Apple Enters AI Race with Powerful Processor

M4 processor will power new iPad and later Macs.

Spencer Chin, Senior Editor

May 8, 2024

2 Min Read
Apple's M4 chip will power its latest iPad Pro.
Apple’s M4 chip is designed to maximize performance for AI and machine learning workloads.Apple

At a Glance

  • New M4 processors targets AI and machine learning.
  • M4 will power Apple's latest iPad Pro tablet.

Much of the attention in AI hardware has centered on Nvidia’s latest GPU and how Intel and AMD would counterpunch. Not to be left out of the foray, Apple has jumped into the race to develop AI-centered processors as well, with the company taking a major step this week when it unveiled its new M4 processor.

Apple has hinted in recent months it would make a bigger push into AI, particularly after it dropped its troubled Apple car program. The introduction of the M4 chip clearly indicates the company continues to march down the homegrown silicon path to power its products for graphics and processor-intensive future computing tasks.

Initially, the M4 chip will be used in Apple’s latest iPad Pro. However, the company will eventually use the chip in future iMac computers.

The M4 is a system-on-a-chip (SoC) chip built with a 3-nanometer chip architecture. The chip has a 10-core GPU based on the next-generation GPU architecture introduced in M3. The next-generation cores feature improved branch prediction, with wider decode and execution engines for the performance cores, and a deeper execution engine for the efficiency cores. Both cores also feature enhanced, next-generation ML accelerators.

Powerful Neural Engine

Key to the M4’s high performance is an IP block in the chip dedicated to the acceleration of AI workloads. Apple said the engine can process up to 38 trillion operations per second, that is reportedly 60x faster than the first Neural Engine in A11 Bionic.

Related:Apple Ups Performance Of Its Laptop Chips

When combined with faster memory bandwidth, along with next-generation machine learning (ML) accelerators and a high-performance GPU, the M4 will give the company’s newest iPad Pro a powerful device for artificial intelligence.

According to Apple, the M4 delivers up to 1.5x faster CPU performance than the powerful M2 in the previous iPad Pro. Coupled with AI features in iPadOS like Live Captions for real-time audio captions, and Visual Look Up, the new iPad Pro allows users to accomplish amazing AI tasks quickly and on the device.

The M4 also features a new display engine to drive the precision, color, and brightness of the breakthrough Ultra Retina XDR display in the iPad Pro. The M4’s media engine can support most popular video codecs, like H.264, HEVC, and ProRes. It also brings hardware acceleration for AV1 to iPad for the first time. This provides more power-efficient playback of high-resolution video experiences from streaming services.


Apple also says the M4’s power efficiency will enable the iPad Pro to deliver all-day battery life. This results in less time needing to be plugged in and less energy consumed over its lifetime.

About the Author(s)

Spencer Chin

Senior Editor, Design News

Spencer Chin is a Senior Editor for Design News, covering the electronics beat, which includes semiconductors, components, power, embedded systems, artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality, and other related subjects. He is always open to ideas for coverage. Spencer has spent many years covering electronics for brands including Electronic Products, Electronic Buyers News, EE Times, Power Electronics, and electronics360. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him at @spencerchin.

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