Apple's M2 and M1 chips have revolutionized Mac architecture, bringing unprecedented power to macOS devices. Exceptional performance, ML (Machine Learning) capabilities, incredible efficiency, industry-leading security, and enhanced graphics are only the tip of the iceberg, marking a dramatic shift from Intel processors.

The question is, what is the difference between M1 and M2 chips? How can you choose between these impressive processors?

Join us in this ultimate M2 vs. M1 showdown as we compare the specs of Apple's bespoke silicon to determine if the M2 chip is worth the hype.

In this article

About the M1 Chip

Apple introduced the M1 chip in November 2020, ushering in a new era of custom, Mac-optimized processors. The first in-house Mac silicon brought peak performance, supercharged efficiency, and extended battery life, the most significant improvements over its Intel predecessors.

It wasn't long before the M1 gained three higher-powered siblings, M1 Pro, M1 Max, and M1 Ultra, each more ground-breaking than the last. The M1 family reimagined Mac computers, but Apple didn't stop there. The M lineup kept evolving, paving the way for a second generation of custom Apple silicon.

apple m1 chip specs

The Excitement Around the M2 Chip

When rumors about the new M2 chip began circling, hardly anyone could contain the excitement. The M1 had set the bar high. What could its successor bring? As it turned out, quite a bit.

Apple unveiled the M2 chip in June 2022, marking the evolution of the trailblazing M1 processor. Faster performance, more memory bandwidth, accelerated ML capabilities, and more power efficiency are only some improvements the M2 brought to Mac devices.

The game-changing M2 chip heralded the arrival of M2 Pro, M2 Max, and M2 Ultra, unleashing never-before-seen power to Mac computers (at least until the Apple M3 chip debuted, but that's a story for another time).

However, all this talk about unparalleled performance doesn't mean much until you dive into the specs. Check out the M1 and M2 chip differences below to understand the hype.

apple m2 chip specs

M2 vs. M1: Architecture Differences

Apple's shift from Intel's x86 architecture to ARM-based (Advanced RISC Machines) SoCs (Systems on a Chip) means a balance between performance and power. Intel processors may support more complex instructions, but Apple silicon's RISC (Reduced Instruction Set Computer) microprocessor architecture saves energy without compromising performance.

The M1 chip uses TSMC's first-generation five-nanometer fabrication process (N5) for higher speed and power. It has an architecture of 16 billion transistors.

The M2 uses the second-generation five-nanometer fabrication process (N5P), sporting 20 billion transistors. This 25% increase plays a massive part in the chip's efficiency and performance enhancements, primarily because it makes room for more GPU cores.

m1 and m2 chip architecture

M2 vs. M1: CPU and GPU Differences

Performance is the most significant difference between M1 and M2 chips. As you may have guessed, the second-generation Apple silicon outperforms the first.

The M1 chip has an 8-core CPU configuration, including four Firestorm performance and four Icestorm efficiency cores.

The M2 also has an 8-core CPU configuration (four Avalanche performance cores and four Blizzard efficiency cores). However, its CPU is 18% faster because the performance cores have 16 MB of L2 cache, as opposed to M1's 12 MB. The L2 cache capacity of efficiency cores is 4 MB on both chips.

m2 vs. m1 cpu performance

This improved octa-core CPU means longer battery life without sacrificing performance. For instance, a single charge of a 13-inch MacBook Pro 2022 with the M2 chip will hook you up with up to 20 hours of video playback.

As for the GPU configuration, the M1 chip maxes out at eight cores, rendering 41 gigapixels per second and delivering 2.6 teraflops of throughput. That provides incredible graphics performance, but the M2 supports more GPU cores.

With up to 10-core GPU, the M2 renders 55 gigapixels per second and delivers 3.6 teraflops of throughput, boasting a 35% faster graphics performance.

m2 vs. m1 gpu performance

You may not notice the improvement in everyday tasks, but graphics-intensive processes like 3D rendering and video editing become dramatically faster with the M2.

Better graphics processing means higher resolutions, faster response times, smoother frame rates, and enhanced visual effects in games, movies, and other media. You can also enjoy video calls with reduced noise and sharper graphics because of an improved image signal processor (ISP).

M2 vs. M1: Neural Engine Upgrades

Apple's M2 and M1 chips have a 16-core Neural Engine to offload AI and ML tasks from the CPU and GPU. For instance, it handles NLP (Natural Language Processing), AR features, image processing, and real-time voice recognition.

The M1 chip's Neural Engine can process 11 trillion operations per second (TOPS), which is undeniably impressive. However, the M2's upgraded Neural Engine raises that number to 15.8 TOPS, making it 40% faster and further supercharging AI and ML capabilities.

m2 and m1 neural engine

M2 vs. M1: Media Engine

Another significant difference between M1 and M2 chips lies in the media engine. The inaugural M1 can encode and decode videos in the H.264 and HEVC format, but it maxes out at 4K resolution.

Its younger sibling's video encoder supports more bandwidth, enabling users to play 8K videos in the H.264 and HEVC format. Moreover, the M2's media engine features ProRes and ProRes RAW accelerators, letting you stream multiple 4K and 8K videos while enjoying a smooth playback without lags or excessive power consumption.

apple m2 media engine

M2 vs. M1: Unified Memory

The CPU, GPU, and Neural Engine in Apple silicon chips share memory to accelerate data transfers, increase energy efficiency, and improve overall performance. However, this unified memory architecture (UMA) is another area where the M2 outshines the M1.

The M1 chip supports 16 GB of shared LPDDR4x memory and has a 68.25 GB/s memory bandwidth. On the other hand, the M2 supports up to 24 GB of unified LPDDR5 memory. Additionally, its memory controller boasts 100 GB/s in read and write speeds.

That's nearly 50% more memory bandwidth, making the M2 chip better at saving power and reducing latency. Memory-hungry apps and processes like 3D rendering, gaming, and video editing don't hog the resources when the M2 processor comes into play.

m2 and m1 unified memory architecture

M2 vs. M1: Secure Enclave

Apple's M1 chip brought iOS security capabilities to macOS, transforming data encryption and user authentication. The built-in Secure Enclave, isolated from the central processor, encrypts and decrypts data (e.g., auto-fill details, passwords, and biometrics for Touch ID and Face ID), preventing unauthorized access.

Apple hasn't disclosed how this component differs between M1 and M2 chips, referring to it only as a second-generation Secure Enclave.

Still, its existence means top-of-the-line security since it uses the Secure Enclave Processor, the Memory Protection Engine, a dedicated Boot ROM, and the Secure Enclave AES Engine for preventing DMA (Direct Memory Access) attacks.

m2 secure enclave

M2 vs. M1: Device Availability

June 2023 marked the end of Apple's transition from Intel-based processors. The entire Mac lineup now uses Apple's custom silicon. Check out which devices use M1 and M2 chips (including their higher-powered variants).

Mac devices sporting the M1 chip include the following:

  • MacBook Air 2020 (M1);
  • 13-inch MacBook Pro 2020 (M1);
  • Mac Mini 2020 (M1);
  • iMac 2021 (M1);
  • 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro 2021 (M1 Pro or M1 Max);
  • Mac Studio 2022 (M1 Max or M1 Ultra).

The M2 chip comes with these Mac devices:

  • 13-inch MacBook Air 2022 (M2);
  • 15-inch MacBook Air 2023 (M2);
  • 13-inch MacBook Pro 2022 (M2);
  • Mac Mini 2023 (M2 or M2 Pro);
  • 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro 2023 (M2 Pro or M2 Max);
  • Mac Studio 2023 (M2 Max or M2 Ultra);
  • Mac Pro 2023 (M2 Ultra).

The upcoming Apple Vision Pro, an MR (Mixed Reality) headset, will also feature the M2 chip. The launch is set for early 2024.

M2 vs. M1: User Considerations

m1 vs. m2 user considerations

Regardless, you know both chips will exceed your expectations, primarily if you buy a Mac computer or workstation for the first time. You also know your data will be safe and secure. However, here are some things you need to consider.

Your Mac storage isn’t immune to malware and other online threats despite Apple’s Secure Enclave and other best-in-class components. Malicious code could creep into your system if you have poor digital hygiene (e.g., clicking suspicious links or falling for online scams).

The same goes for human error (e.g., accidentally deleting files or formatting an incorrect drive) or negligence (e.g., interrupting data transfers and forcibly disconnecting external devices).

These mistakes, besides viruses and other malware, often cause data loss. Can you recover data from a Mac with Apple silicon? You bet.

Data recovery software is a good choice. And Wondershare Recoverit is one example. It’s a professional tool for recovering lost files across 1,000+ formats and 2,000+ devices. It can even repair corrupted videos and restore fragmented photos and videos.

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Here's how data recovery works with Wondershare Recoverit:

  1. Download and install it on your Mac, go to Hard Drives and Locations, and select the storage unit with lost data.
    data recovery sources
  2. Let the program finish Quick and Deep scans to find your data. In the meantime, you can use filters like file type and size to accelerate the process.
    scanning for lost data
  3. Preview the recoverable files, choose what to retrieve, and click Recover.
    a preview of a recoverable image
  4. Browse your Mac for a secure location (not the original folder) and click Save.
    selecting a file path

Wondershare Recoverit is excellent to keep on your Mac, salvaging your data with a 98% success rate in 500+ scenarios.


Now that we've broken down the differences between M1 and M2 chips, it's time to reach a verdict. Is the M2 microprocessor worth the hype? Is it better than the M1?

The M1 remains a remarkable chip that meets most consumers' needs. It also has a slightly lower price. It won't go anywhere anytime soon despite new versions sprouting like mushrooms.

However, the M2 is a powerhouse, outperforming its older sibling in nearly all areas, primarily CPU and GPU performance. The most noticeable differences manifest during memory-hungry and graphics-intensive tasks, making the M2 perfect for gamers, content creators, video editors, and anyone needing top-notch 3D rendering.

Whether you choose the M1, M2, or their higher-powered variants (Pro, Max, or Ultra), you'll be in for a thrilling ride of outstanding performance and graphics.

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Sue Wayne
Sue Wayne Apr 15, 24
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