Apple’s M4 chip really does compete with itself

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It’s not often an Apple advertisement bombs, but when it does it generates international attention. That’s why everyone is now learning that Apple’s newly introduced iPads can be used to make music, create art, capture images, make movies and do much more, and the versatile tool isn’t just for creative pros, but for the rest of us, too. What makes this possible? Apple Silicon — and additional details have emerged since the introduction of the chip.

The big news concerns speed. Apple’s M4 is up to 45% faster than the M2 processor and 25% faster than the not-so-old amazing M3, according to the latest speed data leak. It makes the chip faster than Qualcomm’s much-hyped Snapdragon X Elite — as well as the competing M3 Pro.

Fresh data for the M4 on Geekbench 6 gives us these scores:

  • Single core: 3,767.
  • Multi core: 14,677.

These results are likely to have been captured from new iPads, which means the actual performance potential for the M4 on the Mac is likely to be even greater. 

While the test results come from one of the tablets with 16GB RAM, we understand the processor has clock speeds lowered to make the device more energy efficient. Once someone does give Apple Silicon a heat sync, it should be able to run faster, even though when it comes to single-core chips no other consumer processor or chip can compete with the M4. The only way, as they say, is up.

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I’ve said before that Apple’s silicon design teams are moving so fast that they compete with themselves, and this continues to be true. Not only that, but it seems to be accelerating the introduction of these processors.

Here’s the evidence:

M1 processor (November 2020)

  • Single core: 2,304.
  • Multi core: 8,422.

M2 processor (June 2022)

  • Single core: 2,623.
  • Multi core: 9,803.

M3 processor (October 2023)

  • Single core: 3,027.
  • Multi core: 11,883.

M4 processor (May 2024)

  • Single core: 3,767.
  • Multi core: 14,677.

Sources: At time of writing Geekbench 6 appears to be offline. As a result, I’ve had to use Nanoreview to source the data. It is also true that these results vary; an earlier check on Geekbench showed single core results between 3,595-3,810. Take them as a guide.

It is worth noting the extent to which each iteration of M-series chip leapfrogs the previous generation. The current highest end iPad Pro with an M4 chip running 1TB+ RAM seems like it might even surpass the M3 Pro chip. That’s significant, I think.

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The three towers

Apple’s teams seem to have the following goals: To make computationally powerful chips, make them extremely power efficient, and ensure they generate little heat so the processors can be used across a slew of different devices. 

Iteration by iteration of the Apple Silicon concept, realizing these goals lets Apple achieve significant environmental benefits, dramatically reducing the power required by its devices while also trimming the size of batteries inside them — which means those devices derive the same life between charges. It also means Apple’s designers can scale cheerily between versions of the core architecture, scaling all the way from A-series chips in iPhones to the powerful Ultra series of processors the company also has the ability to create. 

This wide scale remains a huge design opportunity for Apple, which can visualize and design systems that could not exist before. We’ve all seen talk about plans for folding devices; those are made far more possible as products get thinner and batteries become increasingly less likely to overheat. Within this, the influence of ARM, (which itself recently announced record results), is tangible. 

Where is this going?

What this means is that Apple Silicon is becoming a huge competitive advantage to the company. “The flexibility of Apple silicon architecture remains one of their biggest technical advantages over competitors,” said Ben Bajarin, Creative Strategies analyst, following Apple’s latest iPad launch.

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Apple’s own CPU tests claim that the M4 chip with 28 billion transistors outpaces the M2 by 50%.  Apple also compared the processor to an Asus Zenbook 14 OLED with an Intel Core Ultra 7 processor, arguing that its new iPads could deliver the same performance at a quarter the power. That means you get more life between charges and as enterprise apps appear, the iPad can only become a more attractive tool for anyone in the mobile enterprise.

They’ll become even more tempting once they do become foldable and processor sizes shrink even more.

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Apple, CPUs and Processors, iOS, iPad, Tablets

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