In 2020 Apple started using its own desktop processors in some of it Mac range with the arrival of the M1 chip as seen in the 24in iMac, 13in MacBook Pro, Mac mini and MacBook Air. We’ve since seen the debut of the Pro level versions in the form of the M1 Max and M1 Pro, which arrived in the 14in MacBook Pro and 16in MacBook Pro models that were launched in October 2021 and the M1 Ultra, which arrived with the new Mac Studio in March 2022. Read about the M1 series and what it offers.

Now rumours are beginning to flow about the second generation of Apple silicon. We gather together all the news and views about what to expect in the Apple M2 system on chip and all its variants.

Apple M2 release date

There’s no set date or even official confirmation from Apple about the M2 chip. But we know that Apple isn’t a company that sits on its laurels, as we’ve seen by the yearly iteration of the A-series chips that have powered the iPhone for several years.

Most of the rumours about a possible release date of the M2 have been linked to the next version of the MacBook Air, although since the beginning of 2022 there has also been talk of a M2 MacBook Pro.  The MacBooks Air and Pro were among the first to move to the M-series in November 2020. Rumours suggests that the 2022 MacBook Air and the 2022 MacBook Pro could soon gain Apple’s next generation silicon.

We’ve seen rumours from the likes of @Dylandkt which state that the a new MacBook could make its debut in the first half of 2022, replete with the M2 chip.

That tweet dates back to July 2021, and since then the idea that the M2 could arrive in the first half of the year had started to look less likely. However, it is possible: a MacRumors source, who that site claims revealed details of the MacBook Pro notch prior to the October 2021 event, has said that Apple will launch a new M2-powered MacBook Pro at Apple’s Spring Event (which is now known to be taking place on 8 March).

This is counteracted somewhat by industry heavyweight Ming Chi-Kuo who thinks the new device will not arrive until the third quarter of 2022, albeit with a colourful new design similar to what we’ve already seen with the 24in iMac (2021).

Another reason not to expect to see the M2 before the autumn is the fact that it’s thought that Apple will be beefing up the manufacturing process. 

While the manufacturing process will remain at 5 nanometers, Apple is said to be using TSMC’s next generation N4P process, which is an enhanced version of the 5 nanometer process. This new process is supposed to deliver about 11 percentage points more performance and almost 22 percentage points more efficiency compared to the conventional 5 nanometer process (used for the production of A15 and M1, M1 Pro and Max).

However, TSMC indicates that production of these processors won’t start until the second half of 2022. So the M2 Macs are unlikely to be released before autumn 2022.

Apple M2 features and spec

The M1 Pro and M1 Max processors (or SoCs to be more accurate) focused on performance enhancements that saw the M1 Pro being around twice the speed of the M1 when it came to graphics tasks, while the M1 Max doubled this once more. Then the M1 Ultra, when it arrived in March 2022, offered double the capacity of the M1 Max.

These extra CPU cores and GPU cores are great if you work in video or graphic-design based jobs and need the fastest performance from a Mac. But, obviously this kind of speed comes at a cost that is prohibitive for most users, and they really don’t need that kind of hardware to surf the web, stream Netflix movies, keep up with friends on social media or work from home on documents and spreadsheets.

So, the current expectation is that when they launch the M2 line of processors will be aimed at consumers rather than professionals, and as such will focus more on energy efficiency as well as general performance enhancements over the M1 it will replace.

Then Apple will build on the M2 chip and introduce the Pro, Max and Ultra variants of that.

M2 CPUs

We have seen some reports that Apple will keep the same 8 CPU cores as on the M1, but may add more GPU cores to beef up the capabilities of the M2. For example, in May 2021 Bloomberg‘s Mark Gurman suggested that the M2 (apparently codenamed Staten), will include the same eight cores as the ‌M1‌ chip, but it will run faster.

The N4P process, mentioned above, should allow a transistor density that’s about six percent higher, which could enable Apple to integrate 10 CPU cores into the M2 (two more than in the M1). These individual cores could be clocked a little faster than in the M1.

Another possibility is that Apple could do to the M2 CPU something similar to what it has done with the M1 Pro and M1 Max, which both have 10-cores. However, where the M1 has four high performance cores and four high efficiency cores, the M1 Pro and Max have twice the number of high performance cores (eight), but fewer efficiency cores (two). The next gen M2 could increase the number of high efficiency cores.

M2 GPUs

Apple may also expand the graphics card performance to nine or ten graphics cores, two more than the current M1.

In the report mentioned above Gurman suggested that the M2 will see an increase in the number of graphics cores from seven or eight to nine or ten. 

RAM

There are bound to be people hoping that the M2 might support more RAM than the M1 currently does (the M1 maxes out at 16GB RAM, while the M1 Pro can support 32GB, the M1 Max 64GB and the M1 Ultra 128GB). It is probably unlikely that the M2 will support 32GB RAM, and probably unnecessary for such a Mac. We would like to see the price of the 16GB RAM update fall though.

Battery life

As with any iterative upgrade, we’d hope that the M2 will deliver improved battery life and power efficiency over the M1.

Which Macs will get the M2 processor?

When discussing the M2 chip Gurman claimed that it would be destined for the next MacBook Air and that it would also be used for an update to the low-end 13in MacBook Pro.

Following the new MacBook Pros getting the supercharged M1 Pro and M1 Max, we think that makes sense that the M2 will be the processor that appears on consumer-level Macs.

So we expect M2 updates for the MacBook Air, Mac mini and 24in Mac to arrive over the next year or so. Plus, with the iPad Pro currently sporting the M1 chip, it could be that the anticipated iPad Pro (2022) goes down the M2 route rather than M1 Pro or M1 Max. That will be interesting to see and hopefully it won’t be too long until we can test out the new silicon and find out exactly what improvements Apple has made.

This doesn’t mean you need hold off until the later part of 2022 though, as you’ll see in why the upcoming M2 chip shouldn’t stop you from buying a Mac now.

What about the M2 Pro, M2 Max and M2 Ultra?

There will be readers who want to know what is in store for the Pro, Max and Ultra variants on the M2. The M1 Pro and M1 Max have already proven to be very capable, and there are great expectations for the M1 Ultra, so the future developments of Apple’s strategy here look very exciting.

And the M3…

The M2 will be great, we have no doubt about that, but just a year later we could see something even better that will bring an even more massive leap in performance compared to the current generation.

TSMC are said to be testing processors made using the 3nm process, which should allow even higher transistor density, and these are likely to be destined for the M3 and A17 chips, according to Digitimes. TSMC had previously had to postpone its 3nm plans due to the complexities with the process.

According to Digitimes, the first products using the 3nm processor will be released in the first quarter of 2023 with production starting at the end of 2022.

Qualcomm, Samsung and Intel are all set to use the 3nm process.

The M3 chip is likely to bring a significant increase in performance compared to the M1 chips, with the high-end chips being built with two boards and offering up to 40 CPU cores.

The Information has reported that Apple’s M3 chips have the code names Ibiza, Lobos and Palma.