Apple recently released updated MacBook Air and MacBook Pro models featuring the company’s latest M2 chip. This powerful new silicon delivers impressive performance gains over previous M1 and Intel-based MacBooks.
In this comprehensive review, we analyze Apple’s newest M2 laptops versus older MacBook versions. Discover how the redesigned MacBook Air and 13-inch Pro stack up in areas like speed, battery life, display, port selection and more. Our detailed comparison will help you decide if upgrading to an M2 model is worth the investment.
Overview of Key MacBook Generations
Before diving into the M2 versus older model comparisons, let’s briefly recap notable MacBook generations:
- Early 2015 – Added Force Touch trackpad, faster flash storage. Last non-Retina MacBook Pro.
- Late 2016 – Introduced Touch Bar on higher-end 13″ and 15″ models. Added Thunderbolt 3/USB-C.
- Mid-2017 – Kaby Lake Refresh CPUs. Faster integrated graphics on 13″ model.
- Mid-2019 – 8th-gen Amber Lake CPUs. Added True Tone display. Last Intel-based redesign before M1 models.
- Late 2020 – First Apple silicon M1 chip. Major performance and efficiency gains. New MacBook Air and Pro 13″ models.
- Late 2021 – M1 Pro and M1 Max chips. 14″ and 16″ MacBook Pro redesign with mini LED displays.
- Mid 2022 – M2 chip debuts in MacBook Air and 13″ Pro. Further performance and efficiency improvements over M1.
Now let’s see how the latest M2 MacBook Air and Pro 13″ models stack up versus previous generations in various categories.
Processing and Graphics Performance
The M2 chip provides a noticeable boost over M1 and Intel MacBooks in both CPU and GPU performance.
|Model||Geekbench 5 (Single-Core)||Geekbench 5 (Multi-Core)|
|2019 Intel 13″ Pro||1,030||3,539|
- M2 offers ~9% faster single-core speed over M1.
- Multi-core scores show M2 with a ~21% advantage versus M1 and ~152% over 2019 Intel models.
Big gains in video editing and other multi-threaded workloads that leverage the efficiency of Apple silicon.
|Model||Geekbench 5 Compute|
|2019 Intel 13″ Pro||12,953|
- Up to ~26% faster graphics performance going from M1 to M2.
- Intel integrated graphics still lag far behind.
The M2 GPU has 10 cores versus 8 cores on M1. Better supports gaming, video editing, 3D modeling, etc.
Benchmarks provide quantifiable metrics, but how do these chips actually feel in everyday use?
- Web Browsing: Minimal difference between M2 and M1. Pages load instantly on both. Huge leap from Intel models where Edge could often choke on heavy sites.
- App Launching: M2 trims an extra second or two off M1’s already blazing launch times for demanding creative apps like Photoshop. Intel launch times feel glacial by comparison.
- Multitasking: You can keep dozens of Safari tabs, documents and apps open without slowdowns on M2 and M1. Intel models hiccup and throttle more easily under heavy workloads.
- Quick Tasks: Mundane actions like opening files or switching apps feel equally instantaneous on M1 and M2. Leaps ahead of previous Intel generations.
For most everyday productivity tasks, M1 and M2 feel indistinguishable. But M2 provides a bit more overhead for demanding creative workloads. Largest real-world speed gains seen versus Intel models.
The M2 chip builds on M1’s excellent power efficiency. However, Apple made battery life trade-offs between the redesigned M2 Air and M2 Pro 13″.
MacBook Air Battery Life
|Model||Battery Life (Apple Estimate)|
|M2 Air||15 hours web/18 hours video|
|M1 Air||15 hours web/18 hours video|
|2019 Intel Air||12 hours web/13 hours video|
- Same excellent ~15 hour battery estimate on M2 and M1 Air.
- Significant gains over 2019 Intel Air’s 12-13 hour battery life.
The M2 Air matches M1 thanks to a larger 52.6-watt-hour battery (versus 49.9 Wh on M1). More than offsets the slightly more power-hungry M2 chip.
MacBook Pro 13 Battery Life
|Model||Battery Life (Apple Estimate)|
|M2 Pro 13||20 hours video|
|M1 Pro 13||20 hours web/17 hours video|
|2019 Intel Pro 13||10 hours web/10 hours video|
- M2 Pro 13 sees lower battery life than M1 predecessor. 20 hours video versus 17 hours before.
- Still a major jump over 2019 Intel models at 10 hours of use.
The 58.2 Wh M2 Pro 13 battery is slightly smaller versus M1’s 58.6 Wh. Primary factor in reduced run time.
The displays on the M2 Air and Pro 13 represent major upgrades over previous generations:
MacBook Air Display
- M2 Air finally gets a 13.6″ Liquid Retina display (2560×1664) versus outdated 1280×800 screen on Intel models. Huge resolution boost makes a massive difference in image sharpness, detail and screen real estate.
- Supports 1 billion colors, True Tone, Wide color (P3), 500 nits brightness. Same panel as M1 Air but still way ahead of Intel Air.
MacBook Pro 13 Display
- No changes to M2 Pro 13 display versus M1 predecessor. Both have 13.3″ 2560×1600 Retina panel with 500 nits brightness and P3 wide color.
- Significantly improved over Intel models which maxed out at 500 nits and lacked P3 color gamut support.
The displays on the M2 MacBooks provide a big upgrade over previous Intel generations, especially for the redesigned Air. Picture quality on par with M1 models already excellent screens.
Design and Ports
The M2 laptops bring some design refinements but retain the same USB-C port selection as recent predecessors:
MacBook Air Design
- Slimmer and lighter body than old Intel Airs while retaining same 13.3″ footprint. Weighs just 2.7 pounds.
- New Midnight, Starlight, Silver and Space Gray color options. Magsafe charging returns. 1080p webcam.
- Two Thunderbolt / USB 4 ports like M1 Air. Overall design unchanged versus M1 beyond new colors.
MacBook Pro 13 Design
- Identical design and body as M1 Pro 13. Same silver and space gray colors. No changes beyond the M2 chip.
- Retains two Thunderbolt / USB 4 ports like M1 model. 720p webcam still lags behind Air.
- Touch Bar dropped in favor of physical function keys matching 14″ and 16″ Pros.
Unless new colors appeal, little exterior reason for M1 Air owners to upgrade. M2 Pro 13 identical to predecessor. Port selection unchanged across the lineup.
The M2 MacBooks allow choosing memory, storage and SoC (Air only) configurations:
MacBook Air Configs
- Unified Memory: 8GB or 16GB options on M2. 8GB and 16GB also available on M1, 8GB baseline on 2019 Intel models.
- SSD Storage: Starts at 256GB on M2, goes up to 2TB option. Same range available on M1 and 2019 Intel Airs.
- M2 SoC: New M2 Air lets you upgrade to faster 10-core GPU versus 8-core on base model. M1 Air lacks upgrade options.
MacBook Pro 13 Configs
- Unified Memory: 8GB, 16GB, 24GB options on M2 and M1 models. 8GB base on 2019 Intel Pros, 16GB max.
- SSD Storage: Starts at 256GB and scales to 2TB on M2 and M1. Intel models same.
- No SoC Upgrades: M2 Pro 13 lacks GPU upgrade options present on M2 Air. Set 8-core GPU on both M2 models.
More memory, storage and GPU cores provide better future-proofing. But come at a high price. Base configs pack plenty of power for most users.
How M2 Models Compare: Summary
|MacBook Model||CPU Benchmarks||GPU Benchmarks||Battery Life||Display||Ports|
|M2 Air||8-10% faster than M1||Up to 10-core GPU. 25% faster than M1||Matches M1’s 15 hours web||New 13.6″ Retina display||Two Thunderbolt/USB 4|
|M2 Pro 13||8-10% faster than M1||8-core GPU. 25% faster than M1||20 hours video. Less than M1||Unchanged from M1||Two Thunderbolt/USB 4|
- CPU: M2 offers minor speed gains over M1 – most noticeable under heavy loads.
- GPU: More cores give M2 up to 25% graphics boost versus M1.
- Battery: M2 Air matches M1; M2 Pro slightly less due to smaller battery.
- Displays: Major upgrade on M2 Air. M2 Pro unchanged.
- Ports: Identical Thunderbolt/USB-C on M2 and M1 models.
For most everyday use, M1 and M2 deliver extremely close performance. But M2 provides some headroom for demanding creative work. Largest gains still versus much slower Intel MacBooks.
Which MacBook Should You Buy?
Deciding between sticking with an older model or upgrading to Apple’s latest silicon comes down to your needs and budget:
- Buy the M2 Air if you want the redesigned chassis, much sharper display, MagSafe charging and new colors. Performance gains over M1 minor for most users.
- Choose the M2 Pro 13 for slightly better battery life and minor speed boosts over the M1 model. But identical design and display.
- Keep your M1 MacBook if you already own one. Still blazing fast for most tasks. Wait for a more significant upgrade.
- Upgrade from Intel if you own a 2015-2019 model. Night and day speed, efficiency and display quality improvements.
- Buy Refurbished/Used M1 to save money. Still outperforms Intel and nearly matches M2 for hundreds less.
For most needs, even previous M1 MacBooks deliver excellent performance paired with all-day battery life. But M2 provides a bit more power for demanding users. Investigate refurbished/used M1 deals if upgrading from Intel.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should I upgrade from an M1 MacBook to M2?
For most users, there is little performance benefit in upgrading from M1 to M2 MacBooks given their similarities. Only consider upgrading if you need the upgrades specific to the M2 Air (redesign, Magsafe, improved display) or M2 Pro 13 (minor speed boosts). Otherwise, sticking with an M1 MacBook is recommended.
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Is the M2 MacBook Air worth it over M1?
The M2 Air is only worth upgrading over the M1 model if you want the chassis redesign with slimmer bezels, MagSafe charging, new colors and improved display. Performance gains are minor for most needs. Buy refurbished/used M1 Airs to save money if the design changes don’t appeal.
How much better are M2 MacBook Pros than Intel models?
The M2 MacBook Pro 13 provides massive leaps over previous 2019 Intel models in processing power (up to 3X faster), battery life (up to 2X longer) and display quality. Only consider the M2 Pro 13 if you need minor performance gains over an M1 Pro, since the design is unchanged.
Should I buy a new MacBook now or wait for M3 models?
Since Apple just launched M2 MacBooks in mid-2022, the next generation M3 models are likely at least a year away, possibly longer. Both M1 and M2 MacBooks will continue delivering excellent performance and battery life for years. Only wait for M3 if you have no urgent needs – otherwise buy now.
Is 8GB of memory enough for M2 MacBooks?
The unified memory architecture in M1 and M2 MacBooks is more efficient than Intel models. For most users, 8GB is sufficient for everyday tasks, especially on the M2 Air. Power users should consider upgrading to 16GB for heavier multitasking and creative workloads on both M2 models.
Apple’s new M2 laptops build on the success of M1 models with impressive gains in performance and efficiency. While not revolutionary upgrades, M2 MacBook Airs and 13-inch Pros outpace predecessors in speed and graphics capabilities. Most notably, the redesigned M2 Air finally lays the Intel generation to rest with a modern chassis, much sharper Liquid Retina display and game-changing Apple silicon.