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M2 Apple Silicon Benchmarks – do they matter?

I’ve watched the videos and I have read on Twitter all about the supposed issues with the M2 range of Macs…but does it matter?

M2 Apple Silicon benchmarks & M2 MacBook Air
image courtesy of author

A storm in a teacup

I had already intended to write this blog about the speed of the M2 chip, and then yesterday, I watched a video from Rene Ritchie.

Rene, as I am sure you will know, is a master of tech detail. As the saying goes, he has forgotten, more than I will ever know…but, the basic message of his video was, ‘do benchmarks matter’. He also discussed the destructive nature of this kind of video.

It has got so bad in fact, Rene is at the point of, possibly, forever changing the nature of the videos he posts. Whilst admitting that benchmarks do have their place in certain circumstances and spaces, with tech, we need to be circumspect.

The need for speed

I guess, if you are like me, when you get a new bit of kit, and in particular, a new Mac, the first thing we want to check out is the speed. It’s natural. Speed is the blue ribband of metrics in all walks of life; the 100 metres sprint, 0-60 times of new a car, or your broadband download speeds, we all crave speed.

Most of the benchmarks on these videos are geared around speed in one way or another, which is fine, but are they relevant to the real world? Rene carried on to make the point how destructive this kind of video is to the tech world. And I can see his point.

As much as some folks will try to bury their head in the sand, and deny it, times are changing on YouTube, for those of us stuck in the tech trenches. Views are down. Not just down from the inflated highs of the 2020 lockdown, where viewers would devour anything, but down year-on-year, and across the tech board.

And because of this downturn, video creators feel the need to make ever more dramatic, crazed and far-fetched claims, thumbnails and titles for their videos. To earn a living on YouTube, they need clicks – hey, trust me, I get it!

Benchmark videos are, perversely, not helping our cause. Whilst, yes, they may be pointing out certain issues that we must be made aware of, they are also turning away viewers & prospective buyers because of the manner in which new tech is being reported.

No sooner had the M2 MacBook Air, or indeed the M2 MacBook Pro, been launched, than the negative press began. Ok, so there may be an issue with the single nand and memory swap, but in the real world, does this actually matter? The benchmark tests are very modular, clinical and ultra-specific. But, that is not how we work in our everyday lives.

Is there a place for benchmarks?

If this kind of reporting and this type of video is driving someone as respected as Rene Ritchie to the point of despair, then we all need to take notice.

If I am in the market for a new iPad, iPhone, or M2 Mac, yes, sure, I will watch content to help guide my decision, but that is where it will stop – guide. I am also aware and wary of the nature of the videos that I’ll watch.

In the Mac world, these days, there really is not such a thing as a bad Mac. Ok, the M2 MacBook Pro may be an ‘odd’ choice for a whole host of reasons, but it will still get the job done. Not only will it get it done, but it’ll be done quicker, quieter, and more efficiently than Macs from just a few years back. Add to that list, they are cheaper, too.

Just look at the M1 Ultra Mac Studio. By all accounts, this £4000 desktop knocks spots off a £10,000 Mac Pro, that until recently, was the king of the Mac castle.

And yet, a few months ago, still there was negative press about this great, innovative, new Mac at launch. Sure, there was some news to report about the memory nodules, but surely, some context needs to be kept.

The rule of thumb, as far as I am concerned at least, is whether the Mac I am about to buy will get me through the day without a problem & improve my quality of life. If it does, then surely, that is all I have to be concerned about – right?

First-hand experience

This year, I finally got around to trading up some of my Macs. The Macs I had, were no longer fit for task, and were costing me time…and you know the old phrase…time is money.

My dear old 2015 iMac was taking an eye-watering amount of time rendering and exporting 4K video. It was also struggling with some Photoshop files as well.

I can tell you, that trading up from Intel to Apple Silicon, made a massive change to the quality of my creative working day. Period…end of! No matter what RAM swap issue, memory nodule or poor webcam experience the tech ’Tubers were making content about, the overall impact on my day, was nothing but positive.

Earlier, I mentioned the videos with, almost, clickbait titles and thumbnails. I am convinced they are being made from desperation. If the tech is inherently good, which it is, then titling a video ‘The Perfect Mac’ or ‘Another Winner from Apple’, is not going to get many clicks. Clearly, with these titles and catchy graphics, they are hoping to shock us in to stopping to click on their video. And that is where the negativity can creep in.

Be honest

If you are reading, and hopefully, enjoying this, then you are quite likely, like me, in to your tech. I share your passion, but we are in the minority.

I swear, most parents out buying an M2 MacBook Air this fall, for their uni-bound kids, will not give one hoot that some random benchmark says that export times of a file they are never likely to export is 15% slower. It simply doesn’t matter.

What matters most, is that it’s reliable, quick, quiet and offers a great working experience. How many M2 buyers will be aware of memory-swap do you reckon? Tech-tube, needs to be adult and measured in the way they talk about this range of M1 Macs.

Wrapping up

The prefix first, should be – “look, these are great machines…but, here are a few little niggles”. In my mind, that is the truth of the matter. I’m pretty sure, history will show us, we are living through a halcyon period of Mac design and innovation.

Apple Silicon has taken both desktop & laptop computing, to new heights, imagined impossible only years ago. Last weekend, I edited, rendered and exported a 15 minuet 4K video, on a notebook. Not only that, but it was not even plugged in the wall, and it nearly managed all that on one charge!

Yeah, I encountered a few moments of spinning beachball, but that was it. In around 6 hours of work, on a fanless, thin, lightweight notebook, I was editing 4K video! Just let that sink in for a moment…

It mattered not a jot to me, if there was a slight difference in numbers from a base M1 MacBook Air from a year back to this years base M2…no matter how many nand chips it may, or may not have, or what benchmark scores it managed, this tech is simply stunning!

Live for the moment. Embrace what we have and savour what is at our disposal. The current array of Macs are achieving what Steve Jobs set out for them to do all those years back, and, day-to-day, make our creative lives a richer, better, and a more enjoyable environment.

Getting involved

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