Apple M1 vs Apple M2: what’s the difference?

At the WWDC 2022 event, Apple finally unveiled its flagship M2 chip after a gap of almost a year and a half. The Apple M2 chip will power the next generation of Apple devices, including the latest MacBook Air and upcoming Macs and iPads. Now if you’re wondering what performance difference Apple M2 brings compared to M1, well, we have compiled all the answers for you. In this article, we compare the Apple M1 chip to the Apple M2 chip to find out the improvements in CPU, GPU, power consumption, and more. On that note, let’s go ahead and compare the latest Apple M2 chip with the previous generation M1 to find out the differences.

Apple M1 vs Apple M2: In-Depth Comparison (2022)

In this article, we thoroughly compared the Apple M1 and M2 chips. We discussed CPU, GPU, Unified Memory and many other details. You can expand the table below and jump to a section of your choice.

Apple M1 vs M2: spec comparison

Here is the specification comparison between Apple M1 and M2 chips. You can take a look at the specs on paper below and check out the new upgrades brought by Apple’s new M2 chip over Apple M1.

Apple M1 Apple M2
Manufacturing process 5nm 2nd Generation 5nm
Transistors 16 billion 20 billion
CPU cores 8 8
GPU cores 7 or 8 8 or 10
Frequency (Max) 3.2GHz Information not yet available
PDT 20 to 24W Information not yet available
neural engine 16 cores; 11 TOPS 16 cores; 15.8 TOPS
Unified memory (RAM) Up to 16 GB Up to 24 GB
Memory bandwidth 68.25 GB/s 100 Gbps
Type of RAM LPDDR4X LPDDR5

Apple M1 versus M2: processor

In our comparison between Apple M1 and M2, let’s talk about the processor first. Apple has announced that it is focusing on energy efficiency rather than striving for higher performance at the expense of battery life. The Apple M2 chip is therefore built on 2nd generation 5nm technology, which is supposed to bring better energy efficiency. The Apple M1 is also developed on 5nm technology, but the 2nd generation process node comes with more refinement and optimization.

Apple M1 versus M2: processor
Apple M2

CPU cores on Apple M1 and M2 remain the same with 8 cores, however, the number of transistors has increased to 20 billion on the M2, compared to the 16 billion transistors of the M1. This is partly due to the larger GPU core (more on that below). The new 8-core processor in the Apple M2 comes with 4 high-performance cores and 4 high-efficiency cores, just like the Apple M1.

The underlying architecture is also similar, it seems. The Apple M2’s high-performance cores were developed on the Ultrawide microarchitecture with a 192 KB instruction cache, 128 KB data cache, and 16 MB shared cache. In comparison, the Apple M1 chip also shares the same cache size, however, the shared cache size is 12MB on the M1 versus 16MB on the M2.

Apple M1 versus M2: processor
Apple M1 vs M2: 18% difference in CPU performance

Moving on to the high-performance cores, both chips are built on the large microarchitecture with a 128 KB instruction cache, 64 KB data cache, and 4 MB shared cache. Basically, the performance cores have no not been overhauled much and the performance cores got a larger shared cache on the Apple M2.

To put these numbers into perspective, the The Apple M2’s processor is 18% faster than the Apple M1’s in the same power envelope. It’s not a breakthrough upgrade, but Apple has maintained the same power consumption and delivered 18% better performance without increasing the 8-core count. I would say the Apple M2 got a decent upgrade over the M1 in terms of CPU.

Apple M1 vs. M2: GPUs

Now talking about the GPU, the Apple M2 comes with a 10-core GPU (8 cores on low-end Macs), while the Apple M1 has 8 GPU cores (on some Macs, 7 GPU cores in M1). Clearly, Apple is ready to deliver better graphics performance with the Apple M2 chip. According to Apple, the M2 chip offers 25% better graphics performance than Apple M1 in the same power envelope. And if you push the Apple M2 GPU to its highest power state it can deliver 35% better performance. At this point, we can say that the GPU of M2 is significantly better than the GPU of M1.

Apple M1 vs. M2: GPUs
Apple M1 vs. M2: GPUs

The Apple M2’s GPU has a larger L2 cache and can deliver up to 3.6 teraflops of performance, while the M1 GPU can only do 2.6 teraflops. The M2 GPU can render up to 55 gigapixels per second compared to the M1 GPU’s 41 gigapixels per second. So yeah, overall the Apple M2 GPU got a substantial upgrade over its older sibling, and we’re excited to test it against the latest Intel/AMD GPUs. (Hint: Apple says it’s still way ahead).

Apple M1 vs M2: unified memory

Besides the CPU and GPU, let’s talk about unified memory on both chips. The Apple M2 chip supports Up to 24 GB unified memory with 100 GB/s bandwidth, which is absolutely brilliant. For comparison, the M1 only supports up to 16 GB of unified memory with 68.25 Gbps bandwidth.

Well, that’s partly because the Apple M2 brings the LPDDR5 memory interface, while the M1 had the old LPDDR4X memory channel. Not to mention that Unified Memory is accessible to the entire chip and was custom designed by Apple.

Apple M1 vs M2: unified memory
Apple M2

Apple M1 versus M2: multimedia engine

Also in the Media Engine department, the Apple M2 has seen some good improvements. It has an updated multimedia engine that adds ProRes support, and it can both encode and decode. Additionally, the new Media Engine supports 8K H.264 and HEVC video, which should result in simultaneous 4K and 8K video streams. There is also 6K external display support, same as Apple M1.

Apple M1 versus M2: multimedia engine
Apple M2

Apple M1 vs M2: Secure Enclave and Neural Engine

There is also the next generation Secure Enclave on the Apple M2 chip to provide an additional layer of security. And the M2’s latest 16-core neural engine can deliver up to 15.8 trillion operations per second (TOPS). The Apple M1 chip also has a 16-core neural engine, but it can only achieve 11 TOPS. Essentially, the updated Neural Engine on the M2 is 40% faster than the Neural Engine on the M1.

Apple M1 vs M2: Secure Enclave and Neural Engine
Apple M2

Apple M1 vs M2 chip: Apple’s new Silicon King

So that completes our comparison between Apple M1 and M2. In my opinion, the Apple M2 is not a revolutionary breakthrough if you compare the chip with its internal rival, the OG Apple M1. It doesn’t imbue the same level of excitement that Apple M1 brought when it was unveiled in 2020. The processor has improved; the GPU, on the other hand, has been noticeably improved. Other parts have also received incremental updates which is great for users.

The basic architecture is largely similar. However, the the silver lining is energy efficiency, as Apple professed at first. With the next-generation M2 chip, you can be sure of unparalleled battery life (up to 18 hours of video playback on the MacBook Air M2) and performance. Anyway, it all comes from us. If you want to compare Apple M1 vs M1 Pro vs M1 Max, follow our linked article. And if you have any questions, let us know in the comments section below.