M4 vs M3 and M2 Apple Silicon

The new iPad Pro has debuted as Apple’s first device with the M4 chip, jumping up from the M2. How does the latest Apple Silicon improve over its predecessors? Here’s a detailed look at M4 vs M3 and M2 on CPU, GPU, Neural Engine, and more.

Since there’s no iPad with an M3 and no Mac with an M4, there’s a bit of unraveling to understand the differences and improvements between the three most recent Apple Silicon chips.

Check out our detailed comparison on the latest devices and below we’ll dig into M4 vs M3 and M2 😁.

CPU, GPU, Neural Engine specs

M4 vs M3 and M2 cpu, gpu specs
image via Apple
CPU9 or 10-core8-core8-core
GPU10-coreUp to 10-coreUp to 10-core
Neural engine16-core16-core16-core
RAM8 or 16GB with iPad Pro (24GB likely with future Macs)Up to 24GBUp to 24GB (max 16GB with iPad Pro)
StorageUp to 2TB with iPad Pro (8TB likely with future Macs)Up to 8TBUp to 8TB
Memory bandwidth120GB/s100GB/s100GB/s
Process3nm 2nd-gen3nm5nm
Transistor count28 billion25 billion20 billion

The overall transistor count has increased to 28 billion for the M4 chip. That’s compared to 25 billion for the M3 and 20 billion for the M2.

That’s an impressive 40% increase in just two years.

CPU benchmark scores

Apple says that the M4 CPU is up to 50% faster than the M2. However, it hasn’t shared a detailed comparison between the M4 and M3 CPUs.

But when looking at what may be early M4 iPad Pro benchmarks, results show a ~3,700 single-core score and ~14,000 multi-core score.

That’s compared to an M3 Mac CPU benchmarking at a ~3,100 single-score score and a ~12,000 multi-core score.

  • If accurate that puts the M4 CPU up to 18% faster for single-core performance and up to 21% faster for multi-core performance

GPU and media engines

M4 vs M3 and M2 GPU
image via Apple
  • Apple says the M4 GPU is 4x faster than the M2. And it says the M3 GPU is up to 1.8x faster than the M2.
  • Based on those numbers from Apple the M4 is up to ~2x faster than the M3 GPU

In what may be early Metal benchmark scores for the M4 iPad Pro, an average score of 53,000 has been established.

Compared to the M3 average Metal score of 46,571, that’s only 13% faster for Metal compute.

But Apple’s more impressive numbers may be “up to” speed improvements for different GPU processes.

Like its predecessors, the M4 has dedicated media engines to offer hardware-accelerated H.264, HEVC, ProRes, and ProRes RAW support. And they feature the same amount of engines as the M3 and M2.

But the M4 hardware-accelerated support for H.264, HEVC, ProRes, and ProRes RAW now works with 8K video.

Hardware-accelerated 8K H.264, HEVC, ProRes, and ProRes RAW
Hardware-accelerated H.264, HEVC, ProRes, and ProRes RAW
Hardware-accelerated ray tracing
Video decode engine
Video encode engine
ProRes encode and decode engine
AV1 decode

Neural Engine

When it comes to the upgraded Neural Engine in the M4, Apple says it’s a more powerful neural processing unit in “any AI PC today.”

The M4 Neural Engine can process 38 trillion operations per second. That’s more than double the 18 trillion ops/sec of the M3 and nearing 3x more than the 15.8 trillion ops/sec of the M2 Neural Engine.

M4 vs M3 and M2 Neural Engine
image via Apple

External display support

For now, the M4 only supports one external display with the iPad Pro.

But that will likely be different when the first M4 Macs arrive as even the M3 MacBook Air supports up to 2 (when the lid is closed).

M4 vs M3 and M2 wrap-up

M4 vs M3 and M2: Apple Silicon comparison – 9to5Mac
image via Apple

The M4 delivers impressive performance improvement over the M3 and M2. But is it worth upgrading your iPad right now?

For pros or aspiring pros who need the latest and greatest from Apple, want a tax write-off, or are just happy spending the money, picking up a new M4 iPad Pro can be worth it.

But for anyone who doesn’t have intense workflows that require the fastest performance, passing on the M4 for now probably makes the most sense.

We’ll have to wait to see the M4 show up in Macs as well as the arrival of the M4 Pro, Max, and Ultra chips.

The M4 iPad Pro is available at AppleAmazon, soon Best Buy, and more.

Thanks for reading our guide on M4 vs M3 and M2!

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