First Apple M4 chip details leaked — major AI boost and possible launch window

MacBook Air M3
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Apple M3 series of chips made their debut late last year in the MacBook Pro range, and recently made the jump to the MacBook Air M3. As impressive as the M3 series is, I have no doubt some of you will be looking forward to what’s next. The good news is that the M4 chips may be ready to go by this time next year.

A new “estimated roadmap” has been released by market analytics firm Canalys (via TechRadar), and it suggests the Apple M4 chip may launch in the first quarter of 2025. While this isn’t a guarantee of what Apple’s plans are, these are estimates designed to show various businesses what their competitors may be up to — in this case Apple, Intel, AMD and Qualcomm. 

The silicon war is heating up

Up to now, Apple has typically left a gap of around 18 months between new generations of its M series chips. So a launch in late Q1 or early Q2 2025 would match up with that fairly well. Whether it’ll actually happen is another matter, and Apple is not one for releasing new products on anyone else’s timeline.

Canalys also predicts that the M4 chips will have a big AI focus, which is no major surprise. AI PCs are very much a thing now, and there’s been a push over the past few years to offer better and more powerful AI-capable chips. In fact Apple is said to be doing just that with the iPhone 16 and A18 chipset — both of which are rumored to offer a massively improved Neural Engine.

Apple also made a big AI push with the MacBook Air M3, which features an enhanced neural engine. Apple even went so far as to declare it the “world’s best consumer laptop for AI”. So really the M4 is all but guaranteed to offer even more AI features and performance.

We can probably expect many more hardware upgrades in the M4 chips as well. The M3’s performance cores were 30% faster than the M1, while the efficiency cores were 50% faster. Not to mention the graphical performance (hardware accelerated ray tracing came to M3) and power efficiency that Apple silicon has been known for since its inception.

But right now it’s impossible to say how much better the performance and power efficiency will be in the M4 chip. But if iPhone 16 rumors are anything to go by, Apple could be pushing for more on-device AI processing rather than offloading that work to the cloud. We’ll just have to wait and see what additional information pops up over the next 12 months.

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Tom Pritchard
UK Phones Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's UK Phones Editor, tackling the latest smartphone news and vocally expressing his opinions about upcoming features or changes. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining about how terrible his Smart TV is.