Notebookcheck Logo

Apple M4 SoC analysis - AMD, Intel and Qualcomm currently don't stand a chance

The second generation of 3 nm chips is here. Apple has presented its brand-new M4 chip alongside the new iPad Pro. It is a further development of the M3 SoC and is also manufactured using a 3 nm process. We took a closer look at both of the new M4 chips and compared them with the latest processors from AMD and Intel.

Last year, Apple launched its first 3 nm processors—namely the M3 generation—and in addition to increased efficiency, their single-core performance was particularly enormous. Their multi-core performance also got better, but AMD in particular didn't trail far behind with its Zen4 processors when it came to efficiency. Now, Apple has presented its brand-new M4 processor, but it hasn't debuted within a MacBook—instead, it's found its home inside the new iPad Pro models.

There are basically two versions of the new Apple M4, but this isn't easily deciphered. You'll have to look closely at the technical data to see that the faster processor with 10 cores is only available inside versions of the iPad with 1 TB SSD storage or more. This applies to both the smaller iPad Pro 11 and the iPad Pro 13; the versions with less SSD storage (256 or 512 GB) are equipped with the slower model. The RAM configuration also differs depending on the SSD storage, as the two cheaper models with 256 or 512 GB storage are equipped with 8 GB RAM, while the models with 1 TB or more have 16 GB RAM.

Test procedure

We have two versions available for our test, namely the base version of the iPad Pro 11 with 256 GB RAM, 8 GB RAM and the 9-core M4 chip as well as the iPad Pro 13 with the 1 TB SSD, 16 GB RAM and the 10-core M4 chip. This is the first time that Apple has debuted one of its new M-SoCs inside the iPad Pro, which naturally limits our testing options compared to the MacBook. For one thing, the number of benchmarks available for iPad OS is clearly limited. Since it is also only has one USB-C port, we can't take any power measurements on an external display. For precise efficiency results, we will have to wait for new MacBooks with the M4. However, since the current MacBook Air models with the M3 chips only came onto the market a few months ago, we do not expect a quick update. If Apple sticks with its M3 scheme, the base model of the MacBook Pro 14 will probably be the first to be launched with the M4 SoC.

Apple M4 specifications - 9 or 10 CPU cores

The new M4 SoC is Apple's second M-SoC generation after the M3 (or the M3 Pro/M3 Max) to be produced using the advanced 3 nm process. When switching from the M2 to the M3, Apple was able to increase its clock rates thanks to a smaller structure width without significantly changing its power consumption. However, the processor's basic core architecture with four performance and four efficiency cores remained unchanged. The new M4 SoC's maximum clock rate has been increased further, although we can currently only determine the value for its performance cores. It can now reach up to 4.38 GHz instead of the M3's 4.056 GHz (M2: 3.48 GHz). At the same time, its core configuration has also changed for the first time, as six efficiency cores are now combined with either three or four performance cores.

When it comes to its graphics card, Apple has compared the M4 GPU's performance primarily with the previous iPad Pro's (2022) old M2 SoC. It continues to use a 10-core GPU which supports dynamic caching as well as hardware-based mesh shading and ray tracing—just like the M3 generation. We currently have no information surrounding the GPU cores' clock rates. The new Neural Engine has also received an upgrade, with it now reaching 38 TOPS instead of 18 TOPS (M3 SoC) and 15.8 TOPS (M2 SoC). However, one big disadvantage of the old M chips remains, namely the M4 SoC can also only power one external display.

Single-core performance

To measure single-core performance, we only have Geekbench available on the iPad Pro. After the M3 generation already leapt about 20 % ahead of the M2, both M4 models again show a 20 % advantage over the Apple M3. Even the M3 could keep up with most current mobile processors from AMD and Intel in benchmarks like Cinebench and it only had to admit defeat to high-clocked models such as the Core Ultra 9 185H or HX models. With its new performance leap, Apple's M4 can clearly take the single-core performance crown, and it should also have no problems competing with the new Snapdragon X Elite processors for which we are still using Qualcomm's reference values from the product launch last fall. Based on its consumption values during the benchmark, we again assume a power consumption of around 5 watts in single-core scenarios. This means you can expect more single-core performance with the new iPad Pro 11 base model than with the current MacBook Pro. 

Geekbench 6.2 - Single-Core
Apple M4 (10 cores)
Apple iPad Pro 13 2024
3715 Points
Apple M4 (9 cores)
Apple iPad Pro 11 2024
3662 Points -1%
Apple M3 Pro 11-Core
Apple MacBook Pro 14 2023 M3 Pro
3113 Points -16%
Apple M3
Apple MacBook Pro 14 2023 M3
3099 Points -17%
Apple M3
Apple MacBook Air 13 M3 10C GPU
3026 Points -19%
Qualcomm Snapdragon X Elite X1E-84-100
SD X Elite Reference 80W
2966 Points -20%
Qualcomm Snapdragon X Elite X1E-84-100
SD X Elite Reference 23W
2777 Points -25%
Apple M2
Apple MacBook Air 15 2023 M2 16 GB
2593 Points -30%
Intel Core Ultra 9 185H
Lenovo Yoga Pro 9 16IMH9
2570 Points -31%
AMD Ryzen 7 8840HS
Asus Zenbook 14 OLED UM3406HA
2552 Points -31%
AMD Ryzen 7 8840U
Minisforum V3
2537 Points -32%
Intel Core Ultra 9 185H
Dell Precision 5690
2531 Points -32%
AMD Ryzen 7 7840U
Lenovo ThinkPad T16 G2 21K70035GE
2519 Points -32%
Intel Core Ultra 7 155H
Dell XPS 13 9340 Core Ultra 7
2408 Points -35%
Intel Core Ultra 7 165U
Dell Latitude 9450 2-in-1
2356 Points -37%
Intel Core Ultra 7 155U
Lenovo Yoga Book 9 13IMU9
2324 Points -37%

Multi-core performance

In contrast to its very good single-core performance, the old M3 SoC's multi-core performance was respectable with a consumption of around 20 watts—but especially compared to the Zen4 mobile processors from AMD, this efficiency advantage wasn't terribly large and in terms of pure performance, the competitors products were faster, too (but of course featured active cooling systems). Apple has rectified this problem in its new M4 chip and higher clock rates play a part in helping—alongside its two additional efficiency cores.

In Geekbench, the "small" M4 SoC with three performance cores inside our iPad Pro 11 managed to position itself about 10 % ahead of the old M3 SoC, however, it trailed behind the base model of the M3 Pro with 11 cores as well as the Snapdragon X Elite with 23 watts. The M4 with all four performance cores came 22 % ahead of the old M3, the X Elite and the M3 Pro (11 cores), so it offers more performance than the MacBook Pro 14 with the small M3 Pro. The old Apple M2 has been outperformed by 32 % (9-core M4) and 46 % (10-core M4), so Apple's claim of 1.5 times the CPU performance of the M2 iPad Pro is correct. 

It managed to beat the fast H45-class Intel and AMD chips (for example the Core Ultra 9 185H or the Ryzen 9 8945HS) but the current HX processors are of course significantly faster.

Geekbench 6.2 - Multi-Core
Apple M3 Pro 12-Core
Apple MacBook Pro 16 2023 M3 Pro
15480 Points +5%
Qualcomm Snapdragon X Elite X1E-84-100
SD X Elite Reference 80W
15239 Points +4%
Apple M4 (10 cores)
Apple iPad Pro 13 2024
14690 Points
Apple M3 Pro 11-Core
Apple MacBook Pro 14 2023 M3 Pro
14412 Points -2%
Intel Core Ultra 9 185H
Dell Precision 5690
14160 Points -4%
Qualcomm Snapdragon X Elite X1E-84-100
SD X Elite Reference 23W
14056 Points -4%
Intel Core Ultra 9 185H
Lenovo Yoga Pro 9 16IMH9
14031 Points -4%
Apple M4 (9 cores)
Apple iPad Pro 11 2024
13350 Points -9%
AMD Ryzen 9 8945HS
Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 2024 GA403U
13155 Points -10%
Apple M3
Apple MacBook Air 13 M3 10C GPU
12034 Points -18%
Intel Core Ultra 7 155H
Dell XPS 13 9340 Core Ultra 7
11982 Points -18%
Apple M3
Apple MacBook Pro 14 2023 M3
11966 Points -19%
AMD Ryzen 7 7840U
Lenovo ThinkPad T16 G2 21K70035GE
11363 Points -23%
AMD Ryzen 7 8840HS
Asus Zenbook 14 OLED UM3406HA
11279 Points -23%
AMD Ryzen 7 8840U
Minisforum V3
11144 Points -24%
Apple M2
Apple MacBook Air 15 2023 M2 16 GB
10093 Points -31%
Intel Core Ultra 7 165U
Dell Latitude 9450 2-in-1
9944 Points -32%
Intel Core Ultra 7 155U
Lenovo Yoga Book 9 13IMU9
9448 Points -36%

The current M3 Pro with 12 cores (as used in the MacBook Pro 16, for example) is only slightly faster—as is the 80-watt reference system from the Snapdragon X Elite. However, these results become even more impressive when you look at the processor's power consumption, which in the case of the iPad Pro 13 was around 15 watts during the benchmark (with a 65-watt power supply). This means that the new M4 SoC consumes even less power despite its higher performance, and the mere fact that such a fast chip can be passively cooled is unlikely to make the competition very happy.

GPU performance

As was the case with the M3, the graphics card is based on 10 cores and all the same features are supported. As a result, we only assume a slightly higher clock rate due to its improved process—although our test results suggest a difference between the two M4 models. During the Geekbench Metal test, we noted a 12 % advantage for the new GPU over the old M3 GPU, and the Apple M2's 10-core GPU was outperformed by 18 %. On the other hand, the small M3 Pro graphics card with 14 cores was still significantly faster during this test (+27 %). In the GPU benchmarks, we measured a consumption of around 15 watts, which also corresponds to the old M3 GPU with 10 cores.

Geekbench 6.2 - GPU Metal
Apple M3 Pro 18-Core GPU
Apple MacBook Pro 16 2023 M3 Pro
78324 Points +46%
Apple M3 Pro 14-Core GPU
Apple MacBook Pro 14 2023 M3 Pro
68043 Points +27%
Apple M4 10-core GPU
Apple iPad Pro 13 2024
53465 Points
Apple M3 10-Core GPU
Apple MacBook Air 15 M3
47699 Points -11%
Apple M3 10-Core GPU
Apple MacBook Air 13 M3 10C GPU
47686 Points -11%
Apple M3 10-Core GPU
Apple MacBook Pro 14 2023 M3
47494 Points -11%
Apple M2 10-Core GPU
Apple MacBook Air 15 2023 M2 16 GB
45460 Points -15%
Apple A17 Pro GPU
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max
27151 Points -49%

The 3DMark test Wildlife Extreme Unlimited is very suitable for comparing the performance of GPUs from different platforms. The old M3 GPU was already a good deal faster than the current iGPUs from Intel and AMD. With its new M4 GPU, Apple was able to extend its lead even further, now coming in 30-37 % ahead of fast variants of Arc Graphics with 8 Xe cores and more than 60 % ahead of the Radeon 780M. It is also interesting to note that the fast M4 only came 5 % behind the 30-watt version of the Nvidia GeForce RTX 4050 Laptop inside the Dell XPS 14. However, the M3 Pro GPU is significantly faster in this respect, too.

The chip's GFX Bench test results were somewhat more mixed, but here, too, we noted an advantage over the M3 GPU in almost all cases. The Aztec Ruins Normal Tier Offscreen test is particularly exciting, as Qualcomm has published results for this. With its new M4 SoC, Apple was able to overtake the 23-watt reference system. 

3DMark / Wild Life Extreme Unlimited
Apple M3 Pro 14-Core GPU
Apple MacBook Pro 14 2023 M3 Pro
12094 Points +36%
NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4050 Laptop GPU
Dell XPS 14 2024 OLED
9394 Points +6%
Apple M4 10-core GPU
Apple iPad Pro 13 2024
8889 Points
Apple M4 10-core GPU
Apple iPad Pro 11 2024
8457 Points -5%
Apple M3 10-Core GPU
Apple MacBook Air 15 M3
8286 Points -7%
Apple M2 10-Core GPU
Apple Mac Mini M2
6987 Points -21%
Apple M2 10-Core GPU
Apple iPad Pro 12.9 2022
6909 Points -22%
Apple M2 10-Core GPU
Apple MacBook Air 15 2023 M2 16 GB
6869 Points -23%
Intel Arc 8-Core iGPU
Xiaomi RedmiBook Pro 16 2024
6486 Points -27%
Intel Arc 8-Core iGPU
Acer Swift Go 14 SFG14-72
5869 Points -34%
AMD Radeon 780M
Asus Zenbook 14 OLED UM3406HA
5283 Points -41%
AMD Radeon 780M
Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 GA402XY
4663 Points -48%
GFXBench / 4K Aztec Ruins High Tier Offscreen
Apple M3 Pro 14-Core GPU
Apple MacBook Pro 14 2023 M3 Pro
79 fps +43%
Apple M4 10-core GPU
Apple iPad Pro 13 2024
55.1 fps
Apple M3 10-Core GPU
Apple MacBook Air 15 M3
52.6 fps -5%
Apple M4 10-core GPU
Apple iPad Pro 11 2024
48.6 fps -12%
Apple M2 10-Core GPU
Apple iPad Pro 12.9 2022
48 fps -13%
Apple M2 10-Core GPU
Apple Mac Mini M2
48 fps -13%
Apple M2 10-Core GPU
Apple MacBook Air 15 2023 M2 16 GB
47.9 fps -13%
Intel Arc 8-Core iGPU
Asus ZenBook 14 UX3405MA
40.5 fps -26%
Intel Arc 8-Core iGPU
Acer Swift Go 14 SFG14-72
36.6 fps -34%
AMD Radeon 780M
Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 GA402XY
27.3 fps -50%
GFXBench / Aztec Ruins High Tier Offscreen
Apple M3 Pro 14-Core GPU
Apple MacBook Pro 14 2023 M3 Pro
178.7 fps +56%
Apple M3 10-Core GPU
Apple MacBook Air 15 M3
120 fps +5%
Apple M4 10-core GPU
Apple iPad Pro 13 2024
114.5 fps
Apple M2 10-Core GPU
Apple Mac Mini M2
107.9 fps -6%
Apple M2 10-Core GPU
Apple MacBook Air 15 2023 M2 16 GB
107.7 fps -6%
Apple M4 10-core GPU
Apple iPad Pro 11 2024
105.4 fps -8%
Apple M2 10-Core GPU
Apple iPad Pro 12.9 2022
90 fps -21%
Intel Arc 8-Core iGPU
Acer Swift Go 14 SFG14-72
83.4 fps -27%
AMD Radeon 780M
Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 GA402XY
58.3 fps -49%
GFXBench / Aztec Ruins Normal Tier Offscreen
Apple M3 Pro 14-Core GPU
Apple MacBook Pro 14 2023 M3 Pro
481.9 fps +42%
Qualcomm Snapdragon X Adreno 3.8 TFLOPS GPU
SD X Elite Reference 80W
356 fps +5%
Apple M4 10-core GPU
Apple iPad Pro 13 2024
339.7 fps
Apple M3 10-Core GPU
Apple MacBook Air 15 M3
331 fps -3%
Qualcomm Snapdragon X Adreno 3.8 TFLOPS GPU
SD X Elite Reference 23W
294 fps -13%
Apple M2 10-Core GPU
Apple Mac Mini M2
289.5 fps -15%
Apple M2 10-Core GPU
Apple MacBook Air 15 2023 M2 16 GB
289 fps -15%
Apple M4 10-core GPU
Apple iPad Pro 11 2024
287.9 fps -15%
Apple M2 10-Core GPU
Apple iPad Pro 12.9 2022
241 fps -29%
Intel Arc 8-Core iGPU
Asus ZenBook 14 UX3405MA
233.2 fps -31%
Intel Arc 8-Core iGPU
Acer Swift Go 14 SFG14-72
210 fps -38%
AMD Radeon 780M
Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 GA402XY
141 fps -58%
GFXBench / Car Chase Offscreen
Apple M3 Pro 14-Core GPU
Apple MacBook Pro 14 2023 M3 Pro
376.3 fps +33%
Apple M4 10-core GPU
Apple iPad Pro 13 2024
283.9 fps
Apple M3 10-Core GPU
Apple MacBook Air 15 M3
260 fps -8%
Apple M4 10-core GPU
Apple iPad Pro 11 2024
233.8 fps -18%
Apple M2 10-Core GPU
Apple Mac Mini M2
232 fps -18%
Apple M2 10-Core GPU
Apple iPad Pro 12.9 2022
214 fps -25%
Intel Arc 8-Core iGPU
Acer Swift Go 14 SFG14-72
167.07 fps -41%
AMD Radeon 780M
Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 GA402XY
161 fps -43%
Apple M2 10-Core GPU
Apple MacBook Air 15 2023 M2 16 GB
136 fps -52%

Verdict - Apple's M4 SoC is currently unrivaled

Review: Apple M4 SoC inside the iPad Pro 13. Test device provided by:
Review: Apple M4 SoC inside the iPad Pro 13. Test device provided by:

With its new M4 SoC, Apple has once again raised the already high bar set by the M3 SoC. Its CPU performance gains in particular are impressive and it seems that Apple has succeeded in increasing its clock rate while reducing power consumption. Of course, we lack a number of test results (including those for efficiency) to give us a complete picture due to the iPad OS' limitations, but around 20 % more performance in both single-core and multi-core scenarios is impressive regardless. Its GPU performance has also been improved, although its advantage over the M3 GPU is somewhat smaller in this aspect. 

The results in themselves are already very good, but it becomes even more impressive when you realize that the M4 can still be cooled passively and that this level of performance can be found inside a compact tablet. There are currently no processors from AMD or Intel (and probably not in the next CPU generation either) that achieve this level of performance with passive cooling. The upcoming Qualcomm laptops with the Snapdragon X Elite are also likely to have a hard time competing with this chip. Apple may have launched the M4 this quickly in order to beat the new Snapdragon SoCs in all disciplines and, as a result, avoid negative headlines, but these aren't real competitors for the M4 anyway. Based on the current leaks, there will probably be no passively cooled laptops with the Snapdragon X Elite or the Snapdragon X Plus. However, the next few weeks will probably bring more clarity.

The new Apple M4 SoC ist by far the fastest and most efficient single-core processor on the market that can be cooled passively. AMD and Intel are losing more and more ground in the low-voltage sector, and the upcoming Snapdragon CPUs from Qualcomm will hardly be able to change this. The only question is how long Apple will keep MacBook customers waiting for its new processors.

In turn, the new M4 SoC also brings some problems with it, as the updated MacBook Air models with the M3 processor have only been on the market for three months and anyone who may be interested in purchasing a MacBook Air (or even the base model of the MacBook Pro 14 with the M3) now knows full well that Apple's new processor is already ready and offers significantly more performance. The only question now is how long Apple wants to keep MacBook customers waiting. We can well imagine that there won't be any updates until late fall. 

Read all 27 comments / answer
static version load dynamic
Loading comments
Comment on this article
Please share our article, every link counts!
> Expert Reviews and News on Laptops, Smartphones and Tech Innovations > Reviews > Apple M4 SoC analysis - AMD, Intel and Qualcomm currently don't stand a chance
Andreas Osthoff, 2024-05-20 (Update: 2024-05-20)