iPad Pro with M4 chip boasts impressive performance jump compared to just-released M3 MacBook Air


The M4 is looking like a very strong generation for Apple Silicon. According to leaked Geekbench scores likely posted by reviewers who already got their hands on the new iPad ahead of next week’s embargo, the new iPad Pro with the M4 chip scores about 3700 in single-core CPU benchmark, and around 14500 in multi-core.

That compares to ~3100 and ~12000 for the M3 MacBook Air, which Apple only just shipped in March. The new iPad Pro bests the Air by about 20%, an impressive generational jump, at least in these benchmark results.

On raw performance might, the M4 really does live up to Apple’s promises, should deliver. Single core is up about 20% compared to all M3 chips and more than 40% compared to M2. The generational computational leap from the previous M2 iPad Pro is at least a 42% jump on single-core and multi-core.

In fact, its performance rivals the higher-end M3 Pro Mac chip on multi-core benchmark results, which you have to shell out at least $2199 for to get that chip in the current 14-inch MacBook Pro. But on the iPad, you are getting faster single-core and comparable multi-core for as low as $999.

Note though, that Apple is binning the chips on the iPad Pro this year so the full speed ten core CPU models are only available with 1 TB or 2 TB storage. The 256 GB and 512 GB configurations have a 9-core CPU, with one less performance core. On these models, the Geekbench single-core score would be the same but the multi-core score will probably be about 15% less.

Apple says the M4 chip is built on a second-generation 3-nanometer process, believed to be TSMC’s N3E fabrication, rather than the ‘N3B’ process which Apple is quickly transitioning away from with expected short lifetimes of the A17 Pro and all M3 Mac models. ‘N3E’ is easier to make with much better production yields which benefits Apple, and it also makes more efficient chips which benefits the end customer.

The M4 compute performance is achieved through a combination of these process improvements and architectural changes to the CPU cores themselves. Apple says these next-generation cores improve branch prediction, and tout wider execution engines across both the performance and high-efficiency cores. They also have upgraded ML accelerators for machine learning tasks.

The M4’s Neural Engine is also significantly upgraded compared to M3, with Apple claiming up to 38 trillion operations per second, more than double the M3. This will inevitably tie into Apple’s future on-device AI plans.

We don’t have benchmarks for the GPU yet, but it will likely be comparable to the GPU performance of the M3, perhaps with a slight boost thanks to improved efficiency of the 3nm process and improved thermal design of the new iPad Pro. The actual architecture of the ten GPU cores is not believed to have changed much, if at all, compared to what you see in the MacBook Air, for instance.

On paper, the M4 will represent a huge leap for Apple Silicon, especially when it comes to raw CPU power. We can’t wait to see what the higher-end members of the family will look like; we are expecting M4 Pro and M4 Max to launch in new MacBook Pros by the end of the year.

However, when it comes to the iPad, of course synthetic benchmark scores do not portray the full story of how powerful the device is in practice. The limits of iPadOS and the apps and software available on the platform remain a significant roadblock.

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