3 ways the M2 MacBook is rumored to improve over the M1 (and one it might not)

M2-powered MacBooks are rumored to be incoming, and it looks like it is good and bad news

MacBook
(Image credit: Future)

According to well-connected Mac analyst Mark Gurman, Apple plans to launch four new M2-powered Macs this year and maybe more: a new MacBook Air (possibly without the Air bit), a new 13-inch MacBook Pro, a 24-inch iMac and a Mac mini. And that sounds great. But what will the M2 actually do and how will they improve over the M1 MacBooks?

The short answer is that we don't know for sure. But we can make some pretty well-informed guesses based on leaks and rumors.

First of all, let's clear up some confusion: the M2 (and the M1, M1 Pro and M1 Max in the 14 and 16 inch MacBook Pros) aren't just processors; they're systems on a chip. But processor is easier and quicker to say, so we'll go with that here. 

The M1 combined CPU, GPU and RAM in a single system, and Apple has since improved it in three ways: it's added more transistors, it's added more cores, and it's added more RAM. So let's look at each in turn.

Good: M2 MacBooks will likely have more processor cores

The M1 Max and M1 Pro have more transistors than the first M1, and they're more powerful as a result. We'd expect that to continue, and we'd also expect the M2 to have more cores than before. Mark Gurman predicts it'll still have the same eight cores as before, which may sound odd given that the M1 Pro and M1 Max have ten. However, two of those cores are energy efficiency cores; the number of performance cores is still eight. So an M2 with eight performance cores but more efficiency cores isn't far-fetched.

Good: Higher efficiency in M2 MacBooks could allow a thinner, lighter design

And, if efficiency is improved as it is rumored to do, that could mean the M2 MacBooks could be even lighter and thinner than their M1 counterparts. This would be especially useful as an upsell for the M2-powered MacBook Air.

Good: Graphics feature performance also feels nailed on for improvement

Nothing is official of course, but rumors have been building that M2 MacBooks could offer improved graphics performance, with particular improvement in terms of dedicated hardware for advanced graphical features like real time ray tracing. This makes perfect sense for inclusion on new MacBooks as PCs and even mobile phones now support theses features, as well as naturally next-gen consoles. Ray tracing capabilities in particular would help sell the M2 MacBooks as systems capable of playing games.

Bad: M2 MacBook RAM looks like it could stay the same

The M1 Pro and Max also added RAM, going up to 32GB and 64GB respectively. That'd be nice to have in the M2 too, but if predictions are correct and it's coming to consumer models first I don't see Apple going beyond the current 16GB max. And I don't expect the 8GB to 16GB to get any cheaper either, because Apple. I've been moaning about Apple RAM prices since the days of the OG iMacs and I don't think I'll be stopping any time soon.

So here's the big question: should you put off any Mac purchases until the M2s ship? If you want the latest, greatest processors, sure. But the M1 is hardly a slowcoach, and if you need its power there's no point in putting it off for the sake of having something slightly newer. The M2 will be brilliant, I'm sure. But the M1 will remain great too.

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written thirteen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote another seven books and a Radio 2 documentary series. When she’s not scribbling, she’s the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR (havrmusic.com).

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