Apple has revealed their new M4 chip, and it’s a little disappointing

Apple’s M4 reveal shows that it is losing the AI race, and CPU performance gains are limited

When Apple revealed their M1 chip, it was revolutionary for the company. Apple had not only successfully moved away from Intel, but they also delivered CPU performance levels that were considered top class. Things were looking up for Apple, but now that M4 has been revealed, it is clear that Apple is losing momentum.

Alongside their new iPad PRO models, Apple has revealed their new M4 CPU. With it comes 10 CPU cores, 10 GPU cores, and a 16 core NPU. With this CPU, Apple promises up to 50% more CPU performance than M2, 4x more GPU performance than M2, and 38 TOPS of AI performance. Note that Apple isn’t comparing this CPU to their existing M3 chip. They need to look further back to showcase worthwhile performance gains.

Has Apple failed to deliver CPU IPC gains with M4?

CPU-wise, M4 features four performance cores and six efficiency cores. That’s two more efficiency cores than M3. This CPU core count boost is where a lot of M4’s CPU performance gains come from. That builds on the CPU performance gains that M3 delivered over M2 to make M4 “up to 50% faster than M2”. This signals that single-core CPU performance has not increased much with Apple’s M4 chip.

The GPU inside M4 appears to be largely similar to Apple’s M3 chip. Both chips use the same GPU architecture, and both GPUs have the same number of GPU cores. That said, it remains to be seen if M4 will offer significant performance gains over Apple’s M3 GPU, as even small changes can have an impact. For iPad, the move from M2 to M4 is significant, but the move to M4 for M3 users will not be.

Another advancement that Apple has delivered with M4 is the move to LPDDR5X memory. With this change, Apple can deliver users 120 GB/s of memory bandwidth. That’s a 20% boost when compared to the 100 GB/s of M3.

Apple’s AI performance is disappointing

Apple was one of the first chip vendors to ship CPUs with a Neural Processing Unit (NPU). Now, everyone is doing it. With a 38 TOPS neural engine Apple stated that their M4 chip is an “outrageously powerful chip for AI”. That said, their competitors already have them beat. Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon X Elite chip has a 45 TOPS NPU, and AMD and Intel are due to reveal new chips with faster NPUs at Computex. Note that AMD has promised a 3x generative AI NPU with their upcoming XDNA 2 NPUs.

By revealing their chips first, Apple can claim a short-term AI win with M4. That said, their AI win will be short term.

Apple’s M4-powered iPad PRO are now available for pre-order. We expect Apple to update their MacBook and MacBook Pro systems with these newer chips soon.

You can join the discussion on Apple’s new M4 chip on the OC3D Forums.

Mark Campbell

Mark Campbell

A Northern Irish father, husband, and techie that works to turn tea and coffee into articles when he isn’t painting his extensive minis collection or using things to make other things.

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