The base model 13-inch M2 MacBook Pro with 256GB storage and 8GB RAM is available for purchase right now. You probably shouldn’t buy it. As more details emerge about how slow it is compared to the higher-spec versions of the M2 and even the M1 modelIt’s becoming increasingly clear that the cheapest 13-inch M2 MacBook Pro is a real stink of a deal.
Earlier this week, videos from Max Tech and Created Tech showed that storage in the base M2 model was slower than the M1 version, with 50 percent slower SSD read speeds and 30 percent slower write speeds. That’s because Apple has opted to use just one 256GB NAND flash storage chip instead of the two 128GB chips found on the M1. This move, possibly a cost-saving one, means that no reads and writes can occur in parallel across the two chips. Everything has to go through just one, and it effectively throttles the otherwise high-octane M2 chip.
Now, Max Tech has tested the 8GB RAM/256GB storage model against the more expensive 13-inch M2 MacBook Pro with 512GB of storage and 16GB of RAM, and yes, it’s even slower than that laptop! This is partly because the high-end device uses two 256GB NAND chips instead of one, so processes can run parallel to the two chips. They are likely similar NAND chips found in the original model – suggesting further slowdown is related to the decision to use just one NAND chip in the cheaper MacBook Pro.
But the reason for the slowdown is also the lack of RAM.
Apple’s Arm-based computer chips use integrated memory. The GPU and CPU – everything – pulls from the same memory to work. In other M1 and M2 devices, 8GB of memory won’t be ideal, but it won’t cause a significant slowdown. But one of the reasons other M1 and M2 Macs can get away with just 8GB of memory is because they have super fast SSDs that processors can use for memory in a pinch. But when you pair 8GB of RAM with the sluggish single NAND 256GB of storage, you get a laptop that regularly performs at half the speed of its higher-end siblings that use the exact same processor .
For example, when the Max Tech exported 50 42-megapixel images to Lightroom, the 8GB/256GB MacBook Pro did the task in two minutes flat. The 16GB/512GB MacBook Pro completed it in one minute and seven seconds. It almost doubles the speed using only more RAM and faster storage.
The M2 MacBook Pro already feels like a laptop in its lack of spectators. With the refreshed, better spec, and cheaper M2 MacBook Air weeks away, and M1 MacBook Pros on sale, it’s hard to decide why to buy the M2 MacBook Pro at all. Its battery life is great (it took us over 16 hours to drain the battery), but at this point, that’s all there is to it. If you really need the M2 MacBook Pro’s promise of battery life, you should save up the extra cash to get the $1,499 version with 512GB of storage and 16GB of RAM.
But, I’m curious to see how many people opt for the perfectly good $1,499 model when this stink of a base model is present. Historically, base models are the ones that sell best, which means that many people who want a machine this weird are going to splurge for the $1,299 base model, despite the poor performance. If, as Apple claims, the 13-inch MacBook Pro is the world’s second best-selling laptop, the company is very soon preparing itself for a big mess.