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Apple M4 vs Apple M2: What’s the difference?

It was only two years ago when Apple first announced the M2 processor, and yet it is starting to feel a little outdated following the recent launch of the new Apple M4 processor. 

But what kind of performance upgrade can you expect from the M4? And are there any other benefits for opting for the newer chip? This is a particularly important question if you’re deciding between the latest iPad Pro and its predecessor. 

We’ve created this guide to highlight the key differences between the Apple M4 and Apple M2 processors, so you’ll know exactly what you’re getting by spending extra. 

M4 has eight billion extra transistors

One of the biggest indicators for a processor’s performance is the number of transistors squeezed onto the chip. Thanks to the adoption of the new second-generation 3nm architecture, Apple has managed to increase the number of transistors on the M4 processor to a whopping 28 billion.

For comparison, the Apple M2 chip is based on 5nm architecture, and is therefore limited to 20 billion transistors. That’s still plenty enough for a fast performance, but the M4 has an extra eight billion transistors to push performance to new heights. 

Apple M4 chip
Credit: Apple

M4 offers 50% more processing power 

Apple claims that the M4 chip offers 50% more processing power than the M2 processor, resulting in a noticeably speedier overall performance. 

This extra processing power isn’t purely down to the upgraded architecture, but also to an increase in the number of cores. The M4’s CPU is made up of four performance cores and six efficiency cores, totalling up to an overall 10-core count. 

In comparison, the Apple M2 has four performance cores and six efficiency cores, and so therefore is restricted to a total CPU core count of eight. The extra cores in the M4 will allow it to better handle multiple workloads, which is particularly important for the likes of video editing. 

Hardware-accelerated ray tracing 

The Apple M4 chip has a new 10-core GPU, which is apparently 4x faster than the M2. It also flaunts exciting features such as Dynamic Caching and hardware-accelerated ray tracing. The latter feature enables the M4 to make use of highly advanced lighting, shadow and reflection effects in video games. It’s impressive to see the technology make its way to Apple devices, considering it was one of the most exciting features of the PS5 and Xbox Series X

The older Apple M2’s GPU also has a 10-core design, but it’s lacking cutting-edge features such as hardware-accelerated ray tracing. This means that M2-powered devices won’t be capable of the same photorealistic visuals as those with an M4 chip. 

Apple also claims that the M4 is more power efficient than the M2. Apparently, the M4 can deliver the same level of performance as the M2, but at half the power. This should go a long way to extending battery life, which has been one of the biggest selling points of the M processors. 

Apple M4 chip specs
Credit: Apple

M4 offers fantastic AI performance 

One of the most exciting elements of the M4 processor is its upgraded AI performance. The 16-core neural engine is now capable of 38 trillion operations per second, making it the most powerful NPU ever seen on a device. 

The Apple M2 also features a 16-core neural engine, but it’s only capable of 15.8 trillion operations per second, making it less than half as powerful as the M4. 

So why is AI performance so important? Apple says the new AI powers of the M4 chip allow users to isolate a person from their background in a 4K video with just a tap on the iPad Pro’s screen. It’s also able to automatically create musical notation in real time when listening to someone play the piano. The number of AI features and apps are only going to increase in the near future, which will make AI performance even more important going forward. 

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