Apple's second-generation silicon debuts in redesigned MacBook Air
In June 2020, Apple revealed that its computing products were about to follow iPhones and iPads and use its own bespoke system-on-chip, the M1. Now the company has revealed its successor, and the first models to benefit from the marked performance boost.
The all-new M2 boasts second-generation 5-nanometer technology with some 20 billion transistors, representing a 25 percent increase over the M1.
That's reported to result in 18 percent gains in multi-thread octa-core CPU performance while sipping less power, with Apple reckoning that the M2 is capable of delivering almost twice the performance of "the latest 10-core PC laptop chip" while drawing the same amount of power, or nearly 90 percent of the peak performance of a current-generation 12-core laptop chip at a quarter of the power.
Users can also look forward to a 35 percent increase in graphics performance with the 10-core GPU option, which can also match the M1's peak performance while drawing only a fifth of the power. And there's a whopping 40 percent increase in the speed of the 16-core Neural Engine, which can now process up to 15.8 trillion operations per second.
The memory controller is reported to deliver a 50 percent improvement in unified memory bandwidth (100 GB/s) compared to its predecessor, with up to 24 GB of unified memory available. The media engine now supports 8K H.264 and HEVC video decoding, while the ProRes video engine caters for multiple streams of 4K and 8K video.
Apple is promising "exceptional battery life" from devices built around the new silicon, and the first of its product line to sport the M2 will be a redesigned MacBook Air and an updated 13-inch MacBook Pro.
The new Air is the first Apple product to make use of certified recycled steel, its enclosure magnets now use recycled rare earth elements, and its all-aluminum unibody enclosure is fashioned using recycled aluminum. A complete redesign also sees it slim down to 11.3 mm (0.4 in) and tip the scales at 1.24 kg (2.7 lb).
Apple has bumped the display size up to a 13.6-inch Liquid Retina LED-backlit screen with 2,560 x 1,664 native resolution at 224 pixels per inch, while thinning out the bezels and offering 500 nits of brightness.
Thanks to the M2 silicon, users can look forward to a performance improvement of almost 40 percent when editing in Final Cut Pro, and tweaking images with filters and effects in Photoshop should be up to 20 percent faster as well. The chip is supported by 8 GB of unified memory as standard, which can be optioned up to 24 GB, and up to 2 TB of storage can be optioned in.
The Magic Keyboard comes with a row of full-height function keys with Touch ID and is joined by a generous trackpad. The Air features two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports, Bluetooth 5.0 and Wi-Fi 6. Its new Full HD Face Time camera features a larger image sensor than the previous Air, supported by an array of three beamforming microphones. There's a quad-speaker sound system with Dolby Atmos support, and a 3.5-mm audio jack that can handle the demands of high-impedance headphones.
The 52.6-Wh Li-Po battery offers up to 18 hours of per-charge use for fairly light tasks such as Apple TV movie playback, or 15 hours of wireless internet usage. There's MagSafe onboard for easy connect charging, and support for 67-W fast charging via an optional USB-C adapter.
The only change to the 13-inch MacBook Pro is the upgrade to M2 silicon, which should not only result in a significant performance boost, but also means up to 20 hours of per-charge battery life.
The MacBook Air will be available in four finishes from July for a starting price of US$1,199, the updated 13-inch MacBook Pro starts at $1,299.