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MacBook Pro M1 vs. M2: Is It Worth The Upgrade?

The M2 MacBook Pro arrives more than a year and a half after its M1-based predecessor. The new device has the same design as the old one, but there are several significant under-the-hood differences between the two machines that may make it a worthwhile upgrade for some users, but not for many.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro is frequently chosen by those who need active cooling for better-sustained performance, the best compact MacBook battery life, or simply prefer the Touch Bar, with the device offering more than the MacBook Air but at a price well below the high-end MacBook Pro models. Apple highlights at least six key differences between the now-defunct M1 MacBook Pro and the new M2 MacBook Pro:

M1 MacBook Pro

  • ‌M1‌ chip with 8-core GPU
  • 8GB and 16GB unified memory configurations
  • 68.25GB/s memory bandwidth
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • 61W USB‑C Power Adapter

M2 MacBook Pro

  • ‌M2‌ chip with 10-core GPU and dedicated media engine
  • 8GB, 16GB, and 24GB unified memory configurations
  • 100GB/s memory bandwidth
  • 3.5mm headphone jack with support for high-impedance headphones
  • 67W USB‑C Power Adapter
  • Made with more recycled materials

M1 vs. M2

The primary distinction between the current and previous generations of 13-inch MacBook Pros is the Apple silicon chip. The M1 chip, which will be released in November 2020, is based on Apple’s A14 Bionic chip. The M2, on the other hand, appears to be based on the A15 Bionic chip. While both chips have an eight-core CPU with four performance cores and four efficiency cores, the M2’s cores provide moderate performance and efficiency gains. The M2 also includes two more GPU cores.

When working with RAW images in apps like Affinity Photo or playing graphics-intensive games like “Baldur’s Gate 3,” the 13-inch MacBook Pro is nearly 40% faster than the previous generation, according to Apple.

The M2 includes a media engine, similar to the M1 Pro, for hardware-accelerated H.264, HEVC, ProRes, and ProRes RAW video encoding and decoding. There is no dedicated media engine on the M1 chip.

According to Apple, this significantly accelerates video workflows on the latest MacBook Pro, allowing users to play back up to 11 streams of 4K and two streams of 8K ProRes video. Converting video projects to ProRes is nearly three times faster than before.

Unified memory

Both the M1 and M2 can be configured with 8GB or 16GB of unified memory, but the M2 also has a top-tier memory option of 24GB. As a result, multitasking and memory-intensive workflows, such as working with large assets, benefit from the M2 chip. Furthermore, the M2 has a memory bandwidth of 100GB/s, compared to 68.25GB/s for the M1, implying that the latest MacBook Pro can access more memory faster.

High-Impedance Headphone Support

The 13-inch MacBook Pro retains superior speakers and microphones to the MacBook Air, with high dynamic range and “studio quality.” The M2 MacBook Pro improves on the device’s audio credentials by supporting high-impedance headphones, similar to the high-end 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros, which could be a significant upgrade for some audio professionals.

Power Adapter

The M2 MacBook Pro comes with a 67W power adapter, which is slightly faster than the previous model’s 61W power adapter.

Environmental Enhancements

The previous 13-inch MacBook Pro was free of numerous harmful substances, met Apple’s energy efficiency standards, and used wood fiber in the packaging from recycled sources or responsibly managed forests, but the M2 MacBook Pro reduces the device’s environmental impact even further by using 100% recycled rare earth elements in the enclosure magnets and 100% recycled tin in the main logic board solder.

Last Thoughts

The M2 MacBook Pro offers minor improvements over the previous-generation model, with the majority of the device remaining unchanged. Specific video and audio workflows, as well as anyone who requires more than 16GB of memory or greater memory bandwidth, will benefit from the 13-inch MacBook Pro’s improvements, but everyday users are unlikely to notice significant differences.

Given that it has only been 18 months since Apple released the M1 MacBook Pro and that the M1 chip is still available in the iPad Air, iPad Pro, Mac mini, and iMac, the M2 MacBook Pro is unlikely to be worth it coming directly from the previous model, and future-proofing is unlikely to be an important factor at this point. Most 13-inch MacBook Pro owners may prefer to wait longer between upgrades for more significant improvements.

Rather than 2020’s M1 model, the M2 MacBook Pro is better suited to buyers upgrading from an older machine. The device’s series of minor improvements, spearheaded by the M2 chip, offer a good overall package for these buyers, ensuring that they get a slightly more modern and capable machine.

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