The iPad Pro with M4 could be a game-changer — 3 reasons why I’m excited

iPad Pro 2022
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

In a startling turn of events, rumors now claim the iPad Pro 2024 will reportedly be the first Apple device with an M4 chip. That’s surprising since all previous reports surrounding the yet-to-be-announced Apple tablet said it would ship with M3 silicon. If this rumor is true, we could get our first glimpse of this new iPad Pro and the M4 chip on May 7 during Apple’s “Let Loose” event, where we expect new iPad announcements.

As I’ve said previously, the iPad Pro 2024 is the one iPad I’m looking forward to. The main reason is that the Pro will reportedly have an OLED display, but I’m also eager to see if Apple’s largest tablet will sport a landscape-oriented front camera. The possibility of an M3-driven iPad Pro also intrigued me, though it now seems we’ll get an M4-powered device instead, if the latest report from Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman is accurate.

According to Gurman’s report, the M4 processor’s key feature is an upgraded neural engine that will enhance the slate’s AI performance. Gurman claims this will be the start of Apple’s shift into AI hardware, which is something the company has been slow to get involved in. Sure, the M-series chips have always had a neural engine, but given the tech industry’s recent push for AI, it’s not surprising that Apple now wants to discuss the AI capabilities of its homegrown silicon.

A greater emphasis on AI makes sense, especially if we get to a point where AI software becomes more ubiquitous and useful. But beyond that, the M4 chip could benefit gaming and perhaps make the iPad Pro a legitimate laptop replacement.

If this latest rumor is true, I’m even more excited to see what the iPad Pro 2024 could have in store. I’ll detail why below.

An AI powerhouse

AI generated image of 3 Llamas on a chip

(Image credit: Adobe Firefly - AI generated for Future)

If you’ve read my reviews for the HP Omen Transcend 14, Alienware m16 R2 and Samsung Galaxy Book 4 Ultra, then you’ll know I haven’t been impressed with their advertised AI capabilities. Right now, AI laptops aren’t living up to the hype surrounding AI PCs. This might be true of an M4-powered iPad Pro with enhanced AI features. Conversely, it’s possible that the iPad Pro could be the best form factor for AI.

As our own Ryan Morrison detailed in his piece about new features he wants to see on the next iPad, the iPad Pro seems like it will be designed to run powerful AI loads right on the device instead of just via the cloud. The current iPad Pro M2 can run models like Llama 3, and handle complex AI tasks such as image generation and video editing. With the camera, it can perform a range of AI vision tasks like those revealed for the new Meta Ray-Bans. An iPad Pro packing and M4 chip could expand or surpass these capabilities.

So what could be possible on M4? Easier integration of third-party models could be the most substantial. Apple already has MLX, which is a framework designed to make it easier to integrate third-party AI models into iPadOS and work with them through the apps. To that end, Mark Gurman reports that Apple could bring ChatGPT to iOS. If true, it’s not unreasonable to assume the large language model would also be available on iPad.

Rumors suggest that Apple plans to launch an AI App Store and that the company will creature a new suite of APIs and developer kits that third-party developers can use to get the most out of the M4 chip. Combine that with the company’s own AI efforts, and it’s possible the iPad Pro could be a powerhouse AI machine.

Better gaming performance

Genshin Impact running on an iPad Pro 2022.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

I know that “gaming” and “Apple” aren’t exactly synonymous, but the company has made admirable efforts to make gaming more viable on its devices. Heavy hitters like Resident Evil Village, No Man’s Sky, Baldur’s Gate 3 and Lies of P all take advantage of Apple silicon. They also run great on MacBooks sporting an M3 chip. To that end, gaming should be great on an iPad Pro M4.

M3 chips have a feature called Dynamic Caching, which only uses the amount of RAM needed for specific tasks. Hardware-accelerated ray tracing is also available on Macs with M3, as is hardware-accelerated mesh shading. I expect these same features on M4, along with other possible enhancements.

Though we can’t play many of the best PC games on Apple devices, playing the current crop of titles specifically tailored for M-series chips is a rock-solid experience. If the rumored iPad Pro does indeed pack an M4 chip, I expect it to deliver some serious gaming performance.

Potential laptop replacement

iPad Pro 2022

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

We’ve long heard about how an iPad Pro could be a laptop replacement. While that hasn’t exactly happened, there are plenty of folks who use an iPad Pro as their primary computing device — even if iPadOS doesn’t have all the features of macOS.

That last point is why I’m still unconvinced an iPad could ever replace any of the best MacBooks. Still, I’ll admit an M4-powered iPad Pro could put us one step closer to seeing the laptop replacement wish become reality. The iPad Pro M2 is plenty capable as a portable video editor, so I imagine an M4-driven tablet could churn through edits even faster. And as I said, the power of M4 should deliver spectacular gaming experiences on iPad Pro.

Another necessary component to make the iPad Pro a laptop replacement is the Apple Magic Keyboard. The existing peripheral is not only great for typing but also doubles as one of the best iPad cases. Typing on the Magic Keyboard isn’t as comfortable as typing on a MacBook, but it works well enough. If another rumor is true, the Magic Keyboard is getting an update to coincide with the new iPad Pro.

According to Gurman, Apple plans to revamp the peripheral to look more like a laptop by giving it an aluminum finish similar to a MacBook. A larger trackpad is also expected. It would be interesting to see if these changes result in an iPad Pro one could mistake for a MacBook.

iPad Pro 2024 outlook 

Apple hasn’t officially announced the iPad Pro, and everything we’ve heard about it possibly packing an M4 chip and other features comes purely from the rumor mill. But if said rumors are true, the iPad Pro 2024 could be serious business — especially if it runs on an M4 chip. Of course, we’ll have to wait until the Let Loose event on May 7 to see what Apple has in store for us. Either way, consider me excited.

More from Tom's Guide

Tony Polanco
Computing Writer

Tony is a computing writer at Tom’s Guide covering laptops, tablets, Windows, and iOS. During his off-hours, Tony enjoys reading comic books, playing video games, reading speculative fiction novels, and spending too much time on X/Twitter. His non-nerdy pursuits involve attending Hard Rock/Heavy Metal concerts and going to NYC bars with friends and colleagues. His work has appeared in publications such as Laptop Mag, PC Mag, and various independent gaming sites.

  • nbpf
    To be honest I do not think that a new chip or a better screen can change the game. If I had an iPad Pro 12,9 2022 I certainly would not upgrade because of the M4 chip or because of a marginally better screen. And if I hadn't an iPad Pro, I would likely not find the 2024 models particularly appealing.

    Support for multiple Apple ID accounts, a better Files app, a decent Shortcuts app, perhaps a larger screen option (say, 14 inches, ideally with an aspect ratio between 1.4 and 1.5) could perhaps be game-changer but, according to the rumors, they are unlikely to become true. Truly disappointing.