Category Archives: M2

Apple MacBook Air M2

Amazing low cost laptop option for musicians and creators

Apple 13″ MacBook Air M2 $1499.00 minimum as recommended below
Apple 15″ MacBook Air M2 $1699.00 minimum as recommended below

Do not buy a computer with 8GB memory and a 256GB SSD! Why any musician or creator would buy a new system constrained like this in 2024 is beyond me. If properly configured Apple silicon is too expensive for you, buy used or refurbished.

I’m not going to play with you here, or hem and haw like many YouTubers do. 8GB of memory and a 256GB SSD are not enough for musicians and creators. Some software will not run. It’s tight now and has a negative future-proofing factor. A 16GB memory upgrade for $200 and a 512GB SSD upgrade for $200 are seriously the minimum of what you need.

My minimum Apple computer recommendation for musicians and creators is 16GB memory and 512GB SSD or more. Any less than this does not make performance or economic sense. You will regret buying an Apple M Series system with 8GB memory and a 256GB SSD.

With the above caveats, the MacBook Air M2 and its siblings, the MacBook Air M1, the Mac mini M2, the Mac mini M1 and the 24″ iMac M1 make amazing low cost options for musicians and creators. For some the 13″ MacBook Pro M2 would also be a viable option, but I personally hate the touch bar and find the design/features dated, so they are not for me (or the majority of others). In almost all ways, the newly refreshed MacBook Air M2 is a better computer than the older design 13″ MacBook Pro M2.

The MacBook Air M2 is a very cool laptop. Also keep in mind, when you configure above the minimum suggested above, you get closer to the cost of a 14″ MacBook Pro M1 Pro, a much better laptop. Even at the minimum recommended configuration, there is only a $400 uptick to this system with fans, larger and better display, more ports… but if you get GPU core, memory and/or storage upgrades the difference will be even less.

Benchmarks between $1899.00 MacBook Air M2 and $1999.00 MacBook Pro M1 Pro

The above said, if you prioritize portability above sustained performance and pro features, a properly configured MacBook Air M2 may be perfect for you. There is nothing in Apple’s current lineup that is smaller or weighs less.

Equally, let’s keep all the above information in proper perspective. The MacBook Air M2 is a fan-less design entry level system with the fully expected limitations of a machine in its class. It is the MacBook suited best for the majority of basic computer users out there. MacBook Airs are Apple’s best sellers, and for very good reasons.

Memory and SSD Performance Benchmarks

I’ll be the first to admit there is a lot of sensationalism and overreaction in tech videos with benchmarking. Max Tech can be among the most flagrant and I do not always agree with their benchmark analysis. Still the core of what they and others do with benchmarks is valuable. Their video M2 MacBook Air 8GB vs 16GB RAM – How BAD is base model? is straight and to the point. If you’re still questioning my insistence that musicians and creatives would be meshuganah to get less than 16GB of memory and a 512GB SSD, watch that video (also in playlist near end of this page). Here’s some basic measurements.

In 2022, I feel no one is served well by buying a computer meant to last at least 5 years with 8GB of memory and a 256GB SSD. Musicians and creators especially would be poorly served by Apple’s MacBook Air M2’s base models. 16GB of memory and a 512GB SSD should be Apple’s base on their entry level models.

CPU & GPU Performance Benchmarks

I would generally advise to not get too tied up in the minutiae of benchmarks, but they are useful for relative comparisons of processors. It is worth noting that no M Series processors are slouches. Some more than others, but all of them are a noticeable improvement over the Intel processors in previous generation Macs.

CPU single-core performance of the M2 processors in the MacBook Air are very similar to all other M2 Series processors, because of course they all share the same CPU single-core.

CPU and GPU multi-core performance is where the differences become more apparent because of the different number of cores.

DAW Performance Benchmarks

The following screenshot is from ‘M2 MacBook Air vs 14″ MacBook Pro – Prepare to be SHOCKED!‘ in the YouTube playlist below.

$1599.00 MacBook Air M2, 8 core CPU, 8 core GPU, 16GB memory, 512GB SSD vs $1999.00 MacBook Pro M1 Pro, 8 core CPU, 14 core GPU, 16GB memory, 512GB SSD.

Lightly loaded DAWs will run on an 8GB MacBook Air but you will hit the memory ceiling and feel it. Your call but I recommend 16GB. 256GB is a pointless SSD capacity as well. You will be on external storage very quickly.

Check software compatibilities

It should go without saying, but I’m gonna say it anyway. M Series has been out since November 2020. macOS Monterey has been out since October 2021. I think it’s crazy that any DAW or plugin should have issues or still require Rosetta emulation, but not everyone listens to me. Do your homework!

macOS 12 Monterey: Compatibility Guide

Furthermore, in my opinion any major software company that markets to Apple users and hasn’t updated their software to include Apple silicon compatibility deserves to lose your business. It’s been a year and a half, and at this point it’s a real screw you. They obviously don’t care about their customers and should be replaced by a company that cares more about their customers.

All that said, my personal experience has been very good. Everything I use runs natively on M Series and is compatible with Monterey. But don’t listen to me, do your homework!

macOS 13 Ventura: Compatibility Guide

My personal experience with Ventura has also been very good. Everything I use runs natively on M Series and is compatible with Ventura. But don’t listen to me, do your homework!

Ports are important for musicians & content creators

I do wish these MacBook Air M2s had an Ethernet RJ-45 and a legacy USB-A port, but that will be probably never. The 2 Thunderbolt/USB-C ports on the MacBook Air can also be easily expanded with a hub if you need more. Also an external monitor like the Apple Studio Display has 3 more USB-C ports in addition to the Thunderbolt 3 connection port. I would theorize that in portable mode you might not need more ports than are built into the MacBook Air, but in the studio you may.

You may want a USB-C to Ethernet RJ-45 adapter. You will want to plug your interface directly into USB-C or if you can’t do that, get a hub or adapter also for legacy USB-A hard drives, flash drives, cables to synths, cable to printer etc.

Obviously wise future purchases will be solidly Thunderbolt or USB-C. Occasionally most musicians like to plug headphones directly into the system, though most of the time it’s either through an interface or Bluetooth. You can also buy the Apple USB-C VGA Multiport Adapter for an older existing monitor if you need it. This adapter also has a USB-C and a USB-A.

MacBook Air hardware upgrades

Remember no internal hardware upgrades can be performed. This is especially true with Apple silicon. SoC or System on Chip as you probably already know, cannot be upgraded. The advantages are more than worth it, but push yourself to adequately configure memory and storage for the future.

External storage alternatives

I recommend backing up all data to the cloud, and supplementing the internal Apple SSD.

See Apple M Series External USB-C SSD Options for a more extensive discussion and specific product recommendations.

The MacBook Air M2 has what it takes to last 5+ years*

*Configuration caveats heeded. This is why you buy Apple. Realistically with the cost of computers these days, a 1-3 year refresh cycle is not practical for most people. Unlike the majority if not all PC systems, Apple computers are built to last and Apple silicon is state of the art enough to start you at the head of the pack.

Keep coming back

What will be different about this site compared to many Apple sites is over time we will be sharing configuration and electronic music/video recording pertinent information. More soon.

Thanks!
-Yehuda

Manufacturer’s website
https://www.apple.com/macbook-air/

Product support, downloads
https://support.apple.com/

Videos

Yehuda Rothschild Apple MacBook Air M2 Series YouTube Playlist

Yehuda Rothschild Apple Mac M Series Music Production YouTube Playlist

Apple related pages
Updated periodically – Apple Silicon is the DAW standard
Updated periodically – Apple Mac Studio M1 Max & M1 Ultra
Updated periodically – Apple Mac Studio M2 Max & M2 Ultra
Updated periodically – Apple Mac Studio M3 Max & M3 Ultra
Updated periodically – Apple MacBook Pro M1 Pro & M1 Max
Updated periodically – Apple MacBook Pro M2 Pro & M2 Max
Updated periodically – Apple MacBook Pro M3 Pro & M3 Max
Updated periodically – Apple Mac Pro M2 Ultra
Updated periodically – Apple Mac mini M1
Updated periodically – Apple Mac mini M2 & M2 Pro
Updated periodically – Apple Mac mini M3 & M3 Pro
Updated periodically – Apple MacBook Air M1
Updated periodically – Apple MacBook Air M2
Updated periodically – Apple MacBook Air M3
Updated periodically – Apple 24″ iMac M1
Updated periodically – Apple 24″ iMac M3
Updated periodically – Apple Studio Display
Updated periodically – Apple M1 Processor Series
Updated periodically – Apple M2 Processor Series
Updated periodically – Apple M3 Processor Series

Follow on Mastodon – TurtleIsland.social/@Yehuda

This page is subject to content updates/additions. If you think any content should be updated or added, please leave a private comment on Mastodon – TurtleIsland.social/@Yehuda.

Apple M2 Processor Series

Understanding the four Apple M2 Series processors

Apple M2
Apple announced the M2 SoC on June 6, 2022, at WWDC, along with the new MacBook Air and the new 13-inch MacBook Pro and later the iPad Pro (6th generation). It is the successor to the Apple M1. The M2 is made with TSMC’s “Enhanced 5-nanometer technology” N5P process and contains 20 billion transistors, a 25% increase from the previous generation M1. The M2 can be configured with up to 24 gigabytes of RAM and 2 terabytes of storage. It has 8 CPU cores (4 performance and 4 efficiency) and up to 10 GPU cores. The M2 also increases the memory bandwidth to 100 GB/s. Apple claims CPU improvements up to 18% and GPU improvements up to 35% compared to the previous M1.

Apple M2 Pro
The M2 Pro is a more powerful version of the M2, with six to eight performance cores, four efficiency cores, 16 to 19 core GPU, 16 Apple Next Generation Neural Engine cores, up to 32 GBs of unified RAM with up to 200 GB/s memory bandwidth, and over 40 billion transistors, 20 percent more than the M1 Pro and twice the M2. It was announced on January 17, 2023 in a press release and it is used in the 14 and 16 inch 2023 MacBook Pro (Apple silicon) as well as the Mac Mini. Apple claims the CPU performance on the M2 Pro is 20 percent faster than the M1 Pro and the GPU is 30 percent faster than the one on the M1 Pro.

Apple M2 Max
The M2 Max is a larger more powerful version of the M2 Pro, with eight performance cores, four efficiency cores, 30 to 38 core GPU, 16 Apple Next Generation Neural Engine cores, up to 96GBs of unified RAM with up to 400 GB/s memory bandwidth, and over 67 billion transistors, 10 billion more than the M1 Max and 3x the M2. It was announced on January 17, 2023 in a press release and it is used in the 14 and 16 inch 2023 MacBook Pro (Apple silicon). Apple claims the CPU performance on the M2 Max is 20 percent faster that M1 Max and the GPU is 30 percent faster than the M1 Max. According to Apple, “the M2 Max is the most powerful and efficient chip in a pro laptop”.

Apple M2 Ultra
The M2 Ultra consists of two M2 Max dies connected together by a silicon interposer through Apple’s UltraFusion technology. It has 134 billion transistors, 16 performance cores, 8 efficiency cores, 60 to 76 GPU cores and 32 Neural Engine cores; it can be configured with up to 192 GB unified RAM of 800 GB/s memory bandwidth. It was announced on June 5, 2023, as an optional upgrade for the Mac Studio and the sole processor for the Apple silicon Mac Pro. Apple claims the M1 Ultra can deliver up to 22 streams of 8K ProRes video playback.
Wikipedia 

The brilliance of Apple silicon is the components of each one are the same. There are just more or less of them in each type.

Performance of the various M2 processors really boils down to the base M2 processor performance.

The base M2 has been in the MacBook Air and available since the beginning of July 2022. The Mac mini refreshed its lineup to the M2 and M2 Pro in Q1 of 2023.

The 14″ & 16″ MacBook Pros upgraded to the M2 Pro and M2 Max in Q1 of 2023.

The Mac Studio upgraded to the M2 Max and M2 Ultra, and the Mac Pro upgraded to M2 Ultra in June of 2023.

Apple is possibly trying to move M Series processor upgrades to an annual rhythm like the A Series processors for iPhones etc. The M2 Extreme has been reportedly scrapped. Rumors say the 24″ iMac will not get released in a M2 iteration.

By the end of 2023, the Apple M1 Processor Series should be history and fully replaced by the Apple M2 and M3 Processor Series in newly released products.

M2, M2 Pro, M2 Max, and M2 Ultra specifications

While M2, M2 Pro and M2 Max are distinct designs, the M2 Ultra is essentially two interconnected M2 Maxs (as the M1 Ultra was two M1 Maxs).

** If you are browsing this page from a phone, you may want to view the following chart in landscape mode.

ComponentM2M2 ProM2 MaxM2 Ultra
Efficiency CPU Cores4448
Efficiency Clock2.4GHz2.4GHz2.4GHz2.4GHz
Performance CPU Cores46 or 8816
Performance Clock3.5GHz3.5GHz3.5GHz3.5GHz
Neural Engine Cores16161632
GPU Cores options8 or 1016 or 1930 or 3860 or 76
Unified Memory options8GB 16GB 24GB16GB 32GB32GB 64GB 96GB64GB 128GB 192GB
Memory Bandwidth100GB/s200GB/s400GB/s800GB/s
Video Decode Engines1112
Video Encode Engines1124
ProRes Encode-Decode Engines1124

Assuming a less than 2 year processor life cycle, before the end of 2024 the M2 Series should be history and fully replaced by the Apple M3 Processor Series in newly released products.

CPU & GPU Performance Benchmarks

Buying an Apple M2 Series computer

Any Apple M2 Series computer will be a joyful experience compared to music and video production on Intel hardware. Highly recommended to get at least 16GB of memory and 512GB storage if you select an M2 Series system.

So far, there are 8 basic form factors of Apple macOS systems with M2 Series processors, 5 laptops and 3 desktops.

Thanks!
-Yehuda

Useful Links

Apple related pages
Updated periodically – Apple Silicon is the DAW standard
Updated periodically – Apple Mac Studio M1 Max & M1 Ultra
Updated periodically – Apple Mac Studio M2 Max & M2 Ultra
Updated periodically – Apple Mac Studio M3 Max & M3 Ultra
Updated periodically – Apple MacBook Pro M1 Pro & M1 Max
Updated periodically – Apple MacBook Pro M2 Pro & M2 Max
Updated periodically – Apple MacBook Pro M3 Pro & M3 Max
Updated periodically – Apple Mac Pro M2 Ultra
Updated periodically – Apple Mac mini M1
Updated periodically – Apple Mac mini M2 & M2 Pro
Updated periodically – Apple Mac mini M3 & M3 Pro
Updated periodically – Apple MacBook Air M1
Updated periodically – Apple MacBook Air M2
Updated periodically – Apple MacBook Air M3
Updated periodically – Apple 24″ iMac M1
Updated periodically – Apple 24″ iMac M3
Updated periodically – Apple Studio Display
Updated periodically – Apple M1 Processor Series
Updated periodically – Apple M2 Processor Series
Updated periodically – Apple M3 Processor Series

Follow on Mastodon – TurtleIsland.social/@Yehuda

This page is subject to content updates/additions. If you think any content should be updated or added, please leave a private comment on Mastodon – TurtleIsland.social/@Yehuda.

Apple Mac mini M2 & M2 Pro

Lowest cost desktop option for musicians and creators

Apple Mac mini M2 $999.00 minimum as recommended below
Apple Mac mini M2 Pro $1299.00 minimum as recommended below

Do not buy a computer with 8GB memory and a 256GB SSD! Why any musician or creator would buy a new system constrained like this in 2024 is beyond me. If properly configured Apple silicon is too expensive for you, buy used or refurbished.

I’m not going to play with you here, or hem and haw like many YouTubers do. 8GB of memory and a 256GB SSD are not enough for musicians and creators. Some software will not run. It’s tight now and has a negative future-proofing factor. A 16GB memory upgrade for $200 and a 512GB SSD upgrade for $200 are seriously the minimum of what you need.

My minimum Apple computer recommendation for musicians and creators is 16GB memory and 512GB SSD or more. Any less than this does not make performance or economic sense. You will regret buying an Apple M Series system with 8GB memory and a 256GB SSD.

Mac mini M2

With the above caveats, the Mac mini M2 and its siblings, the Mac mini M1, the MacBook Air M2, the MacBook Air M1 and the 24″ iMac M1 make amazing low cost options for musicians and creators. For some the 13″ MacBook Pro M1/M2 would also be a viable option, but I personally hate the touch bar and find the design/features dated, so they are not for me (or the majority of others).

A Mac mini M2 with 16GB memory and 512GB SSD is $999.00. Leave it at that. If you want more than that, move up to the Mac mini M2 Pro, ok?

P.S. The 256GB SSD is slow, much slower than the 512GB SSD.

The Mac mini M2 has HDMI 2.0, WiFi 6E, and Bluetooth 5.3. Otherwise it has the same ports and same number of ports that the Mac mini M1 has (notably 2 Thunderbolt 4/USB-C ports). Note the Mac mini M2 supports 2 displays, one up to 6K over Thunderbolt, and one up to 5K over Thunderbolt or 4K over HDMI.

Mac mini M2 Pro

Many people feel the Mac mini M2 Pro is one of the best and most important systems Apple has released lately. The Mac mini M2 Pro is really the star of this release. If you are in the $1299.00-$2199.00 budget range, give it serious consideration. Yes it costs more than a Mac mini M2, but you get a lot of bang for your buck.

I will also mention that if you would add more than two options of CPU/GPU cores, memory, or SSD to the $1299.00 Mac mini M2 Pro, you might consider jumping to the Mac Studio M1 Max. Personally, for a primary system I would take the Mac mini M2 Pro in its $1299.00 configuration or bump it up to 32GB memory and a 1TB SSD, making it $1899.00 and that is probably it. Any more upgrades than that and you are firmly in Mac Studio territory. $1299.00 to $1899.00 is the sweet spot for the Mac mini M2 Pro.

If you add the 12 CPU cores, 19 GPU cores option to that, it is $2199.00, the same as a Mac Studio M1 Max with 10 CPU cores, 24 GPU cores and 1TB SSD. The Mac Studio M1 Max also has 10 Gigabit Ethernet, the 2 front USB-C ports, a front SD card slot and more GPU power, but the Mac mini M2 Pro has more CPU power. Better CPU power or better GPU power and form factor, it’s a difficult choice for a DAW user…

Keep in mind, that just like the MacBook Pro M2 Pro, the 512GB SSD on the Mac mini M2/M2 Pro is not slow, it is fast, but the 1TB SSD is as much as twice as fast.

The Mac mini M2 Pro has HDMI 2.1, WiFi 6E, and Bluetooth 5.3. It has 4 Thunderbolt 4/USB-C ports. Otherwise it has the same ports and same number of ports that the Mac mini M1 has. Note the Mac mini M2 Pro supports up to 3 displays, two up to 6K 60Hz over Thunderbolt, and one up to 4K 60Hz over HDMI, OR one up to 6K 60Hz over Thunderbolt and one up to 4K 144Hz over HDMI, OR one up to 8K 60Hz OR one 4K 240Hz. Whew! Read the specs for details.

Information you need to properly digest web sites & especially YouTube.
Updated frequently – Apple Technology YouTube Critique

CPU & GPU Performance Benchmarks

I would generally advise to not get too tied up in the minutiae of benchmarks, but they are useful for relative comparisons of processors. It is worth noting that no M Series processors are slouches. Some more than others, but all of them are a noticeable improvement over the Intel processors in previous generation Macs.

CPU single-core performance of the M2 and M2 Pro processors in the Mac mini are very similar to all other M2 Series processors, because of course they all share the same CPU single-core.

CPU and GPU multi-core performance is where the differences become more apparent because of the different number of cores.

DAW Performance Benchmarks

The M2 will handle 70+ tracks. Both versions of the M2 Pro are going to be able to handle double that at 150+ tracks. DAWs are heavy on CPU use, with very little GPU load. This Logic Pro benchmark comes from ‘The TRUTH about New Mac Mini after 1 Month – M2 vs M2 Pro!‘ video located in the YouTube section farther down this page.

I would strongly recommend the M2 Pro 10 core CPU, 16 core GPU or the M2 Pro 12 core CPU, 19 core GPU as perfect processors for the majority of musicians. Not only is your DAW gonna hum like never before, but you will experience great video and graphics processing with the 16 or 19 core GPU.

If you need more CPU horsepower for a DAW, you will need to move into a desktop Mac Studio M1 Ultra. The extra GPU cores of an M1 or M2 Max won’t help a DAW. Video and graphics processing are different issues of course.

Check software compatibilities

It should go without saying, but I’m gonna say it anyway. M Series has been out since November 2020. I think it’s crazy that any DAW or plugin should have issues or still be running on Rosetta emulation, but not everyone listens to me. Do your homework!

Furthermore, in my opinion any major software company that markets to Apple users and hasn’t updated their software to include Apple silicon compatibility deserves to lose your business. It’s been over 2 years, and at this point it’s a real screw you. They obviously don’t care about their customers and should be replaced by a company that cares more about their customers.

macOS 13 Ventura: Compatibility Guide

My personal experience with Ventura has been very good. Everything I use runs natively on M Series and is compatible with Ventura. But don’t listen to me, do your homework!

Ports are important for musicians & content creators

The 2 Thunderbolt 4/USB-C ports on the Mac mini M2 are a bit tight for musicians and creators, but can also be easily expanded with a hub if you need more. The 4 Thunderbolt 4/USB-C ports on the Mac mini M2 Pro are better for musicians and creators. Also an external monitor like the Apple Studio Display has 3 more USB-C ports in addition to the Thunderbolt 3 connection port.

You will want to plug your interface directly into USB-C and find the 2 legacy USB-A ports good for USB hard drives, flash drives, cables to synths, cable to printer etc.

Obviously wise future purchases will be solidly Thunderbolt or USB-C. The HDMI will be very useful for TV, and occasionally most musicians like to plug headphones directly into the system, though most of the time it’s either through an interface or Bluetooth. You can also buy the Apple USB-C VGA Multiport Adapter for an older existing monitor if you need it. This adapter also has a USB-C and a USB-A.

Mac mini hardware upgrades

Remember no internal hardware upgrades can be performed. This is especially true with Apple silicon. SoC or System on Chip as you probably already know, cannot be upgraded. The advantages are more than worth it, but push yourself to adequately configure memory and storage for the future or get the appropriate system.

External storage alternatives

I recommend backing up all data to the cloud, and supplementing the internal Apple SSD with an external USB-C or Thunderbolt SSD/HD.

SSD speed needs for music production are similar to photography and video. This video will help you choose external SSD solutions (also in YouTube playlist below).

See Apple M Series External USB-C SSD Options for a more extensive discussion and specific product recommendations.

More soon, check back!

Thanks!
-Yehuda

Manufacturer’s website
https://www.apple.com/mac-mini/

Product support, downloads
https://support.apple.com/

Videos

Yehuda Rothschild Apple Mac mini M2 Series YouTube Playlist

Yehuda Rothschild Apple Mac M Series Music Production YouTube Playlist

Useful Links

Apple related pages
Updated periodically – Apple Silicon is the DAW standard
Updated periodically – Apple Mac Studio M1 Max & M1 Ultra
Updated periodically – Apple Mac Studio M2 Max & M2 Ultra
Updated periodically – Apple Mac Studio M3 Max & M3 Ultra
Updated periodically – Apple MacBook Pro M1 Pro & M1 Max
Updated periodically – Apple MacBook Pro M2 Pro & M2 Max
Updated periodically – Apple MacBook Pro M3 Pro & M3 Max
Updated periodically – Apple Mac Pro M2 Ultra
Updated periodically – Apple Mac mini M1
Updated periodically – Apple Mac mini M2 & M2 Pro
Updated periodically – Apple Mac mini M3 & M3 Pro
Updated periodically – Apple MacBook Air M1
Updated periodically – Apple MacBook Air M2
Updated periodically – Apple MacBook Air M3
Updated periodically – Apple 24″ iMac M1
Updated periodically – Apple 24″ iMac M3
Updated periodically – Apple Studio Display
Updated periodically – Apple M1 Processor Series
Updated periodically – Apple M2 Processor Series
Updated periodically – Apple M3 Processor Series

Follow on Mastodon – TurtleIsland.social/@Yehuda

This page is subject to content updates/additions. If you think any content should be updated or added, please leave a private comment on Mastodon – TurtleIsland.social/@Yehuda.