Apple M4 chip: Everything you need to know

Dylan Horetski
MacBook Pro with M4 badge

Apple’s next processor, the M4, has officially been unveiled. Here’s everything you need to know about it.

Since the launch of the M1 back in 2020, Apple’s in-house silicon processors have offered high-end performance across the company’s entire line of computers and devices.

The M3 was first released on the MacBook Pro and iMac computers in October 2023, with the MacBook Air finally getting them in March 2024. And just after about 7 months, Apple has announced the new M4 silicon.

While the M4 Macs are yet to arrive, Apple introduced the iPad Pro with M4 chip during the Let Loose event. The new chip brings several improvements in CPU, GPU, and the neural engine, making it one of the best chips for AI-driven hardware, according to Apple.

Apple M4 release date

Image showing the Apple M4 logo

The M4 chip was announced on May 7 during the Apple Let Loose event. The Apple silicon currently only powers the iPad Pro models. We can expect Apple to release the M4 Macs in October 2024. Sources close to Bloomberg claim that Apple is aiming to release the new computers in late 2024 and early 2025, which lines up with the previous M3 release times.

Gurman states there will be updated iMacs, three levels of the MacBook Pro, and a revamped Mac Mini with the M4 chip inside. These are likely to be the first to be updated with the chip, with a MacBook Air update coming several months later.

Here is the order in which Gurman expects the M4 Macs to launch:

ModelExpected launch timeframe
14-inch MacBook Pro (low-end)Late 2024
24-inch iMacLate 2024
14-inch and 16-inch MacBook ProsLate 2024 / Early 2025
Mac mini (M4 and M4 Pro)Late 2024 / Early 2025
13-inch and 15-inch MacBook AirsSpring 2025
Mac Studio (high-end M4)Summer 2025
Mac Pro (M4 Ultra)Fall / Winter 2025

Apple M4: Price

The M4 chip itself isn’t sold separately, so it doesn’t have a standalone price. Instead, the price depends on the device it powers. The cheapest M4-powered device currently available is the 11-inch iPad Pro ($999). We expect the M4 chip to be in upcoming iMacs, which typically start around $1299. The price for M4-equipped MacBook Pros likely won’t increase from previous models, so they could start around $1599.

Apple M4: Specs and features

The Apple M4 processor is the company’s first AI-focused processor. It is built on TSMC’s second-generation 3nm process. The new chipset uses a new CPU that has up to 10 cores. There’s a 10-core GPU that builds on the GPU architecture introduced in M3. The GPU brings features like Dynamic Caching, hardware-accelerated ray tracing, and hardware-accelerated mesh shading even to the iPad Pro.

The M4 also packs a new display engine designed to get the most out of the iPad Pro’s new Ultra Retina XDR OLED display. With rumors swirling about OLED MacBooks, and the M4 likely destined for future Macs too, you can expect those laptops to benefit from this same display engine.

AI is the prime focus of the new M4 chip. Apple claims the M4 has its fastest Neural Engine ever, capable of 38 trillion operators per second (TOPS). It’s supposedly 60 times faster than the NPU of Apple’s A11 chip, from 2017, but still falls short of the Snapdragon X Elite’s 45 TOPS.

Image showing Apple M4's specifications

“Combined with faster memory bandwidth, along with next-generation machine learning (ML) accelerators in the CPU, and a high-performance GPU, M4 makes the new iPad Pro an outrageously powerful device for artificial intelligence,” claims Apple.

There are no benchmark scores available to determine how fast the M4 is compared to previous generations. Apple claims that the M4 delivers up to 1.5 times faster CPU performance than the M2 in the previous iPad Pro. The M4 is also claimed to offer the same performance as the M2 while using just half the power. Compared with the latest PC chip in a thin and light laptop, Apple states that the M4 can deliver the same performance using just a quarter of the power.

Apple has only announced the entry-level M4 chip for now, which is believed to have a code name “Donan.” However, there are rumors about more powerful ‘Brava’ models, and a high-end model named Hidra. These are likely to be released as the M4, M4 Pro, and M4 Max to maintain the same naming structure they’ve used with previous versions.

Apple is also reportedly considering upping the amount of RAM the chip can support, giving the higher-end Mac Pro and Mac Studio computers access to up to roughly 512GB of RAM.