• Are M-Series Macs Worth It?


June saw Apple’s traditional World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC), where it rolls out under-the-hood technical enhancements for its products. This year, it unveiled the latest version of the M-series CPU, which now powers its devices. What does this mean for business users?

Apple used IBM’s PowerPC CPUs for its computer chips until 2005, when it switched to Intel. That lasted for 15 years. Then, pursuing its need to own its entire technology stack, the company shifted to its own silicon. November 2020, saw it launch the M1 chip, based on a design by ARM.

Apple has spent the last couple of years putting M1 chips in computers ranging from its lightweight MacBook Air through to its flagship MacBook Pro models. It also included them in its modern iPad devices.

It has repeatedly updated this new silicon, introducing the M1 Pro last year. The company claimed that this CPU increased the original M1’s performance by 70%. A larger version of that chip, called the M1 Max, included even more cores for extra performance.

The M1 Max chip made it into the Mac Studio, its successor to the Mac Pro desktop. This year, Apple upped the ante again with an M1 Ultra chip, which it offers as an upgrade to the Mac Studio. This is effectively two M1 Max chips bolted together.

Faster performance and better battery life

If there’s one thing that the M-series is known for, it’s blistering speed and excellent power performance. Here, Apple has taken the opportunity to integrate its hardware at a deep level, optimising everything. That led reviewers to describe the original M1-equipped 2020 MacBook Air (a lightweight, low-powered device) as a pro-level laptop. Battery life with that model neared 50% more than its Intel-based predecessor in real-world tests.

This year’s WWDC saw Apple push the envelope again with the M2 chip. It includes up to 10 GPU cores (two more than its predecessor), along with a larger cache (the on-chip memory that it uses for fast calculations) and more memory bandwidth. It also supports more memory, at up to 24Gb.

Although the chip was just recently announced, these tech specs promise even better performance. Apple expects this chip to offer 1.4 times the speed of the original M1.

The company once again put this chip in a MacBook Air, this time redesigning the laptop to lose its traditional wedge shape. It also built one into the new 2022 13-in MacBook Pro, which it said offers six times the performance of the equivalent Intel-based Mac laptop model.

Are these worth buying? You’re definitely paying a premium for Apple laptops compared to their Windows equivalents, and there are some other downsides. One of these is that Apple’s laptops are notoriously impossible to upgrade. That means you’re stuck with whatever you choose to put in them at the time of purchase. Some Windows laptops are more upgradable, allowing you to add more memory and storage to extend their life cycle.

The upside of Apple’s seamless tech

On the other hand, you’re paying for an integrated Apple experience that supports increasingly tight integration with the operating system and the hardware. That has already enabled Apple users to set up their iPads as secondary screens for their Mac hardware via the company’s Sidecar feature, and to share a single keyboard and mouse between multiple Apple devices nearby via Universal Control. The latest Ventura version of MacOS, also announced at WWDC, enables users to hand off FaceTime calls between phones and Macs, and also use their iPhones as Mac webcams automatically.

The high-functioning M-series Macs are also likely to offer longer refresh cycles for business users thanks to their improved battery life and computing performance.

These devices will be better suited to specialist users such as creatives or engineers with high-performance requirements, or for executives that want that little extra bling. With that said, we expect Apple to continue maintaining the performance divide with Windows laptops as it releases successive enhancements to its M-series silicon.


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