Apple Debuts M4 on the New iPad Pro

Logo featuring an apple icon with the text "m4" on a gradient blue background, framed within a white square against a dark setting.

Apple skipped M3 on the new iPad Pro and went straight to M4, debuting an M-series chip on a tablet for the first time and giving it a significant spec bump.

To this point, Apple has only debuted M-series chips on computers like the MacBook Pro or Mac Studio. It also tends to go from one generation to the next predictably, but with the 2024 iPad Pro announced today, that changed. Instead of going from M2 to M3, Apple skipped a generation and announced a brand new chip: M4.

As a recap, M3 was the first Apple Silicon chip to use a 3nm process, which improved on M2 which used a 5nm process. That’s probably why a lot of what Apple points to on M4 is borrowed from M3, like dynamic caching, mesh shading, and hardware-accelerated ray tracing. M3 featured eight CPU cores and 10 GPU cores as well as 25 billion transistors — the M4 features more than 28 billion transistors.

Of note, the baseline M4 is still below the performance of M3 Pro, which isn’t unusual.

Thanks to second-generation 3nm technology, Apple says that the new chip features hardware-accelerated mesh shading and ray-tracing as well as dynamic caching. It also features 120GB/s unified memory bandwidth, a 10-core CPU, and a 10-core GPU. That CPU is up to 50% faster than M2 and the GPU is up to four times faster than an M2. M4 can deliver the same performance as M2 using half the power, too.

Apple again compares the iPad Pro to a nameless top-of-the-line thin and light PC laptop, saying iPad Pro can easily best it in power. The company also says M4 is the only reason the display on the new iPad Pro is as good as it is.

“M4 features an entirely new display engine to enable the precision, color, and brightness of the Ultra Retina XDR display,” Apple says.

Apple points to not only more power in the M4, but far more efficiency.

“M4 also delivers tremendous gains and industry-leading performance per watt. Compared to M2, M4 can deliver the same performance using just half the power, and compared to the latest PC chip in a thin and light laptop, M4 can deliver the same performance using just a quarter of the power,” Apple claims.

“A new advanced Media Engine includes support for AV1 decode, providing more power-efficient playback of high-resolution video experiences from streaming services.”

The Neural Engine in the M4 also promises to be more powerful than any other similar processor in a desktop PC: it features the ability to do 38 trillion operations per second; Apple says that is 60x faster than its first Neural Engine in the A11 Bionic chip.

Combined with the CPU, GPU, and more memory bandwidth, Apple says this improved Neural Engine allows it to perform AI-enabled tasks significantly faster, such as the ability to easily isolate a subject from its background in 4K video with just a tap with Scene Removal Mask in Final Cut Pro.

“With this advanced level of performance, the Neural Engine in M4 is more powerful than any neural processing unit in any AI PC today,” Apple claims.

The M4 is only available in the iPad Pro at launch, but it is very likely the new chip will find its way into Apple’s line of computers and laptops later this year.

Image credits: Apple