Buy a Mac? An M1 or M2 Base chip is probably all you need

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Apple

It’s a great time to buy a Mac. Apple’s new ARM-based processors are fast and efficient, plus old favorites like MagSafe and built-in card readers are making an appearance once again. Best of all, thanks to Apple Silicon, you don’t need to spend a lot of money to get serious performance.

What is Apple silicon?

Apple Silicon refers to the new class of Apple processors seen in the Mac (and also the iPad) starting in 2020. Previously, Apple used the same 64-bit x86 architecture seen in PCs, with chips manufactured exclusively by Intel. Going forward, Apple is using ARM-based chips that are more like iPhone systems-on-chips (SoCs) than traditional PC processors.

Apple Silicon and x86 use two very different processor architectures. The differences are complex, but one of the key takeaways is that ARM-based processors use a simplified instruction set that is better suited to mobile applications, meaning they consume less power than their x86 counterparts.

These two different architectures require two different software approaches, which means that an application or operating system written for x86 will not run natively on Apple Silicon. Apple has spent years converting macOS to run smoothly on the new processor architecture, and created the Rosetta 2 transpiler that allows macOS on Apple Silicon to create ARM-based versions of most applications on the fly.

As of this writing in June 2022, only one model of Mac mini and Mac Pro are available for sale in the Apple Store with Intel processors. The rest of the lineup has transitioned to Apple Silicon. If you’re looking for a Mac, you should buy a machine with an Apple Silicon processor, and a “basic” M1 or M2 will probably do the job.

Does it come from Intel? You will see great profits

At the time of writing, there are five versions of Apple Silicon chips available to buy. These are: the original M1 released in 2020, the M1 Pro and M1 Max models released alongside the redesigned 2021 MacBook Pro, the M1 Ultra chip as seen on the Mac Studio desktop, and the M2 chip announced in mid-2022 as featured on the redesigned MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro.

The “base” models are the M1 and M2. If you see terms like “Pro” or “Ultra” in the name, you’re looking for an upgraded version of the base model chip, often with more GPU cores, higher-capacity RAM options, and more dedicated encoding and decoding engines. for video editing.

MacBook Air M2 (2022) Midnight
Apple

Regardless of which chip you choose (including “entry” models), you’ll make big gains over Intel chips. Apple claims that its M2 chip in the 2022 MacBook is up to 15 times faster than the previously available Intel chip in this machine in 2020. But you don’t need to trust marketing claims; the evidence is clear the moment you purchase a new model.

This was proven in 2020 when Apple revealed the M1 processor. You can see evidence of this in side-by-side comparison videos (like this one from MacRumors). Overall performance is much better on Apple Silicon, thanks in no small part to the work Apple has done to optimize hardware and software in unison.

These gains cover everything from general usage like scrolling a web page or opening an app, to file transfers, video playback, operating system features like Mission Control, 3D and 2D performance, and heat output (or lack of she). Battery life is also demonstrably better on Apple Silicon compared to Intel predecessors, with the MacBook Air M1 and M2 quoting around four more hours of “wireless web” browsing and six more hours of streaming movies. AppleTV.

RELATED: How to keep your MacBook battery healthy and extend its life

M2 incorporates high-end features

The M2 chip appears in the redesigned 2022 MacBook Air (and 13-inch MacBook), starting at $1,199. In addition to being around 20% faster in terms of raw CPU speed compared to the M1, the M2 also features 8 GPU cores (up from 7 on the base model) and a larger 24GB RAM capacity for those who want more memory.

It handles this with the same level of power efficiency as the M1, with no degradation in battery life (according to Apple’s numbers). It also incorporates some high-end features with the presence of hardware-accelerated playback, encoding, and decoding of Apple’s ProRes and ProRes RAW video formats.

Apple M2 SOC chip data information sheet
Apple

Previously, hardware support for ProRes and ProRes RAW formats was a big draw for the powerful M1 Pro and M1 Max chips seen in the MacBook Pro. The MacBook Air M2 also boasts 100GB of memory bandwidth. /s to load data in and out of RAM even faster than the previous model.

These chips are powerful enough for most users who spend their days in Safari, answering emails, editing spreadsheets, or doing light photo and video work. If you have a nasty tab habit, then you might consider upping the RAM to 16GB (or 24GB if you need to) to give yourself some wiggle room, though macOS is remarkably good at managing RAM loads even on entry-level models. .

How much storage you need is a personal decision. A basic 256GB SSD may not be enough if this is going to be your only Mac, so opting for the 512GB or 1TB upgrade could pay off for years to come.

Save some money with the M1 models

So what about the lower end of the budget? Apple is still selling its original MacBook Air M1, minus the bells and whistles, for $200 cheaper than the M2 version at $999. If you have a monitor, mouse, and keyboard, you can buy a 2020 Mac mini with similar specs for only $699.

The change from M1 to M2 is nice, but it’s not day and night. It’s nothing like the switch from Intel to Apple Silicon, and the original M1 still works (and will for years to come). Additionally, these chips will continue to be supported in the form of macOS updates for much longer than their Intel predecessors.

Mac mini M1 2020

In the future, Apple and third-party developers are mainly looking at Apple Silicon. Getting into an M1 at this stage puts you in a great position to reap the benefits of a higher performance and energy efficient computing platform. Even when Apple updates the Mac mini with the M2 or some variant, there will be little reason for most M1 users to upgrade right away.

Without a doubt, this is something to celebrate and take advantage of if you like the Apple ecosystem and have a tight budget.

Who needs the M1 Pro, Max and Ultra?

There are still plenty of ideal use cases for a more powerful Mac. The M1 Pro, M1 Max, and M1 Ultra feature two more CPU cores for slightly better performance in multi-threaded applications. The M1 Pro features a 16-core GPU (twice as much as the M1), while the M1 Max bumps this up to 32 cores.

The M1 Max and M1 Ultra have two and four dedicated ProRes and ProRes RAW encoders and decoders, respectively, making them suitable for high-end video editing. If you’re not editing multiple 4K video streams, you probably don’t need all that power.

macbookpro 2021
Apple

The top-end M1 Max chip can be configured with up to 64GB of unified memory, while the M1 Ultra, as seen in Mac Studio, can handle up to 128GB. These high-end M1 Pro and above chips can also be configured with 8TB of storage space. If you don’t need large amounts of RAM or storage, M1 or M2 should suffice.

Machines using the more powerful SoCs also come with other improvements. The 2021 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro has an impressive display that can output up to 1600 nits peak brightness in HDR content with 120Hz ProMotion adaptive refresh rate. This makes for a smoother experience that’s ideal for editing productions. of HDR video. It also features a card reader and an HDMI 2.0 output to power an external display without the need for a Thunderbolt adapter.

The Mac Studio has even more ports, with USB-A connectivity on the back, a card reader on the front, built-in Ethernet, and up to six Thunderbolt 4 ports on the M1 Ultra. All of these machines include more powerful cooling than the base M1 and M2 models as they are designed to handle higher loads.

Mac Studio Ports
Apple

All of this drives up the price, so you’re not just paying for a higher performance chip, you’re paying for more copper in the coolers, a larger battery in the chassis, and more flexibility when it comes to peripherals.

try one for yourself

Don’t just take our word for it, head to an Apple Store or a big electronics store that sells Macs and try out the M1 and M2 chips for yourself. Try putting the machines under heavy load by opening everything in the dock and running stress tests like those found in Browser Bench.

Most importantly, try to do the things you’ll do at home or work with your Mac, like filling out a large spreadsheet, juggling 25 tabs, or editing a photo. At the end of the day, deciding between a MacBook Air M1 or M2 can be the hardest part.

The best MacBooks of 2022


14-inch MacBook Pro (M1 Pro, 2021)

Apple MacBook Air 2020 Laptop: Apple M1 chip, 13” Retina display, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD storage, backlit keyboard, FaceTime HD camera, Touch ID. Works with iPhone/iPad; space gray

Apple MacBook Air 2020 Laptop: Apple M1 chip, 13” Retina display, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD storage, backlit keyboard, FaceTime HD camera, Touch ID. Works with iPhone/iPad; space gray

16-inch MacBook Pro (M1 Pro, 2021)