Apple’s shift away from Intel CPUs takes another step forward today with the release of the Apple Silicon M2 chip.
Built upon the same 5-nanometer design as the original, the M2 boasts modest increases in CPU, GPU, and Neural Engine performance.
But what does this mean for filmmakers, and should you be reaching for your credit card?
Faster and biggerCredit: Apple
The Second-Generation Apple Silicon
Apple's new SOC, or system-on-a-chip, is not only an upgrade in specs but in size. The M2 is chunkier than its predecessors and contains 25% more transistors—a whopping 20 billion of them.
According to Apple, the M2 chip boasts a CPU that’s 18% faster, a 35% more powerful GPU, and a 40% faster Neural Engine than the M1. On top of this, the new chip will deliver 50% more memory bandwidth at 100GB/s with up to 24GB of unified memory, or RAM.
To compare, the original M1 topped out at 16GB of RAM.
Unfortunately, we’re not sure what tests Apple performed to get these numbers. All the company has said is that it uses “select industry-standard benchmarks.”
But we do get a bit more insight into what systems they used.
According to the fine print, Apple tests included “preproduction 13-inch MacBook Pro systems with Apple M2, 8-core CPU, 10-core GPU, and 16GB of RAM; and production 13-inch MacBook Pro systems with Apple M1, 8-core CPU, 8-core GPU, and 16GB of RAM.”
Here’s Why Filmmakers Should Care
If you’re a creative who relies on ProRes workflows, you should be paying attention. Apple’s senior vice president of Hardware Technologies has stated that the new chip will deliver “higher memory bandwidth and new capabilities like ProRes acceleration.” The media engine also contains a higher-bandwidth video decoder with support for 8K H.264 and HEVC video.
How much of an improvement this is will be remain to be seen, but it’s an improvement to an already great chip nonetheless.
M2 SOC w/ RAMCredit: Apple
The upgraded 24GB of unified memory is also a boon for creatives as you’ll be able to run multiple programs at the same time more efficiently, as well as have a smoother experience editing video and creating VFX.
Apple’s press release states that “the new CPU features faster performance cores paired with a larger cache, while the efficiency cores have been significantly enhanced for even greater performance gains.”
This delivers an 18% increase in multithreaded performance over the M1 and can have a noticeable effect on your workflow if you’re creating music or editing photos with complex filters.
Apple has also said that the new M2 chip will give creatives “the peak performance of the PC chip while using just a quarter of the power.” These numbers were achieved when tested against a Samsung Galaxy Book2 360 with Core i7-1255U and 16GB of RAM.
Yet the comparisons continued with Apple testing the M2 against an MSI Prestige 14Evo with Core i7-1260P and 16GB of RAM and getting and getting “nearly 90 percent of the peak performance of the 12-core chip while using just one-fourth the power.”
To clarify further, Apple used a preproduction 13-inch MacBook Pro with Apple M2, 8-core CPU, 10-core GPU, and 16GB of RAM to conduct both of these tests.
Don’t Throw Your Money at Apple Just Yet
While the M2 chip is another leap forward for Apple, it remains to be seen how these new chips will perform inside a computer or laptop. Currently, Apple is offering the new chip inside a redesigned MacBook Air and a refreshed MacBook Pro.
It’s also unclear if Apple will follow the precedent of making a Pro, Max, and Ultra version using the new M2. But if you were a betting filmmaker, there are worse ways to spend your money.
Whatever Apple ends up doing with its new M2 silicon, it’s clear that Intel and AMD have fierce competition.