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Apple’s ‘Breakthrough’ M4 Chip Was Just Announced. Here’s What It Can Do

Apple’s much-anticipated May event ‘Let Loose’ saw the launch of, as expected, a bunch of new iPads, along with Apple’s next-generation chip, the M4, powering the new iPad Pro models. Surprisingly, instead of debuting the M4 on Macbooks, Apple has introduced the new M4 chip on the new OLED iPad Pro models. The big highlight is the focus on AI, with Apple touting the M4’s Neural Engine – the company’s fastest ever – capable of a staggering 38 trillion operations per second, which it says is “faster than the neural processing unit of any AI PC today.”

Built using second-generation 3-nanometer technology, the M4 chip has a new neural engine that makes it “an outrageously powerful chip for AI.” It also includes a new 10-core CPU with up to four high-performance cores, six high-efficiency cores, and a 10-core GPU.

According to Apple, this translates to 50 per cent more power than the M2 in the previous iPad Pro. The M4’s 10-core GPU further breaks new ground for iPad by introducing dynamic caching, hardware-accelerated ray tracing, and hardware-accelerated mesh shading, along with a new display engine with four times the rendering speed of the M2.

Apple M4 Chip explained | Image: Apple
The M4 chip’s new 10-core GPU brings Dynamic Caching, hardware-accelerated ray tracing, and hardware-accelerated mesh shading to iPad for the first time | Image: Apple

The company also says the M4 chip delivers 50 per cent faster CPU performance and quadruple the graphics power. It inherits the M3’s hardware-accelerated ray-tracing for advanced lighting effects in games and other apps. With AI being the new buzzword in tech, the M4 also takes AI capabilities to the next level, with the Neural Engine getting a big bump in both performance and efficiency.

While Apple didn’t mention the M4 chip’s NPU core count, the newer chip outpaces Apple’s A11 Bionic Neural Processing Unit (NPU) by a whopping 60 times and is capable of an impressive 38 TOPS (trillion operations per second), which is a significant leap forward from the M3’s Neural Engine that was only capable of 18 TOPS. Although, it still falls short of the Snapdragon X Elite’s 45 TOPS. However, Apple does claim that the M4 matches high-end PC performance with a remarkable 75 per cent reduction in power consumption.

The new iPad Pro comes fitted with the M4 chip, the next generation of Apple silicon | Image: Apple
The new iPad Pro comes fitted with the M4 chip, the next generation of Apple silicon | Image: Apple

Lastly, Apple’s M4 chip takes media to the next level with a revamped Media Engine. Not only does it support popular formats like H.264, HEVC, and ProRes, but it also brings the power of AV1 hardware acceleration to iPad for the first time. According to Apple, “this provides more power-efficient playback of high-resolution video experiences from streaming services.”

“The new iPad Pro with M4 is a great example of how building best-in-class custom silicon enables breakthrough products,” said Johny Srouji, Apple’s senior vice president of Hardware in an official press release. “The power-efficient performance of M4, along with its new display engine, makes the thin design and game-changing display of iPad Pro possible, while fundamental improvements to the CPU, GPU, Neural Engine, and memory system make M4 extremely well suited for the latest applications leveraging AI. Altogether, this new chip makes iPad Pro the most powerful device of its kind.”