Apple's refreshed 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro with M2 Pro and M2 Max chips.

Apple M2 Pro and M2 Max – let’s talk about it

Apple announced new chips, new MacBook Pros, and a new Mac mini. Let's talk about it.

“Apple has new chips and they’re really fast!”

Fans (and general buyers alike) have been yelling/typing phrases like this for the past two years, largely because it’s true. Apple’s M series processors for the Mac and iPad have been nothing short of a success, delivering on performance and efficiency in ways that Intel could only ever dream. In fact, Apple’s technological lead on the competition has been so significant that no company has managed to catch up, at least not yet.

So to yell that same phrase today means just as much as it has since the first Apple M1 debuted in November 2020. I don’t say that to discredit what Apple’s done, but it doesn’t mean much when they’re already so far ahead and, at least generally speaking, the experience from gen-to-gen will remain largely the same.

Apple M2 Pro and M2 Max

Apple’s most powerful chips yet: the M2 Pro and M2 Max. | Photo: Apple

In a press release, Apple announced the new M2 Pro and M2 Max chips. They’re the successors to the insanely popular M1 Pro and M1 Max that first appeared in the redesigned 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros, the former of which I own. Both new chips are included in Apple’s updated MacBook Pro line, and while they do offer upgrades in some areas, they’ll probably feel familiar to anyone who’s explored the world of M1 chips.

Apple M2 Pro chip architecture
The M2 Pro chip’s architecture. | Photo: Apple

The M2 Pro is a 5nm chip with around 20 percent more transistors than the M1 Pro (40 billion transistors in total). It packs 200GB/s of unified memory bandwidth, which is twice of what the M2 chip includes, and supports 32GB of low-latency unified memory. It sticks with a configurable 10-core or 12-core CPU structure, with up to eight performance cores and four efficiency cores. Together with up to a 19-core GPU, Apple says you should get 20 percent better performance and 30 percent better graphics compared to the M1 Pro.

Apple M2 Max chip architecture
The M2 Max chip’s architecture. | Photo: Apple

Meanwhile, the M2 Max has 67 billion transistors, which is 10 billion more than the M1 Max and over three times the amount on the M2. It doubles the unified memory bandwidth to 400GB/s and quadruples the supported RAM to 96GB. You won’t see any performance increases with the CPU since it’s the same as the M2 Pro’s, but the GPU can now be configured with as many as 38 cores which can result in a 30 percent performance boost over the M1 Max.

The new chips also ship with an upgraded 16-core Neural Engine which can process things up to 40 percent faster than the previous M1 line. In addition, the M2 Pro and M2 Max are better at decoding large video files and managing the image quality of the webcam.

Compared to the M1 Pro and M1 Max, I doubt that a single person could notice the difference without running benchmarks. These are very familiar chips, and there’s not a lot going for them beyond the fact they’re slightly faster in the most extreme computing circumstances. However, given Apple’s massive lead over the rest of the industry, the latest M2 processors don’t need to be anything special. It’s not like the competition is catching up any time soon.

Where are they?

I’m sure you might be wondering where in the Mac lineup these new processors are landing. No, it’s not in the Mac Pro (which is still based on Intel). It’s in two new versions of the redesigned MacBook Pro, as well as a refreshed Mac mini.

MacBook Pro for 2023: insanely familiar

Here are the new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros, powered by M2 Pro and M2 Max. | Photo: Apple

The new MacBook Pros are basically identical to the previous generation, which is far from a bad thing. These are some of the finest computers you can buy (I should know, I own a 14-inch M1 Pro model myself), and these new ones will prove to be no different.

Beyond the inclusion of the M2 Pro and M2 Max chips, Apple says the 16-inch MacBook Pro will give you the best battery life ever on a MacBook, with up to 22 hours of endurance on a full charge. Apple disclosed that the MacBook Pro they used to record this metric had an M2 Pro with a 12-core CPU, 19-core GPU, 16GB of RAM, and 1TB SSD. The test was conducted by looping video constantly until the laptop died. I suppose if you replicate this, you’d get similar results, but the random things you do on your laptop all day will probably sway it enough that you won’t reach that threshold day to day.

Apple’s updated MacBook Pros now come with HDMI 2.1, which gives you 8K 60Hz output. | Photo: Apple

Both the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros also get an upgraded HDMI port. They now use HDMI 2.1 which supports 8K output at 60Hz or 4K output at 240Hz. You also get Wi-Fi 6E for (slightly) faster internet performance. In addition, macOS Ventura (obviously) ships out of the box.

These new MacBook Pros are the exact opposite of a good pick-up for anyone who already owns one from 2021. The Liquid Retina XDR displays, excellent keyboards, solid webcam quality, and stellar battery life will be enough for these users to avoid upgrading for at least another three or four years. However, if you’ve been holding off from buying one, now’s a great time to do so.

Mac mini for 2023: even more familiar

The new Mac mini looks just like the old Mac mini. | Photo: Apple

Apple also introduced a new Mac mini with the M2 Pro and M2 Max announcement, as the miniature desktop computer is getting an upgrade with the M2 and M2 Pro chips. Compared to the previous M1-powered model, you’ll get some stellar performance upgrades in areas like photo and video editing, coding, and graphic design. The machine also gets Wi-Fi 6E, 8K display output with the M2 Pro chip, and Bluetooth 5.3.

When can you get them?

Tuesday, January 24th is the day all three new Macs will start shipping with the M2 Pro and M2 Max chips. You can order them starting today from Apple.com. The 14-inch MacBook Pro still starts at $1,999, the 16-inch is still $2,499, and the Mac mini is $599 for the M2 and $1,299 for the M2 Pro.

Furthering Apple’s lead

Today’s announcement wasn’t meant to break new ground for Apple, who began its transition to ARM-based processors for the Mac in 2020. Rather, it’s meant to signal that it’s still the king of performance and efficiency on both laptops and desktop computers. My M1 Pro-powered MacBook Pro, for example, has more head room than I’ll ever need. The M2 Pro only adds more to the mix, which is kind of insane to think about.

Now the question becomes: when does competition become an issue? Intel wants to beat Apple but seemingly fails to try, and AMD keeps saying it can go toe-to-toe but has yet to prove it. Whether it takes some kind of breakthrough for either company or some third-party needs to come along, it looks like Apple will retain its throne for the time being. The M2 Pro and M2 Max make that perfectly clear.