Apple M4: Details about the new system on a chip

With the new iPad Pro Apple introduced its “Apple Silicon” chip called M4. This not only has up to 10 CPU cores and 10 GPU cores, but also a more powerful Neural Engine to support AI processes. For use in the iPad Pro, a so-called display engine is also part of the design. This takes care of the "Ultra Retina

General information about the new M4 chip from Apple

The Apple M4 is based on the second generation 3-nanometer architecture, which ensures that there is space for a total of 28 billion transistors in the chip's small area. These are distributed across the various elements, such as CPU (main processor), GPU (graphics processor), Neural Engine (neural processor), Secure Enclave (secure area for important data and biometric information), Display Engine (control unit for the new OLED display ), and so forth. The M4 is largely based on the developments of the M3. This was omitted in the iPad Pro, so that Apple can advertise large leaps in performance compared to the iPad Pro with M2.

"The new iPad Pro with M4 is a great example of how developing world-class proprietary chips makes breakthrough products possible' said Johny Srouji, Apple's senior vice president of hardware technologies. "The M4's energy-efficient performance, combined with its new display engine, enables the thin design and fantastic display of the iPad Pro. Fundamental improvements to the CPU, GPU, Neural Engine, and storage system make the M4 extremely well-suited to the latest apps that leverage AI. The new chip makes the iPad Pro the most powerful device of its kind."

The M4's new display engine

With the Display Engine, Apple has added an area to the M4 that previously only really made sense in the iPad Pro. Because the Display Engine, as its name suggests, takes care of the display, its contents, adjusting the brightness and the refresh rate. Thanks to “ProMotion”, this can automatically range between 10 Hz (for stationary or slowly scrolling content such as websites, emails, e-books, etc.) and 120 Hz (for video games, etc.). In addition, the M4's display engine takes care of the coordination of the two OLED displays, which are stacked on top of each other on the iPad Pro, to achieve up to 1.600 nits of brightness when displaying HDR content.

The M10's new 4-core CPU

Just like with the RAM, which I will discuss below, you have to differentiate between two versions of the M4 CPU in the iPad Pro. If you choose the tablet with 256 GB or 512 GB SSD storage, then you get 9 CPU cores (3 performance, 6 efficiency). Only with memory sizes of 1 TB or 2 TB are all 10 CPU cores (4 performance, 6 efficiency). Both types of cores should press release on the subject for improvements for faster execution of tasks. They also contain more current accelerators for machine learning (ML). Compared to the M2, the M4 CPU is said to be up to 1,5 times faster.

New features of the M4 GPU

The graphics unit of the Apple M4 is based on the Architecture of the M3 chip family. This means that, among other things, “Dynamic Caching”, which was introduced last year, is included. With the M3, it became possible to use hardware-accelerated mesh shading and ray tracing on the Mac. This is now also possible on the iPad Pro. In addition to a visually better gaming experience, the M4 advantages should also bring faster calculations and renderings in apps for graphics editing, 3D modeling, augmented reality, animation, visual effects creation and the like.

M4 Neural Engine with best performance yet

The Neural Engine on an ARM chip designed by Apple was first used in iPhones with A11 Bionic chip (iPhone 8 and iPhone X in 2017). A lot has happened since then, and the M4's Neural Engine is 60 times faster than the A11 Bionic. This not only ensures faster implementation of the AI ​​functions already included in iPadOS, but is also intended to make the iPad Pro ready for future applications in the field of (generative) artificial intelligence. In addition to the Neural Engine with up to 38 trillion computing operations per second, this is also ensured by the CPU's ML accelerators, the faster GPU, the higher RAM bandwidth and other individual elements.

This is how much memory (RAM) there is for the M4 in the iPad Pro

While more SSD storage in the new iPad Pro only means a jump from 9 cores to 10 cores in terms of CPU, it is even more important when it comes to RAM. Because if you buy Apple's professional tablet with 256 GB or 512 GB, you only get 8 GB of RAM. In order to get the full performance out of the new hardware, you tend to need more. The maximum possible 16 GB of RAM is available if you choose a model with 1 TB or 2 TB SSD storage. The complete overview of the technical data as well as a price table with all configurations I have put them together for you in this post.

Introducing the M4 for the iPad Pro 2024

Here you can find the video with the official presentation of the M4 as an excerpt from Apple's “Let Loose” event from last week:

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In the Sir Apfelot Blog you will find advice, instructions and reviews on Apple products such as the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, AirPods, iMac, Mac Pro, Mac Mini and Mac Studio.