Apple M4: Everything you need to know

Photo illustration of Apple M4 chip colorfully springing to life from the control board of a MacBook Pro
(Image credit: Future photo illustration)

Apple's M4 chip is officially here, debuting in the new iPad Pro at Apple's "Let Loose" event on May 7, 2024.

However, while it will be shipping in the iPad Pro, that still won't answer all of the questions surrounding it. For example, when will the M4 be available in the MacBook Air or the MacBook Pro? What kind of performance boost will we see in the M4 MacBooks?

WWDC 2024 in June may hold the answer to some of these questions, but for now, here's what we know about the M4 chip from Apple and reliable rumor sources, from its release date and price to its variants, specs, and AI features. 

Latest news (Updated 5/9/24)

Apple M4: Release date and price

Apple announced the first M4 chip for the iPad Pro on May 7 at its "Let Loose" event. You can preorder the iPad Pro M4 through Apple, Best Buy, Verizon, and other retailers now, starting at $999 for the 11-inch model and $1,299 for the 13-inch model. 

The iPad Pro M4 officially launches May 15, but you might have to wait a bit longer to get your hands on one, depending on current stock. At the time of writing, when you try to preorder an iPad Pro M4 through Apple, it shows an estimated arrival date between June 25 and July 2. 

Screenshots from Apple "Let Loose" event May 7 2024

(Image credit: Apple)

Thanks to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman, we also have a timeline for M4 MacBooks. Gurman thinks that Apple will debut its first M4 MacBooks by the end of 2024—potentially in October or November. The first Macs with the M4 treatment might be a low-end 14-inch MacBook Pro and a 24-inch iMac.

A high-end MacBook Pro with an M4 Pro or M4 Max chip and an M4-powered Mac Mini may also be released in late 2024 or possibly early 2025. The rest of Apple's computer lineup will receive an M4 upgrade throughout 2025, even those that are only sporting an M2 chip right now.

MacBook Pro 16-inch (M2 Max, 2023) review: The baddest MacBook in the land

(Image credit: Future)

Regarding the price for M4 MacBooks, there is nothing official yet, and there aren't even many rumors on the subject. So we can look at past releases for guidance. The starting price for Apple's MacBook Pro 14 (M3, 2023) is $1,599, and the MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3, 2023) is $2,499. The MacBook Pro 16 has stayed at that $2,499 starting price for the past three generations. If there are no other major changes to the MacBook Pro M4 beyond the chip upgrade, it seems likely that the pricing will remain the same.

With that said, the new 11-inch iPad Pro M4 increased by $200 compared to its predecessor, however, that is more likely attributable to other expensive component upgrades to the iPad Pro M4 like the move to an OLED display.

Apple M4: Possible variants

Right now, there are only rumors about three primary variants of the M4 chip: the standard M4 (codenamed Donan), the more powerful M4 Pro (Brava), and the ultimate performing M4 Max (Hidra).

Screenshots from Apple "Let Loose" event on May 7 2024

(Image credit: Apple)

The iPad Pro announced at Apple's recent event is equipped with the base M4 chip, and the company didn't discuss any future variants for the chip. According to Bloomberg, the low-end MacBook Pro, new MacBook Airs, and a low-end Mac mini will also likely be equipped with the bare M4 chip. 

High-end MacBook Pros and a "pricier" Mac mini should sport the M4 Pro, and the M4 Max may be reserved for the new Mac Pro. That last prediction may be simply a misunderstanding as Apple has offered the M4 Max in the MacBook Pro since the move to Apple Silicon. However, it's not out of the question 

Apple M4: Specs

The base version of Apple's M4 chip is no longer a mystery. Thanks to the "Let Loose" event on May 7 — which you can watch on YouTube — we know that the M4 chip is sticking with the same 3-nanometer process technology as the M3 chip. The M5 chip will likely be the first to use 2-nm technology.

The M4 iPad Pro was just announced, but several performance scores have popped up recently in the Geekbench online database. We estimated that if the M4 chip offers the same upgrade trajectory we saw from the M2 chip to the M3 chip, a multi-core Geekbench score should be just over 15,000—and we weren't too far off.

Apple's iPad Pro M4 generates an impressive single-core score of about 3,600 on average, and a stellar multi-core score of over 14,500 in most tests. That's roughly 20% higher than the 12,087 multi-score our 13-inch MacBook Air M3 review unit delivered.

Screenshots from Apple "Let Loose" event May 7 2024

(Image credit: Apple)

These early Geekbench 6 results for the iPad Pro M4 easily beat out the Snapdragon X Elite prototype's highest scores of 2,574 (single-core) and 12,562 (multi-core), giving Apple the hypothetical edge in the M4 vs Snapdragon X Elite battle.

For iPad Pro M4 models with 256GB or 512GB of storage, the M4 chip includes a 9-core CPU (3 performance, 6 efficiency), a 10-core GPU, and a 16-core Neural Engine, and it gets paired with 8GB of RAM. With 1TB or 2TB of storage, the M4 chip keeps the same 10-core GPU and 16-core Neural Engine, but gains a 10-core CPU (4 performance, 6 efficiency), and gets paired with 16GB of RAM.

Both chips will be capable of 120GB/s unified memory bandwidth, and features like dynamic caching, hardware-accelerated ray tracing and mesh shading.

Because Apple was comparing the new M4 iPad Pro to its M2 predecessor, we only have speed comparisons between those two chips, not M3 comparisons. Apple says the M4 chip's CPU is up to 50% faster than that M2, and its GPU is up to 4x faster than the M2's GPU. 

Apple M4 chip: AI features

2024 is the year Apple finally got into the AI game, and the M4 chip will undoubtedly power some snazzy new AI features. While the company's M-series chips have always sported a Neural Engine, the M4 chip might be the first to utilize its AI capabilities fully.

Canalys roadmap image showing the anticipated release date for Apple, Intel, AMD, and Qualcomm chips through 2025

(Image credit: Canalys)

The M4 chip is very capable when it comes to AI features, with its Neural Engine delivering up to 38 trillion operations per second. Apple says this Neural Engine is 60x faster than its first Neural Engine ever. 

The M4 chip might be "an outrageously powerful chip for AI," but in order to fully unlock its AI capabilities, the iPad Pro will need AI-backed software. We'll hopefully get to see many of these AI features debut for macOS 15 and iPadOS 18 at WWDC 2024.


Considering how much AI PCs have grown in popularity and how impressive initial benchmarks are for Qualcomm's and Intel's new chips, it's not strange that Apple released its M4 chip in the iPad Pro now, ahead of upcoming AI PCs from its competitors.

The M4 chip is still new, but we can't wait to see how it compares in real-world tests to the company's M3 lineup, and which devices get the M4 treatment next. This is also the first variant of the chip, and if it's already outperforming chips from Qualcomm and Intel, performance results from possible variants like the M4 Pro or M4 Max will likely be incredibly impressive.

We should get more definitive information about Apple's next-gen M4 Macs at WWDC 2024, which kicks off June 10, 2024. 

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