M2 vs. M1 | Here’s How Much Faster Apple’s New M2 Chip Really Is

These early benchmarks show some definite performance gains over the 2020 M1 chip.
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Although preorders for Apple’s first M2-equipped Mac — the new 13-inch MacBook Pro — only opened this morning, it looks like some folks have already been running benchmarks on the new machine.

The Geekbench 5 results, which have been shared online, give us a good idea of what we can expect from the new M2 chip in terms of real-world performance.

When Apple introduced the M2 chip at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) last week, it spent a great deal of time talking about specs like lower power consumption, an improved Neural Engine, and double the memory bandwidth. However, Apple did have much to say about how it directly compared to the M1 in performance; the company understandably preferred to focus on comparing it to its PC competitors instead.

After all, the M1 chip isn’t even two years old yet, and although Apple has a new 13-inch MacBook Pro on deck now and an entirely revamped M2 MacBook Air lineup coming next month, most folks with an M1 MacBook aren’t likely going to be ready to upgrade. There’s also still an M1 Mac mini being sold as the most current model. The last thing Apple wants to do is make its M1 chip seem like a second-class citizen.

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M2 vs. M1

Nevertheless, these early benchmarks show some definite performance gains over the 2020 M1 chip — especially when it comes to graphics performance.

That’s not surprising, as even though the M2 only packs in eight CPU cores, it now offers a 10-core GPU — that’s two more cores than the M1. Of course, all the CPU and GPU cores are faster and more efficient now, so each core in the M2 performs better than those same cores in the M1.

A set of Geekbench 5 results that are making the rounds show what looks like a 13-inch MacBook Pro with an M2 chip being tested on June 15. The system in question also has 16GB of memory, which is now a midrange configuration for the M2 chip, which comes in 8GB, 16GB, and 24GB configurations.

While Apple did mention in passing that the M2 should be about 18 percent faster across the board, the benchmarks show this isn’t entirely true when it comes to single-core CPU performance.

1. Single-core: 1,919 on M2 vs 1,707 on M1 — a 12% increase

2. Multi-core: 8,928 on M2 vs 7,419 on M1 — a 20% increase

3. GPU (Metal): 30,627 on M2 vs 21,800 on M1 — a 41% increase

However, if you average out the numbers, the M2 fares slightly better than Apple’s estimates, with an increase of 24% over the M2. Averaging like this won’t provide realistic estimates since many factors determine how the CPU and GPU cores get used for various tasks.

What About the M1 Pro?

While the M2 handily beats out its immediate predecessor, it still doesn’t hold a candle to Apple’s higher-end M1 chips — nor would we expect it to.

Apple’s entry-level M1 Pro has two more CPU cores and six more GPU cores than the M2. It also allows up to 32GB of memory, and even though the M2 offers 46 percent more memory bandwidth than the M1 at 100GB/s, the M1 Pro doubles that with a 256-bit memory interface that allows it to reach memory access speeds of 200GB/s.

Furthermore, Apple says the M2 GPU cores are 35 percent faster than those in the M1, but those ten cores can’t compete with the 60 percent more GPU cores in the M1 Pro.

Putting these leaked M2 benchmarks against an M1 Pro bears this out. Single-core CPU performance increases are naturally the same as for the M1 since all M1 cores are the same — the M1 Pro simply has more of them.

Once you get into multi-core score comparisons, it’s not even a contest. The M1 Pro handily beats out the M2, with an average Geekbench 5 score of around 12,500 — 40 percent faster than the M2. Apple’s M1 Pro chip not only features two additional CPU cores, but it leans more toward high-performance cores.

Similarly, Geekbench Metal results for the M1 Pro average 39,758, a 30 percent gain over the M2 with its 10 GPU cores.

The M1 Max and M1 Ultra naturally leave the M2 even more in the dust. The M2’s 10 GPU cores and 100GB/s memory bandwidth can’t compete with the significantly higher numbers in those chips. The M1 Max offers 32 GPU cores and a 400GB/s memory bandwidth, while the M1 Ultra pushes that to 64 GPU cores and a whopping 800GB/s while doubling the number of CPU cores, too.

Of course, an M2 Pro, M2 Max, and M2 Ultra are surely on the horizon, but if you’re looking for the best performing Mac today, Apple’s higher-end M1 Macs will still run circles around the M2 MacBook Air and MacBook Pro — and that’s as it should be.

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