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Apple M1 vs Apple M2: Is it worth the upgrade?

Apple’s range of chips now spans two generations, with a third Apple M3 expected to be on the way sometime in the next year. The Apple M1 marked a seachange for the Mac lineup, while the Apple M2 has shown itself to be a more iterative upgrade. Here’s how they compare.

We’ve now put the M1 and M2 chips through their paces. We’ve comprehensively tested the M1 across our iMac (2021) and MacBook Air (2020) reviews as well as the M2 through our MacBook Air (2022) review. Check those out for deep dives with all the detail you need to make a purchasing decision. But, we’re here to explain some of the straightforward differences between these chip generations.

Through our testing, it’s clear the launch of Apple Silicon with M1 marked a dramatic shift for Macs, introducing strong performance and impressive battery life in one package. With Apple M2, Macs were boosted even further, just not so dramatically. As a result, if you’ve got an M1 machine you’re happy with, we think you probably don’t need an M2. But, the M2 is worth picking up if you’re making a switch from a non-M1 machine.

We’re expecting to see a new M2-sporting 15-inch MacBook Air at this year’s WWDC, which could shake things up significantly. But, for now, let’s dive into the basics of Apple M1 vs Apple M2.

Release date

The Apple M1 chip launched back in 2020, debuting inside the MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro.

The Apple M2 processor will launch in July 2022, also debuting inside the latest models of the MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro.


The Apple M2 chip is built upon second-generation 5nm architecture. On paper, that’s not a huge upgrade on the Apple M1 chip, which also uses a 5nm node. However, Apple managed to add a whopping 4 billion more transistors.

Interestingly, Apple didn’t increase the core count for the CPU, with both the M1 and M2 sporting an 8-core CPU comprised of 4 performance cores and 4 efficiency cores.

Apple has been more generous with the GPU though, with the M2 sporting up to a 10-core GPU while the M1 maxes out with an 8-core CPU.

The M2 has up to 24GB of LPDDR5 memory. In comparison, the original M1 chip only supports up to 16GB of unified memory.


At launch, Apple claimed the M2 chip is 18% faster when it comes to CPU speed and that the M2 chip’s GPU is 35% faster than the M1 GPU. In our CPU testing, we saw just over a 10% increase in performance. The raw numbers are all well and good but it’s all about how it feels for the end user.

Here are the thoughts of our reviewer Max Parker, who has tested both the M1 MacBook Air and M2 MacBook Air, “I wouldn’t really recommend someone pay that extra just for the jump in performance from the M1 to the M2. There are small upgrades in all the benchmarking tests I ran which you can see below, but I didn’t notice too much extra performance in real-world use.”

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