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Apple's M2 chip isn't flawless, but it does indicate the direction of the future

Apple's M2 chip isn't flawless, but it does indicate the direction of the future

   Apple admits that its new M2 chip isn't quite the slam dunk that its predecessor was when compared to the latest processors from Intel, its former CPU supplier.

Apple made much of the fact that its M2 chip is more power-efficient than Intel's latest laptop CPUs in its WWDC 2022 keynote on Monday. When it comes to CPU performance, however, the iPhone maker concedes that Intel has it beat, at least for now.

It was clear from Apple's presentation that the M2's eight-core CPU will provide 87 percent of Intel's 12-core Core i7-1260P's peak performance while consuming only a quarter of Intel's power.

This means that Intel's Core i7-1260P is nearly 15 percent faster than Apple's M2, and that doesn't even take into account the fact that Intel offers two more powerful i7s in its so-called P-series lineup: the higher-frequency i7-1270P with the same number of cores, and the 14-core i7-1280P.

Although Apple claims that the M2's CPU is 1.9x faster than Intel's 10-core Core i7-1255U while using the same amount of power, the truth is that Apple doesn't have CPUs as powerful as Intel's best for ultra-thin laptops.

  Apple is insisting that performance-per-watt, where the M2 really shines, is the more important measure, building on the argument is made with the M1 back in 2020.

While others in the market are increasing power consumption to gain performance, we maintain a relentless focus on power-efficient performance. In other words, we maximize performance while minimizing power consumption,' Srouji said.

It isn't just performance-per-watt that Apple hopes to highlight when the M2 debuts in the MacBook Air and 13' MacBook Pro next month. According to veteran analyst Kevin Krewell of Tirias Research, the tech giant is also betting big on the chip's GPU and neural engine because it believes that an ever-increasing share of applications will require graphics and AI in the future.

According to Krewell, Apple's decision to dedicate more transistors to the M2's 10-core GPU and the 16-core neural engine is evidence of this. As a result of these design choices, Apple claims a 35 percent boost for the GPU and a 40 percent boost for the neural engine over the M1. However, Apple claims that the M2's CPU only improved by 18 percent in multi-threaded performance.

  Nevertheless, Krewell mentioned that applications heavily reliant on the CPU, such as web browsers, do not have a great need for faster chips, which is why he believes it's important to put an emphasis on the GPU and neural engine since they could make a greater difference.

As for the comparison on industry performance, Krewell told The Register, 'Web browsers don't need a whole lot more horsepower, so it's not as relevant in my mind, even though overall power efficiency is good. Apple wants to prove they are on par with Intel and may even be ahead with neural processing and better graphics.'

The 10-core GPU in Apple's M2 is 2.3 times faster than the integrated graphics within Intel's Core i7-1255U while using the same power, Apple did not provide a competitive comparison. The M2's GPU, on the other hand, can deliver a peak performance of the i7-1255U using only one-fifth of the energy. Despite this, Apple did not compare the i7-1260P with the i7-1255U since the i7-1255U has a faster-integrated GPU.

  Apple admits that it does not have the fastest CPU for an ultralight laptop in the industry. Yet, its focus on the GPU and neural engine contribute to the growing trend in the computing world that speeding up the central brain may not be as important as having dedicated accelerators for increasingly important areas like AI and graphics.

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