Sun. Aug 14th, 2022

The base model 13-inch M2 MacBook Pro with 256 GB of storage and 8 GB of RAM is now available for purchase. You probably shouldn’t buy it. More details emerge as to 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 slow compared to the M1 version, with 50 percent slower SSD read speeds and 30 percent slower write speeds. It’s because Apple has chosen to use just one 256GB NAND flash storage chip instead of two 128GB chips as found on the M1. The move, likely a cost-effective one, means reading and writing can’t happen across two chips in parallel. Everything has to go through that one, and that effectively inhibits the otherwise powerful M2 chip.

Now Max Tech has tested the 8GB RAM/256GB storage base model against the more expensive 13-inch M2 MacBook Pro with 512GB storage and 16GB RAM, and yes, it’s slower than that laptop too! That’s partly because the higher-spec device uses two 256GB NAND chips instead of one, allowing processes to run in parallel across the two chips. They’re likely the same NAND chips found in the base model — further suggesting the delay is related to the decision to use just one NAND chip in the cheaper MacBook Pro.

But the slowdown is also due to the lack of RAM.

Apple’s Arm-based computer chips use unified memory. The GPU and CPU – everything – pull from the same memory to perform tasks. In other M1 and M2 devices, 8 GB of memory wouldn’t be ideal, but wouldn’t cause significant slowdowns. But part of the reason other M1 and M2 Macs can get away with just 8GB of memory is because they have super-fast SSDs that can use the processor for memory in a pinch. But if you combine 8GB of RAM with the slow single NAND 256GB of storage, you get a laptop that regularly performs tasks at half the speed of its more expensive siblings that use the exact same processor.

For example, when Max Tech exported 50 42-megapixel images into Lightroom, the 8GB/256GB MacBook Pro flattened the job in two minutes. The 16GB/512GB MacBook Pro did it in one minute and seven seconds. That’s almost double the speed just by using more RAM and faster storage.

The M2 MacBook Pro already feels a bit like a laptop that needs an audience. With the redesigned, better-specified and cheaper M2 MacBook Air in a few weeks and M1 MacBook Pros on sale, it was hard to argue why anyone should buy the M2 MacBook Pro. It has great battery life (it took us over 16 hours of aggressive use to kill the battery), but for now that’s all it takes. If you really need the battery life of the M2 MacBook Pro, you’ll need to save the extra cash to get the $1,499 version with 512GB of storage and 16GB of RAM.

But I’ll be curious to see how many people opt for the perfectly good $1,499 model when this base model stinker exists. Historically, base models have been the best sellers, meaning a lot of the people who want this weird machine will flock to the $1,299 base model, despite its stunted performance. If, as Apple claims, the 13-inch MacBook Pro is the world’s second best-selling laptop, then the company will soon be making a big mess.

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