Apple’s upcoming M4 chips bring AI to its entire line of Macs. Here’s when they’re expected


MacBook Pro (M3 Max) in Space Black

Jason Hiner/ZDNET

Apple is planning to revamp its entire line of Macs with new AI-focused M4 chips, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman reports, less than a year after it released its M3 chip series. The next-generation M4 chips continue Apple’s line of in-house processors with a significant focus on AI capabilities, following its recent efforts with the M3 MacBook Air line.

The tech giant has been perceived to lag slightly behind its competitors in AI readiness over the past few years, with Microsoft betting big on new AI-focused Qualcomm Snapdragon X Series chips coming in mid-2024 that have, so far, elicited an optimistic reception.

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The overhaul to the line of Macs coincides with declining sales that have persisted since their peak in 2022. Since then, Mac sales have dropped over 27% in the last fiscal year alone, warranting the decision to make sweeping changes to its line of computers while keeping Apple where it wants to be: seated firmly at the forefront of innovation.

While the actual benchmarking between the M3 and M4 chips is still under wraps, Gurman suggests that the M4 chips are designed to bring Apple back up to speed with its competitors with a release date of the new computers late this year and into the beginning of 2025.

Sources knowledgeable about the new M4 chips say that there will be three versions: Donan, an entry-level chip, Brava, a step up from that, and a top-tier M4 named Hidra. All three versions will have AI-processing capabilities that outperform anything seen in the M3 chips and will be specifically designed to integrate with Apple’s next version of macOS, which should be announced in June at the annual Apple developer conference.

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In terms of a timeline, Bloomberg says the new M4 Macs will kick off with a 14 and 16-inch MacBook Pro in late 2024, then see upgrades to the 13 and 15-inch MacBook Air line at the beginning of 2025. The MacBook Air, for context, only just received the M3 chips in March of this year, with the iMac and MacBook Pro lines both having been updated with the M3 processors last October.

Looking further out, the Mac Pro, Apple’s highest-end machine, would likely be armed with the top-tier Hidra chip and be released later next year.

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Apple’s overhaul of its line of computers aligns with its overall goal of stepping up AI capabilities over the course of 2024 and follows in the success it found with switching to its own in-house chips in 2020. This move, considered to be largely a success for the company, continues to pay off as it enables the optimization of every aspect of production in each new generation of processors, and in turn, makes a comprehensive rollout of tech like the new M4 chip possible.

The 2024 Apple Worldwide Developer Conference will no doubt further clarify what we can expect from the new M4 chips and show off upcoming AI functionalities to macOS. The faster processors will likely see a host of on-device AI-powered features, as well as improvements to the processors found in iPhones.

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