The last few weeks have seen a bubbling cauldron of reviews and reactions to the new 13” MacBook Pro. Most importantly, the conversation around the internal SSDs in the base model MacBook Pro has really stirred the pot, as it seems that the new base-model machines have slower speeds.
Is the new M2 chip slower than the M1? No, the new chips are on their own much faster and more efficient.
So WTF is going on? Well, your CPU is only a small part of the equation. To really answer this question, we have to get a bit nerdy.
Internal SSD Layout
To get the answers we need, we’ll touch on two YouTube videos—one from Created Tech and the other from MacRumors. But we do have to state that this issue only seems to affect the base-model MacBook Pro with 256GB of storage.
Both reviewers found that the new 13” MacBook Pro M2 comes with only one chip of 256GB flash memory (or storage), while the M1 MacBook Pro comes with two 128GB chips. This is significant because having two chips allows the hardware to essentially double the read and write speeds, as there are two paths for the data to travel. Two paths, double the speed. This is a bit of an exaggeration, but the general idea is sound.
When Created Tech benchmarked the SSDs from both generations of base-model MacBook Pros, the difference in speed was clearly evident.
On the Issue of Speed
Having your storage memory run slower can cause a slew of different issues. For example, transferring data may not be as quick, and if you’re editing high-resolution footage, there could be frame drops or general software slowdown.
But here's where the issue starts to fall apart a bit. Unless you're editing massively complicated sequences with multiple 4K, 6K, or 8K timelines, you may not see any issues. And if you are doing that kind of editing, what the heck are you doing on a MacBook?
Also, most (if not all) modern computers utilize something called Memory Swapping, which allows your computer to dump data onto your SSD when your RAM is full. The more programs you run and the more browser tabs you have open, the more RAM you use. If your computer needs more, it’ll start to use your SSD. So when your storage is running slow, this could be an issue.
M1 vs M2 SSD TestsCredit: Created Tech
Playing Devil’s Advocate
But now we get to MacRumors, who got some different results when testing their base-model M2 MacBook Pro.
While their benchmarks also showed that the M2 MacBook Pro SSDs are slower than the previous generation, their real-world test showed something else entirely. When transferring a 50GB file back and forth, the new M2 MacBook Pro was faster.
So what gives? Well, benchmarks can be too clinical and aren’t the end-all-be-all of tests. Sometimes you need real-world examples to prove your hypothesis, and MacRumors found that transfer speeds are really affected by the single flash memory chip.
Could they be wrong? Sure. Could the single flash memory chip cause other issues? You bet. But will they?
A real world testCredit: MacRumors
The Perfect Mac
There’s no such thing as the perfect Mac, only the right machine for what you need. There’s always going to be a sacrifice, either in cost, usability, or even heat output.
The base-model 13” MacBook Pro isn’t that great of a machine for 2022. It comes with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. Those kinds of specs are really going to limit how much creative work you can do.
If you jump from Adobe Photoshop to Final Cut Pro X and have 15 browser tabs open, all while transferring files to and from your machine, your MacBook won’t be able to handle that. But if you focus on one task at a time, the new 13” MacBook Pro could be a decent budget solution for low-end workflows in a pinch.
Is this your use case?Credit: Thought Catalog
Should You Worry?
If you’re a creative eyeing the new 13” MacBook Pro with M2 and you’re worried about the SSD speeds, consider your use case. If you really need power, consider upgrading to something that fits your needs.
But if you find yourself with a base-model MacBook Pro and you’re only watching Netflix and writing grad papers, don’t fret. You’ll have more than enough juice to binge the most recent season of Stranger Things and get that degree. The SSD issue, whether it has any real-world effect, isn’t something you should worry about unless you’re pushing your machine. If you are, you probably didn’t get the base model.