Apple M2 chip gives new MacBook Air 18% faster speed

This story is part of WWDC 2022CNET’s full coverage of and about the annual Apple Developer Conference.

Apple on Monday introduced its new M2 processor, a chip that improves core processing performance by 18% over the M1 without compromising the company’s battery life. New MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro computers.

The 18% speed boost comes from the M2’s re-engineered CPUs. The processor has four fast CPU cores and four efficient cores, a hybrid approach drawn from the world of smartphones. By redesigning the GPUs and increasing their number to a maximum of 10 instead of eight for the M1, the GPU’s performance is 35% faster. Overall, the new MacBook Air is 20% faster at photo editing in Photoshop and 38% faster in Final Cut Pro for video editing, Apple said.

Johnny Srouji, Head of the Apple Hardware Team, said at the Worldwide Developers Conference.

Energy efficiency is critical to downsizing laptops because the battery is the largest component. Apple said the new MacBook Air runs 20% less volume but still has a long battery life of up to 18 hours. The company is also using the M2 in its new 13-inch MacBook Pro.

Apple’s M2 processor has large amounts of high-speed cache built into the same chip and up to 24MB of regular memory built into the chip package, two features that should boost performance compared to the 2020-era Apple M1.

Screenshots from Stephen Shankland/CNET

The M2 processor also has a large memory support, coming up to 24 GB instead of 16 GB for the M1. Memory is important, especially as software grows and laptops last for years. M-series chips build memory directly into the processor package for fast performance, but are not upgradable.

Apple debuts the M1 at WWDC for 2020 It started shipping it later that year in the previous version of the MacBook Air. The M1, along with better successors called the M1 Pro, M1 Max and M1 Ultra, struck an effective balance between performance and battery life and earned solid ratings.

The M2 doubles down on the same balanced approach, introducing updated processing cores that are variants of the chips at the heart of newer iPhones. The new chips continue the gradual ejection of Intel processors from the Mac personal computer family and could enable the latest Intel-powered member, the Mac Pro, to switch over to Apple chips.


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Designing processors is a difficult and expensive task. But with the M-series chips, Apple is capitalizing on the A-series chip design work it already does for iPhone and iPad, and then paying Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. To build chips on its advanced production lines.

The M2 is built on TSMC’s 5 nm (5 nm) manufacturing process, but it’s an improved version of the one used on the M1. TSMC is working on a more advanced 3 nanometer process that would allow customers to squeeze in somewhat more transistors, the core electronics elements that process data on a chip.

Apple said the M2 contains 20 billion transistors, 25% more than the M1.

One of the uses of new transistors is to increase the number of GPUs. Another is an upgraded Neural Engine – a block of chips used to speed up AI workloads. Apple said the new 16-core Neural Engine can perform 15.8 trillion operations per second, increasing the speed by 40%.

Thanks to its own chips, Apple has more control over the technology base of its products – an important principle for CEO Tim Cook. That includes the processor itself, with specific features like AI acceleration, video encryption, and security, and software that Apple writes to take advantage of those features.

Apple’s M and A series chips are members of the Arm processor family. UK-based Arm licenses are designed so that companies can customize it to varying degrees. Arm chips from Qualcomm, Apple, MediaTek, Samsung, Google and others power almost every smartphone for sale.

The comparison shows that Apple's new M2 processor is larger than the M1.

The Apple M2 processor is much larger than the M1 processor. This increases manufacturing costs. Apple raised the prices of its M2-powered MacBook Air laptops.

Screenshots from Stephen Shankland/CNET

Intel fought for most of the last decade due to problems developing its manufacture. This halted his progress while Apple, Qualcomm, AMD, Nvidia and other Intel competitors benefited from TSMC’s manufacturing advances.

Because Apple doesn’t offer its chips to others, and because the majority of computers use Intel processors, Intel is somewhat insulated from Apple’s turnaround. Intel is modernizing its manufacturing, spending tens of billions of dollars on the manufacture of new innovative chips. Intel aims to regain its lead over rivals TSMC and Samsung in 2024.

Codenamed Alder Lake, Intel’s latest PC processor embraces the same blend of high-performance and efficient CPU cores found in Apple’s smartphone chips and M-series chips. Future products are designed to improve GPU performance, particularly with Intel’s renewed focus on high-end graphics designed to wean the company off its dependence on AMD and Nvidia. This is important for one large market, gaming, where computers with Intel and AMD processors are used more widely than Macs.

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