During the WWDC 2022 inaugural conference, Apple lifted the veil on its Apple M2 chip. Let’s take a look at the architectural and performance differences with the Apple M1, M1 Pro, M1 Max and M1 Ultra.
Since the launch of the Apple M1 processor in October 2020, the apple brand has been busy. There are indeed several variations, under the names Apple M1 Pro, Apple M1 Max and Apple M1 Ultra. The latter is in fact simply two Apple M1 Max chips glued to each other. Apple took advantage of WWDC 2022 to unveil the Apple M2, which succeeds the Apple M1. Let’s take this opportunity to compare all these chips to each other to find out where the Apple M2 stands in terms of performance.
Better CPU performance
At the moment, we do not yet know the operating frequencies of the Apple M2 chip. We only know that the processor part is 18% faster in multitasking than on the M1 and that this figure rises to 35% for the graphics part. The chip is still engraved in 5 nm (but with a second generation process), it is possible to explain these gains by different elements.
The increase in performance may be due to an increase in the operating frequency of the cores. Unfortunately, we do not have this information yet. Performance may also experience a leap forward due to the use of a new architecture at the core level. If it’s about Firestorm and Icestorm cores for Apple M1 chips, it’s likely thatApple uses Avalanche and Blizzard cores on the Apple M2. Enough to improve the IPC (Instruction Per Cycle) and therefore the performance, without increasing the operating frequency of the cores.
On the Apple M2 chip, there is 16 MB of cache shared by the high-performance cores, compared to 12 MB on the processor part of the Apple M1. This explains (in part only) the increase in performance. It should also be noted that the second-generation 5 nm process (potentially the TSMC N5P) allows precisely the increase in performance and not the increase in the density of the transistors. This would explain the higher physical size of the chip, with its 20 billion transistors, compared to the 16 billion of the Apple M1.
Finally, still on the processor part, the increase in performance can also be explained by the drastic increase in memory bandwidth. By using LPDDR5 instead of the LPDDR4x of the Apple M1, we go from 68 GB/s to 100 GB/s! What increase the performance of the processor (CPU), but also of the graphics part (GPU).
A much beefier GPU
On the GPU, the 35% increase in performance (from 2.6 to 3.6 Tflops) comes from four elements: a new architecture, allowing the increase in the IPC, as well as a higher operating frequency , a number of GPU cores increased from 8 to 10 and finally the highest bandwidth of unified memory. As noted by our colleagues from Anandtech, with equivalent consumption, based on Apple’s graphics, the GPU part would be 25% faster than on the Apple M1. To achieve 35% more performance, Apple would increase the consumption of the chip.
After seeing the performance differences between the Apple M1 and the Apple M2, comes the fateful question: what is Apple’s new chip worth compared to the Apple M1 Pro, Max and Ultra ?
Apple M2 versus Apple M1 Pro, Max and Ultra
With the limited data available on the Apple M2, however, we can make fairly realistic assumptions to try to answer this question. Indeed, the Apple M1 Pro chip has 10 cores with 6 high performance cores and 2 high efficiency cores. On Geekbench, the M1 Pro is about 30% faster than the classic M1 on the processor part and about 80% faster on the GPU part. This is easily explained: there are 14 GPU cores for the M1 Pro against 8 GPU cores for the Apple M1. With 10 GPU cores and “only” 35% faster performance for the Apple M2 GPU and 18% for the CPU part, the Apple M1 Pro remains far ahead.
No need to compare with the Apple M1 Max and Ultra which are even more powerful than the Apple M1 Pro. If the Apple M2 remains behind the Apple M1 Pro in terms of performance, it will certainly be less efficient than the M1 Max and M1 Ultra. It will thus be necessary to wait for possible M2 Pro, M2 Max as well as M2 Ultra to succeed their M1 variant. Will this be enough for Apple to finally launch its Mac Pro equipped with an Apple chip instead of Intel?
This would make sense, since Apple’s chips are really very competitive against Intel processors, as the brand wished to recall yesterday on the occasion of the formalization of its M2 chip.
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