Surprise! We’re not accustomed to mid-January releases from Apple since the demise of Macworld Expo, but the company returned to the schedule of yesteryear to unveil its new M2 Pro and M2 Max chips and the Macs they power. New Mac mini models sport the M2 and the M2 Pro, and new MacBook Pro models are powered by the M2 Pro and M2 Max. You can also watch the 19-minute intro video.
All these Macs are available to order now and will ship and arrive in stores on 24 January 2023. Customers in Australia, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Macau, New Zealand, and Singapore will have to wait until 3 February 2023 to receive their orders.
M2 Pro and M2 Max
First up, the chips. As with their M1-family predecessors, the M2 Pro and M2 Max are expanded versions of the base M2.
- The M2 Pro offers a 10-core or 12-core CPU and a 16-core or 19-core GPU. It also includes either 16 GB or 32 GB of on-chip unified memory that works at 200 gigabytes per second.
- The M2 Max has a 12-core CPU with either a 30-core or 38-core GPU. Unified memory options include 32 GB, 64 GB, and—with the 38-core GPU model—96 GB.
Apple said that both chips provide 20% better CPU performance than their M1 counterparts, 30% better GPU performance, and 40% better Neural Engine performance. In specific app benchmarks, Apple claims improvements of 25%–40%. We’ll see if those claims hold up in real-world testing, where the M2 proved about 15%–20% faster than the M1.
Regardless, it seems that the M2 Pro and M2 Max do pretty much what everyone expected in terms of improving on the M1 Pro and M1 Max. So, how is Apple using these chips?
Mac mini with M2 and M2 Pro
No one watching the Mac mini was surprised that Apple announced an M2 Mac mini—that writing was on the wall as soon as the M2 chip debuted with the MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro (see “Apple Unveils M2-Powered MacBook Air and Updated 13-Inch MacBook Pro,” 6 June 2022). Even more welcome, however, is the addition of a reasonably priced M2 Pro Mac mini that brings Apple’s diminutive desktop Mac to an audience that wanted more power than the M1 Mac mini but didn’t want to jump to the Mac Studio.
How do the two models compare?
- The M2 Mac mini starts at $599 and provides an 8-core CPU and 10-core GPU with unified memory configurations of 8 GB, 16 GB ($200), or 24 GB ($400). In terms of storage, the base level is 256 GB, but you can increase that to 512 GB ($200), 1 TB ($400), or 2 TB ($800). It provides only two Thunderbolt 4 ports.
- The M2 Pro Mac mini starts at $1299 for a 10-core CPU and 16-core GPU, but you can bump that up to an M2 Pro with a 12-core CPU and 19-core GPU for $300. You also get 16 GB of unified memory and 512 GB of storage for that base price. 32 GB of memory is $400 more, and storage upgrades are 1 TB ($200), 2 TB ($600), 4 TB ($1200), and 8 TB ($2400). It offers more connectivity options with four Thunderbolt 4 ports.
Of course, the Mac mini lacks a built-in screen. Happily for multiple-monitor mavens, Apple enhanced external display support such that even the M2 Mac mini supports two displays: one at up to 6K resolution over Thunderbolt and another at 5K resolution over Thunderbolt or 4K resolution over HDMI.
When you mix an M2 Pro with Apple’s latest HDMI support, things become even more interesting for those who need either ultra-high resolutions or extremely fast refresh rates. The M2 Pro Mac mini can drive up to three displays: two at up to 6K resolution over Thunderbolt and a third at 4K resolution over HDMI. However, if you connect only two displays to the M2 Pro Mac mini, it can drive one at 6K resolution over Thunderbolt and the second one at 4K resolution at 144 Hz over HDMI. Drop to a single display over HDMI, and it can run either at 8K resolution at 60 Hz or 4K resolution at 240 Hz. Let us know in the comments if 8K resolution or 144/240 Hz refresh rates are important to you, and why.
On both Mac mini models, Gigabit Ethernet is standard, and 10 Gigabit Ethernet adds $100. Along with the two or four Thunderbolt 4 ports and the HDMI port, both models include two USB-A ports and a 3.5 mm headphone jack. In terms of wireless connectivity, the new Mac mini models support the latest Wi-Fi 6E, which takes advantage of a new swath of unlicensed spectrum in the 6 GHz band to offer faster performance over short distances with new Wi-Fi 6E-capable routers. They also have Bluetooth 5.3, which might improve the Bluetooth experience.
Putting it all together, these updates to the Mac mini may change your buying equations. The M2 Mac mini becomes even more of a solid entry-level desktop Mac thanks to the M2’s improved performance, the option for 24 GB of memory, and Apple dropping the price by $100 to $599.
More interesting is the M2 Pro Mac mini, which provides significantly more performance in the Mac mini form factor, along with higher memory and storage ceilings and more Thunderbolt ports. The real question for those considering a purchase soon becomes how a tricked-out M2 Pro Mac mini compares with an M1 Max Mac Studio. AppleInsider has compared the two, and if you’re considering either, you’ll want to build your own comparison sheet. Of course, Apple is sure to update the Mac Studio with the M2 Max and eventual M2 Ultra at some point in the next 6–12 months, which will give the Mac Studio a more significant performance edge, particularly if Apple doesn’t raise its prices. And who knows, maybe Apple will eventually release the promised Mac Pro with Apple silicon—maybe it will be essentially an M2 Ultra Mac Studio in a case that provides internal expansion options.
One final note—Apple quietly dropped the Intel-based Mac mini from the product line, leaving the Mac Pro as the remaining remnant of the Intel chip era.
14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro with M2 Pro and M2 Max
With its new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models, Apple changed only the laptops’ innards, upgrading their chips to the M2 Pro and M2 Max and modernizing the wireless connectivity to Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3. For a longer discussion of the basic features, see “New 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros Powered by M1 Pro and M1 Max Chips” (18 October 2021).
So, what do you get?
- The 14-inch MacBook Pro starts at $1999 for an M2 Pro with a 10-core CPU and 16-core GPU, 16 GB of memory, and 512 GB of storage. Chip upgrades include the 12/19-core (CPU/GPU) M2 Pro ($300), the 12/30 M2 Max ($500), and the 12/38 M2 Max ($700). With memory, the M2 Pro configurations can upgrade to 32 GB ($400), whereas the M2 Max configurations start at 32 GB and let you go to 64 GB ($400) or 96 GB ($800, with the 12/38 M2 Max only).
- The 16-inch MacBook Pro is $2499 for an M2 Pro with a 12-core CPU and 19-core GPU, 16 GB of memory, and 512 GB of storage. Chip upgrades include the 12/30 M2 Max ($200) and the 12/38 M2 Max ($400). Memory is the same as with the 14-inch MacBook Pro, so the M2 Pro configuration can upgrade to 32 GB ($400), and the M2 Max configurations start at 32 GB and let you go to 64 GB ($400) or 96 GB ($800, with the 12/38 M2 Max only).
Along with the improved wireless connectivity, both MacBook Pro models have a MagSafe 3 charging port, HDMI for connecting a display, an SDXC card slot, a 3.5 mm headphone hack, and three Thunderbolt 4 ports (two on the left, one on the right).
As with the new Mac mini models, the new MacBook Pro models boast better external display support thanks to the M2 Pro and M2 Max coupled with improved HDMI capabilities. Configure one with an M2 Pro and, in addition to its built-in display, it supports either:
- Up to two external displays with up to 6K resolution over Thunderbolt, or one at up to 6K resolution over Thunderbolt and another with 4K resolution at 144 Hz over HDMI
- One external display at 8K resolution at 60 Hz or one at 4K resolution at 240 Hz over HDMI
With an M2 Max, you can drive either:
- Up to four external displays, three at up to 6K resolution over Thunderbolt and one at 4K resolution at 144 Hz over HDMI
- Up to three external displays, two at up to 6K resolution over Thunderbolt and one at either 8K resolution at 60 Hz or 4K resolution at 240 Hz over HDMI
As impressive as the specs are on these new MacBook Pro models, they change buying decisions only in the sense of giving those waiting for the next entrants in the M2 family freedom to get off the fence. If you’ve been holding out for an M2 Pro or M2 Max laptop, wait no longer.