As the famous poet Carl Johnson once said, “Ah sh*t, here we go again.” Apple’s newest MacBook Pros with M2 SoCs were just released and are now being subjected to teardowns. This has allowed us to peek under the hood at the SSD configurations. Sadly, it appears Apple is doubling down on hobbling the SSD speeds on the base models, 9to5mac reports. It did the exact same thing last year. Therefore, it’s not a huge surprise, but still a disappointment on a laptop with pricing that starts at $1,999.
What Apple has done this time is a replay of the M2 launch almost a year ago. When it announced the M2 MacBook Air and MacBook Pro it was discovered the base model used one NAND chip instead of the two in their M1-based predecessors. For example, on the M1 laptops, 256GB of storage was divided between two 128GB NAND modules. However, as time goes on, density goes up. So Apple switched to a single 256GB chip for the base models. The spot where the second chip used to be was empty and only filled if the customer upgraded its storage. Thanks to how SSDs rely on parallelism to boost performance, this meant the base model’s SSDs offered just half the speeds of machines with two NAND chips.
Now we see it happening again on the new M2 machines as well. Despite the fact that the new M2 MacBook Pros offer 512GB of storage for the base models, Apple can now cover this amount with half the chips. Teardowns confirm the M1 MacBook Pro used four NAND modules and the M2 machines use just two. Benchmarks confirm a significant impact on performance, though 9to5mac’s speeds (above) are actually showing less of an impact than other reviewers are reporting.
For example, Max Tech compared the 16-inch M1 and M2 Pro laptops with 512GB of memory. The benchmarks show the M1 system is twice as fast in read speeds compared with the M2. In CrystalDiskMark, the M1 hit 6887MB/s, compared with 3462MB/s on the M2. For a 22GB file transfer test, the M2 system was 56 seconds slower than its M1 predecessor.
In a multitasking and file export test in Adobe Lightroom, the M2 Pro showed noticeably slower performance than the M1 system as well. He exported 499 photos from Lightroom while clicking between 15 browser tabs. The M2 system took 70 seconds longer to export the photos. It also stuttered briefly during this process when switching tabs. The M1 never hitched at all in this multitasking comparison. Although, to be fair to Apple, the hitching was very brief. Also, in some CPU-based tasks, the improvement in CPU power of the M2 can make up for the SSD speeds, depending on the task.
As MaxTech states, when this happened with the M2 Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro, it was mostly excused as those were inexpensive machines. The M2 laptops cost over $2,000, though, with the 16-inch model starting at $2,500. How much this will impact people in the real world is hard to quantify. But we can sure see it in the benchmarks, both synthetic and real-world. At the very least, it would be handy if Apple informed people of the situation before they bought one.
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