to The Information, Apple’s M3 chips are codenamed Ibiza, Lobos, and Palma.