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Apple M4 vs Apple M3: What’s the difference?

Apple has announced the new M4 chip, the latest entry to the Apple Silicon family. 

This reveal has come as a surprise to many, with Apple only launching the preceding Apple M3 processor late last year. With so little time separating the two processors, you may be wondering how they differ. 

We’ve created this guide to highlight the key upgrades for the new Apple M4 chip compared to the existing M3 processor, so you know which processor is best for you. 

Powerful AI performance

The headline upgrade for the Apple M4 chip seems to be its advancement in AI performance. Apple has demonstrated new AI-powered features that the chip will make possible, such as isolating a subject from its background in a 4K video in an instant. 

This advancement in AI performance is thanks to the new neural engine inside the M4 chip, which Apple claims is the most powerful of its kind in the world. Apple’s neural engine has a 16-core design and is capable of 38 trillion operations per second. For comparison, the 16-core NPU of the Apple M3 is only capable of 18 trillion operations per second. 

Apple’s introduction of the M4 chip follows a big trend of doubling down on AI in recent years. AMD, Intel and Qualcomm are all in the process of rolling out AI chips, while Adobe, Google and Microsoft have also been developing AI-powered software.

If anything, it seems like Apple is actually a little late to the AI party compared to its competitors. But the M4 chip marks Apple’s biggest leap into the market yet, and it seems this is only the beginning. 

Apple M4 specs
Credit: Apple

M4 chip offers more processing power

The focus may well be on AI when it comes to the M4 chip, but that doesn’t mean Apple has neglected the raw processing power. Apple claims that the M4 offers 50% more processing power than the M2 chip. Unfortunately, Apple didn’t offer a percentage increase compared to the M3. 

Apple has upped the core count of the chip, with the M4 featuring 4 performance cores and 6 efficiency cores, totalling up to 10 cores. Meanwhile, the Apple M3 only features 8 cores, made up of 4 performance cores and 4 efficiency cores.

The performance boost is also aided by the move to a new architecture, using the cutting-edge second-generation 3nm process from TSMC.

This is still a baseline chip of course, with Apple expected to launch Pro, Max and Ultra variants of the M4 processor further down the line for its high-performance Macs.

The M4 chip is only available in the iPad Pro, for now… 

Apple usually introduces its new processors inside a Mac, with the M3 debuting inside the iMac and MacBook Pro late last year. However, the Apple M4 has bucked this trend by exclusively launching inside the iPad Pro. 

The new chip isn’t available in any Mac right now, which means the MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, iMac, Mac Mini and more are all still stuck on the previous M3 generation. 

There’s no need to worry though, as renowned Apple leaker Mark Gurman says that Apple is still planning to launch a slew of M4–powered Macs before the end of the year, most likely in October or November. 

But for now, if you want access to the new M4 chip and all of its AI powers right now, then your option is opting for the iPad Pro tablet. 

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