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Differences between Apple’s M Chips: Explained

Over the past two years, Apple has completely transformed their Mac lineup. By moving away from Intel and adopting their own homegrown chips instead. This has allowed Apple to become even more aggressive with their computer’s designs and performance, but things have gotten a little confusing along the way. From the M1, to the M1 Pro, M1 Max, M1 Ultra, and even M2, it’s become difficult to differentiate one from the other.

Apple’s M1 Chip

It was the first to be introduced and today serves as Apple’s entry-level chip. It’s available on the largest number of Mac models including the MacBook Air, Mac mini, and iMac. Despite the M1 being the lowest-performing chip, it was much better than the Intel processor it replaced. Thanks to dramatically improved performance per watt, or the amount of energy a processor consumes when performing tasks. This improved efficiency allowed for better graphics and processing power while consuming less battery and generating less heat.

Apple’s M1 Pro and M1 Max Chips

One year later, the M1 chip was iterated upon with M1 Pro and M1 Max. They were larger chips that added more processing and graphics cores, faster memory bandwidth, advanced media engines, and more memory. All that to say, the new chips took the performance of M1 to a much higher level. But this came at a cost. Not only monetarily, but to heat and power efficiency. M1 Pro and M1 Max required a more robust cooling system. Which took up extra space inside a computer. And they required more power, which drained the battery faster. That’s why these higher performing chips weren’t included in the MacBook Air. Since it was too thin, didn’t have fans for cooling, and had a small battery.

So instead, Apple used the chips in an updated MacBook Pro. Which was thicker, larger, and heavier than the Air, but included two fans, more air vents, and a larger battery. When it came to a desktop computer, batteries and power efficiency weren’t nearly as important.

Apple’s M1 Ultra Chip

So Apple could double the power consumption of M1 Max, to dramatically increased performance. They accomplished this by fusing together two M1 Max chips and gave it the name M1 Ultra. Which was released just this year on the new Mac Studio. By this time, the M1 MacBook Air had already been out for two years. With a design that was four years old.

Apple’s M2 Chip

So Apple gave it the biggest update ever last month. With a new, more compact chassis, a larger display, and a new chip called M2. Now, given the name, you might assume it’s more powerful than any M1 chip that came before. But that’s not the approach Apple is taking. M2 is simply an improvement over the previous generation M1. The M1 Pro, Max, and Ultra, are all still more powerful. In order to replace those, Apple will have to release an M2 Pro, M2 Max, and M2 Ultra. These chips haven’t yet been confirmed, although they’re likely to be released in the near future as Apple continues to improve their computer lineup. So that is the current status of Apple’s M chips.

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