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Apple M2 chip: Release date, specs, and what it means for MacBook Pro

Apple M2 chip
(Image credit: Apple)

The Apple Silicon initiative started with a bang thanks to the M1 chip, but that just the tip of the spear for Cupertino’s move away from Intel processors. The rumored Apple M2 chip could see that spear thrust deeper into the Mac and iPad line-up, shaking up the world of semiconductors even further. 

It’s been six months since the Apple M1 chip found its way into the latest MacBook Air, MacBook Pro and Mac mini, but enough time has passed for leaks and speculations to bubble up around a second-generation Apple Silicon chip in development. Originally thought to be called the M1X, we’re now hearing murmurs that the next Apple chip based on ARM’s RISC architecture will be a proper second-generation upgrade.  

Such a chip is likely to find its way into a refreshed MacBook Pro 2021 line up and potentially a new 27-inch iMac. At the moment, we only have a clutch of leaks to go off, but they are reasonably promising. So here's what we know about the Apple M2 chip so far.  

Apple M2 chip release date 

Apple M2 chip

(Image credit: Future)

Recent leaks have claimed the Apple M2 chip is already in production and should be ready as early as July. That means we could expect it to be revealed at Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) in the summer. 

The chip could be revealed as the next step in the Apple Silicon initiative. Or it could be shown off in a refreshed or redesigned MacBook Pro 16-inch 2021. A redesigned 27-inch iMac could also be shown off at the same time. 

If not the summer, then we’d expect to see the M2 chip appear in the fall. It could be revealed at the same time as the iPhone 13, expected to be appear in September. Or more likely, the M2 could be revealed in a separate Mac- or iPad-related event potentially happening sometime between September and November.   

Apple M2 chip specs  

Apple M2 chip

(Image credit: MacRumors)

The M1 chip impressed us, and the rest of the computing world, with performance that can beat the latest 11th Gen Intel Tiger Lake processors. And the M2 chip is expected to go even further. 

The M2 is tipped to be built on a 4-nanometer fabrication node, rather than the 5nm process its predecessor uses. As such, we can expect more performance and better efficiency for the M2, thanks to an increase in transistors on the slice of silicon. 

Another leak has the M2 tipped to come with 12 CPU cores, four more than the M1, with eight cores set to handle high-performance tasks and a quartet of efficiency cores for less demanding tasks. 

And the seven to eight core GPU of the M1 chip will be increased to a hefty 16 cores on the M2. As such, we can expect a serious boost in graphic processing power, which should improve gaming performance as well as make Macs with the chip more capable of handling demanding video rendering and graphics-based workloads. 

Apple M2 chip MacBook Pro 

Apple M2 chip

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Apple M1-equipped MacBooks aren’t yet a year old, having arrived last November, and the iPad Pro 2021 just got the M1 treatment.

As such, we’d expect the M2 to make its debut aboard a new 16-inch MacBook Pro, as that laptop is squarely targeted at people who want more performance than the standard MacBook Pro models. That said, Apple could simply refresh the entire MacBook Pro line in one fell swoop come the fall. We’re hoping such machines come with a new design as well, offering slimmer display bezels and other design tweaks to keep Cupertino’s laptops in contention with some of the best Windows 10 machines like the Dell XPS 15.

And if Apple does decide to give the 27-inch iMac a makeover, which it’s definitely due, then we’d place a decent bet that it will make use of the M2. We’re hoping that the extra power of the M2 will see Apple push the larger iMac design further than the smaller iMac 2021.

Apple M2 chip outlook  

Apple M2 chip

(Image credit: Apple)

Apple’s in-house chips for its iPhones and iPads have always yielded impressive performance, and the M1 showed Cupertino could do the same for laptop-grade silicon. If the latest M2 leaks are to be believed, then the M2 could see Apple build upon its stellar start and deliver chips that start to show that desktop-grade computing doesn't need to be the domain of x86-based AMD and Intel chips. 

And where Apple goes, others follow. So if the M2 proves to be a chip that can see larger MacBooks and iMac deliver serious professional performance, then we could see more Windows 10 machines start to look at custom ARM-based chips as well. 

Roland Moore-Colyer

Roland Moore-Colyer is U.K. Editor at Tom’s Guide with a focus on news, features and opinion articles. He often writes about gaming, phones, laptops and other bits of hardware; he’s also got an interest in cars. When not at his desk Roland can be found wandering around London, often with a look of curiosity on his face.