x86-64 vs M2


x86-64 and Apple's M2 represent two dominant processor architectures in the computing industry. x86-64 is the prevailing architecture for desktops, laptops, and servers, while M2 is a cutting-edge System on a Chip (SoC) designed by Apple, found in recent Macs and iPads. This article offers a comparison of these architectures, highlighting their strengths, weaknesses, and ideal use cases.


  • x86-64: An extension of the x86 instruction set architecture introduced by Intel in the 1970s. x86-64, developed by AMD, provides 64-bit computing capabilities, significantly expanding memory addressing and performance over the earlier 32-bit x86 architecture. It's manufactured by both Intel and AMD and is widely supported by operating systems like Windows, Linux, and macOS.
  • M2: An ARM-based System on a Chip (SoC) created by Apple. It leverages a custom architecture offering greater power efficiency and integration, placing CPU cores, graphics processor (GPU), Neural Engine (for AI tasks), and other components on a single chip. M2 is exclusive to Apple devices and is specifically optimized for macOS and iPadOS.

Key Differences

  • Instruction Set Architecture (ISA): x86-64 employs a Complex Instruction Set Computer (CISC) architecture, favoring complex instructions that can be executed in single operations. M2 uses a Reduced Instruction Set Computer (RISC) architecture, focused on simpler instructions that require fewer clock cycles.
  • Performance: M2 generally offers superior performance per watt compared to x86-64 chips, due to its RISC architecture and power efficiency. In raw benchmarks, high-end x86-64 processors can still outperform the M2 in certain workloads that heavily favor multiple cores and threads.
  • Power Efficiency: M2 is exceptionally power-efficient. This translates to longer battery life and cooler operation in Apple laptops and tablets compared to x86-64 powered devices.
  • Software Compatibility: x86-64 enjoys a massive software ecosystem due to its decades-long dominance. However, M2 systems can run many x86-64 applications through Apple's Rosetta 2 translation layer, though performance may be reduced. Native software designed for M2 chips will fully utilize their capabilities.
  • Upgradeability: x86-64 PCs often allow component upgrades, such as CPU or RAM. M2 systems are highly integrated, thus upgrades are generally not possible.

Choosing Between x86-64 and M2

The best choice depends on individual needs:

  • x86-64: Ideal for users requiring maximum software compatibility, vast customization options, and the ability to perform highly demanding multi-threaded tasks (e.g., video editing, scientific computing).
  • M2: Prioritizes power efficiency, longer battery life, sleek and silent operation, and excellent performance within the Apple ecosystem (macOS/iPadOS).