Apple M2 Pro vs M2 Max

Posted on

M2 Pro vs M2 Max: Battery life

I have averaged almost 14 hours of non-stop use of the M2 Max model with my workload. I can’t guarantee everyone will get that amount of time, especially since my workload is mostly Chrome tabs, Google Docs and some streaming, but I think most people will get more out of the M2 Max than the vast majority of the 16-inch laptops on the market.

I averaged closer to 17 nonstop hours on the M2 Pro model. In practice, this means I can use it on battery for two to three days at a time, occasionally plugging it in. While the M2 chips don’t have quite as much battery life as their M1 predecessors, the M2 Pro – for my personal workload – required about 20 percent more power than the M2 Max.

For me, this difference in battery life wouldn’t be a deal breaker. At some point, a long battery is a long battery. In general, I use a MacBook Air as my personal computer, averaging about 13 hours between charges, and I don’t feel like I need more. That said, if you’re really looking for a device that never dies, the M2 Pro might be a bit more appealing to you. For everyone else, it should be another part of the calculation: in addition to paying extra dollars for the M2 Max over the M2 Pro, you’re paying several hours of battery life.

M2 Pro vs M2 Max: CPU

The difference in CPU power between the M2 Pro and M2 Max depends on which model you choose. All 16-inch M2 Pro models have 12 CPU cores. If you go for a 14-inch MacBook Pro, you can get an M2 Pro with 10 CPU cores, but the 16-inch models all have 12 CPU cores whether you go for the Pro or the Max.

We had the 16-inch model in both cases, so both devices had 12-core CPUs. These chips have the same architecture – so if you’re doing mostly CPU-heavy work during the day, you’ll get very little advantage from the Max over the Pro.

Do not you believe me? Check out the Cinebench and Geekbench results in the chart above, which are pretty close (and in some cases identical).

Now, there’s a caveat here. The M2 Pro models have up to 32 GB of memory, while the M2 Max can handle a whopping 96 GB. People who need to spend more on a 64GB or 96GB model probably know who you are: people who work with large datasets and consistently process large amounts of information, for example, might have a better time with one of those (very expensive) M2 Max models.Here are the MacBook Pro 14 and MacBook Pro 16 with the M1 Pro inside. Externally they are identical to the M2 models.

Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales/Acutely

M2 Pro vs M2 Max: GPU

The main difference between these two chips lies in the GPU power. You can basically think of the M2 Max as the M2 Pro with some extra graphics chops.

All 16-inch M2 Pro units have 19 GPU cores, while M2 Max buyers have a choice of 30 or 38 cores. (Our test unit has 38.)

In Geekbench Compute, which tests GPU power, we see a more than 55 percent increase in graphics power, which equates to a nearly 50 percent increase in the number of GPU cores. On Shadow of the Tomb Raider, a GPU-heavy gaming benchmark, the M2 Max outperformed the M2 Pro by nearly 80 percent. That’s a very visible difference on the 120Hz screens these MacBooks have.

There is another major difference between these chips that only a few of you will care about, which is that the M2 Max has two video encoding engines and two ProRes engines, while the M2 Pro only has one of each. This means video editors in particular can expect faster encoding and playback speeds from the M2 Max. (Exactly how much faster can be inconsistent – more on that later.)

So those are the raw numbers. How does all this shake out during a workday?

With such a large M2 family there is something for everyone.

M2 Pro vs M2 Max: Real world tasks

The M2 Max is noticeably faster at video work. It beat the M2 Pro in PugetBench for Premiere Pro. My experience using it for editing has been incredibly fast. It flew through playback and export. If I were a video editor (assuming my employer foots the bill), I’d absolutely want one of these things.

The M2 Pro wasn’t quite as consistent. I exported the same five minute 4K video on it a number of times and was able to see a time ranging from about two and a half minutes to over six minutes. The process didn’t constantly get faster or slower as I continued testing; there was no rhyme or reason for the different times. What I did notice was that the M2 Pro often got stuck on graphics that the M2 Max could blow through. Becca Farsace, our senior video producer, had the same experience exporting another video file.

That being said, the M2 Pro is hardly a slow chip. Adobe Premiere Pro work on it was still pretty smooth. The M2 Max was both a bit louder and hotter than the M2 Pro during Premiere work (it has a High Power mode specifically for maximizing performance during extended workloads, which the M2 Pro doesn’t) . Becca’s recommendation in our recent guide to the M2 line was that people who work with 3D, animation, 8K content and 4K content for more than an hour should seriously consider the M2 Max model. The M2 Pro should be good for everyone (unless money is really no object).

The difference wasn’t that big in Xcode performance. The M2 Max completed the Xcode Benchmark just over three seconds faster than the M2 Pro. That’s a difference for sure, but it’s not nearly as big as, say, the gap between the M2 Pro and the M1 Max. I wouldn’t expect the M2 Max to be a necessity for lighter tasks like web design.

I know there are tons of tasks that people might want to use these MacBooks for that aren’t covered here. In general, the best way to approach this decision is to figure out: A. how much of your workload uses heavy graphics and B. whether you need to get that work done with every ounce of speed you can get.

Oh, and I can’t imagine any of you were considering this, but just in case you were – no, there’s no point in upgrading to these M2 models from the M1 line. The M1 and M2 MacBook Pros were expensive and fast machines, and they should still have quite a bit of life left in them. But if you’re still on an Intel MacBook Pro and didn’t opt for the M1 series last time around, the M2 Pro or Max MacBook Pro will deliver a significant improvement in performance, thermals, and battery life.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *