MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3 Max, 2023)

(Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

Apple M3 only just seems to be gathering momentum — the M3 MacBook Air just released a few weeks ago after the MacBook Pros with M3, M3 Pro and M3 Max launched alongside the new iMac at the tail end of last year.

But the Cupertino crew is already looking to the future, which is coming sooner than you think. According to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, the first M4 Macs look set to launch later this year, as Apple moves to an annual refresh schedule for its computer silicon.

M4 for 2024

In terms of the launch roadmap for M4, Gurman has us covered. Put simply, expect the same sort of rollout as we got with M3 — except with some key desktop differences. Here’s the breakdown:

  1. The base 14-inch MacBook Pro with M4 will come at the end of the year, alongside a new 24-inch iMac.
  2. The 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros with M4 Pro and M4 Max may launch at the same time, or get pushed slightly to early 2025.
  3. A Mac mini with M4 or M4 Pro looks like it will drop some time between the end of 2024 and early 2025.
  4. Following this, the new M4 MacBook Airs are set for a Spring 2025 release.
  5. Finally, the Mac Studio with “a high-end M4 chip” will launch in mid-2025, with the M4 Ultra Mac Pro hot on its heels in the second half of the year.

With this in mind, what is going to happen to the desktop models that haven’t been updated to M3 yet — such as the Mac mini? Gurman repeated the claim that Apple has been dabbling with the M3 Ultra, which we could see come to a refreshed Mac Pro and Mac Studio.

But don’t expect to see the third generation come to other desk-bound systems, as he says it is “all but assured that at least some of Apple’s high-end desktops” will jump over M3 and go straight to M4 instead.

Why so soon?

Snapdragon X Elite

(Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

While there’s no definitive reason as to why Apple has seemingly sped up, I’ve got a theory and it comes down to two things: jumping to new tech the second it’s available, and the chip wars heating up to fever pitch this year.

You may have seen that I got the chance to put the Snapdragon X Elite chipset through its benchmarking paces, and found that Qualcomm’s promise of it being faster than M3 was somewhat underestimated — in fact it’s also faster than M3 Pro in its multi-core prowess.

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While it’s looking likely that Apple will remain on top when it comes to that performance vs power efficiency, as the way it sips battery life is still mind blowing to me, there’s no denying that the gap between Mac and PC is closing quickly. That is probably why M4 is coming so soon, and I wouldn’t be surprised if an annual update cycle becomes the default from now on.

More from Tom’s Guide

Jason brings a decade of tech and gaming journalism experience to his role as a Managing Editor of Computing at Tom’s Guide. He has previously written for Laptop Mag, Tom’s Hardware, Kotaku, Stuff and BBC Science Focus. In his spare time, you’ll find Jason looking for good dogs to pet or thinking about eating pizza if he isn’t already.

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