The new Apple M2 chip is being touted as a much faster SoC than its competitors, but Apple (like most tech companies) aren't exactly reliable when it comes to in-house benchmarking, so we'll have to see for ourselves. Like our previous review of the M1 Pro, we're interested in how the Apple M2 performs across a selection of cross-platform applications, so we can compare it to the best parts available in the Windows world. Comparably, that means machines packing the AMD Ryzen 7 6800U and Intel Core i7-1260P.
In Cinebench R23 multithreaded we recorded 23 watts of power draw from the wall after subtracting the idle power usage of the system. This puts the general CPU package power between the two configurations of the Ryzen 7 6800U that we've tested, at 15W and 25W. What this suggests to us is the M2 is most equivalent to a 20W configuration when the CPU is heavily utilized, which is a typical number for an ultraportable 13-inch notebook.
We're looking at less than half the system power of the 6800U and an even larger gap to the Core i7-1260P. The fact that this Arm chip only clocks up to 3.5 GHz versus 4.7 GHz for the AMD and Intel chips has big implications for efficiency as most process nodes are better optimized for mid-3 GHz frequencies than anything above 4.5 GHz.
Let's kick off the performance testing with Cinebench R23 multi-threading. In this workload the M2 puts up a reasonable showing, matching the Core i7-1260P despite running at a much lower power level. Compared to AMD processors, the M2 is similar to current-gen parts in both performance and efficiency. The power consumption level is between the 15W and 25W configurations of the Ryzen 7 6800U, and so is the final performance. What we're seeing is Apple can keep up with today's best mobile processors, but not exceed them.
The M2 shows similar results to what we saw in Cinebench, noting that both are native Apple Silicon apps now. The M2 sits closer to the 15W version of the 6800U than the 25W version, but nevertheless outperforms the 1260P.
It's a different story for GPU encoding. In this productivity test, the M2 is quite a bit faster than the 6800U, coming in 41% ahead. AMD's graphics have been historically weak at a lot of productivity based work, but whether it's raw performance or optimization, the M2 has a large advantage in the ultraportable class.
In our Microsoft Excel benchmark the M2 is fast, slightly outperforming the M1 Pro in what is a good test of the CPU's cache capacity and performance. The M2 is 6 percent faster than the Ryzen 7 6800U and 21 percent ahead of the Core i7-1260P, placing in in the lead among ultraportable class processors that we've tested.
7-Zip compression shows another strong result for the M2. While it's not close to the M1 Pro with its 8 performance cores, the M2 is still able to beat the Ryzen 7 5800U and 6800U by 10 percent. The Core i7-1260P is even further behind putting in quite an unimpressive result.
However for decompression the story is inverted, now it's the M2 that is the least impressive part of the current generation models. The 6800U is a real beast in this workload, delivering 53 percent more performance in its 25W configuration. The 1260P is also 19 percent faster, though this looks less impressive given the 1260P uses more power than the M2. The AMD CPU does as well, but at least you get a big improvement in performance there.
Since we last tested Acrobat PDF exporting, Adobe has updated the app with native Apple Silicon support and performance improvements on all platforms. This makes the same PDF to PNG export run a lot faster now, which warrants a re-test. In this workload, the M2 is pretty close to other competing CPUs in what is still a lightly threaded task. However the 1260P is 7 percent faster and in the leading position, while the 6800U is 4 percent faster. Not earth shattering margins so like I said, close between these parts.
In FL Studio it's relatively close between the M2 and other mobile processors, although the M2 is the slowest part of the latest-gen CPUs that we've tested. The Ryzen 7 6800U is 16 percent faster in this workload when configured at 25W, and 12 percent faster at 15W, while the 1260P is 6 percent ahead.
Among integrated graphics solutions, the M2 is a beast for Adobe Premiere and this is really where the accelerators that Apple are using show their strength and power. In the overall score, the M2 crushes low power models like the Ryzen 7 6800U and Core i7-1260P, even outperforming 45W CPUs like the Core i9-12900HK.
The M2 also performs strongly in Gigapixel AI image upscaling, though not as well as the M1 Pro or laptops that use discrete Nvidia graphics, as you can see from the chart. As far as integrated GPU solutions go, the M2 outstrips the 1260P by a slim margin, both CPUs include hardware accelerated AI processing. The 6800U at 25W, which does not include AI acceleration, falls behind at 8 percent slower, which isn't a terrible result as the GPU is still a good fallback.
Battery life is the one of the most impressive aspects to the MacBook Pro 13's performance. In a YouTube 4K playback test in Google Chrome, the M2 powered system lasted over 40% longer per watt/hr than the next best system that used the Ryzen 6800U. We're using per watt/hr metrics here to normalize for battery capacity, so that larger batteries are not significantly influencing the results.
The CPU, comprising 4 performance and 4 efficient cores is quite capable, but is perhaps the weakest area to the M2's package relative to the current crop of x86 laptop parts. Across the dozen or so productivity benchmarks we ran, multi-thread performance was typically around the mark of AMD's Ryzen 7 6800U, while single-thread was between the 6800U and Intel's Core i7-1260P.
So, what are the downsides? To access this level of performance and efficiency, you'll have to fork over a lot of money. While the MacBook Pro 13 starts at $1,300, that's for a configuration with too little memory and SSD space. To get the model we tested with 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD, which corresponds to a part this powerful, you're looking at spending $1,700 which is a lot. The MacBook Air coming shortly will be no different. In contrast, the Asus ZenBook S 13 OLED we tested to gather our Ryzen 7 6800U performance data is $1,300 for a configuration that actually has a larger SSD. This makes opting for a MacBook 30 percent more expensive than a very decent Windows laptop. 2b1af7f3a8