The first M4 chip, the price increased by 32%! The thinnest iPad becomes Apple’s AI testing ground

Estimated read time 7 min read

In 2021, Apple introduced the M1 chip and Mini-LED screen for the iPad Pro for the first time. In the following three years, the iPad basically continued the original design. Finally, after three years, the iPad received a major update.

On the evening of May 7, Apple released a new series of iPads, including iPad Pro, iPad Air and many other new products. There have been many changes from chips to screens to appearance designs. It can be said to be the biggest upgrade of the iPad in three years.

The first M4 chip, the price has increased by more than 30%

The first is the iPad Air. Previously, the iPad Air only had a 10.9-inch model. If you wanted a larger screen, you had to spend more money to buy the iPad Pro. Finally, this year Apple added a 13-inch version to the iPad Air, and the original 10.9-inch version was also changed to 11-inch. This is also the first time that iPad Air has dual versions.

In terms of performance, both iPad Airs are equipped with Liquid Retina screens, M2 chips, and support 5G.

The most significant update this time is undoubtedly the iPad Pro. The new iPad Pro debuts the M4 chip—previously, the new M series chips were launched by the Macbook.

It is worth mentioning that the M3 chip was released at the end of October last year, only half a year ago. Before that, the update cycle of M series chips was every one and a half years. This iPad Pro breaks time and launch conventions, which is enough to show that it is different.

Talking back to the M4 chip, it is based on TSMC’s second-generation 3nm process technology and uses a 4 large core + 6 small core CPU design. Apple claims that the CPU speed is 50% higher than the M2; the GPU uses a 10-core GPU, which is 4 times faster than the M2. , and supports ray tracing for the first time; equipped with a 16-core neural network engine, the computing speed reaches 38 trillion times per second, which is 60 times that of the A11 chip.

Apple also emphasized the AI ​​capabilities of the M4 chip, saying its performance is “powerful enough to stand out from today’s AI PCs.”

M4 also has surprises in terms of power consumption. Apple claims that when M4 provides the same performance as M2, the power consumption is only half of M2.

Although the M4 chip is very powerful, Apple’s “knife skills” have not been lost. There are actually two different versions of the M4 chip on the iPad Pro:

The 256GB and 512GB storage iPad Pros are equipped with a 9-core CPU M4 chip and 8GB of memory;

The 1TB and 2TB storage iPad Pros are equipped with a 10-core CPU M4 chip and 16GB of memory.

In terms of screen, the Mini-LED screen (12.9-inch only) that has been used for three years has been replaced by a new OLED display.

Of course, it is not an ordinary OLED. Apple has specially developed “tandem OLED”, using two OLED displays to finally achieve a global brightness of 1,000 nits and a peak brightness of 1,600 nits – Apple calls it “Super Precision Retina XDR” ”, the new machine also has the option of nano-textured glass.

Thanks to the new screen, the iPad Pro 11-inch is only 5.3mm thick and the 13-inch is 5.1mm thick, making it the thinnest Apple product ever.

In terms of price, the starting price of the iPad Air (11-inch) remains the same as the previous generation at 4,799 yuan, and the new 13-inch model has a starting price of 6,499 yuan.

The price of iPad Pro has received a major upgrade just like its update. From the previous generation’s starting price of 6,799 yuan (11-inch, 128GB storage) to 8,999 yuan (11-inch, 256GB storage), the starting price of the 13-inch It has also risen from 9,299 yuan in the previous generation to 11,499 yuan, with the same price increase of 2,200 yuan, an increase of 32%.

In addition to updating multiple iPad models, Apple also brought a new Apple Pencil Pro stylus. The price is the same as Apple Pencil 2 at 999 yuan, but the Pro stylus only supports the new iPad.

iPad is powerful, but not enough

In fact, since its release, the overall performance of M-series chips has far exceeded that of other tablets. The iPad (especially the iPad Pro) has left almost all other competitors behind. After all, no one except Apple can put a desktop-level processor into it. in the tablet. Therefore, performance may be the least important upgrade for the iPad.

“Why should your next computer be a computer?” – In 2020, Apple gave this slogan to the iPad Pro to describe the powerful performance of the iPad Pro. Later, when Apple installed the same M-series chip as the Macbook on the iPad Pro for the first time in 2021, it further deepened the outside world’s expectations for the iPad’s productivity – will the iPad use a desktop-level processor? Closer to Macbook in functionality? After all, the performance is almost the same as that of a computer. Shouldn’t the “granularity” of the functions be aligned to be closer to macOS?

But it turns out that apart from chip and screen upgrades, Apple doesn’t pay much attention to iPadOS. The only major software updates in the past three years are the same multitasking “front-end scheduling” as the Mac, and the “universal control” that works with the Mac. “But these two functions can be said to be a drop in the bucket in improving iPad productivity.

For most people, the iPad is still a “toy” that is more for entertainment than productivity. “Why does your next computer need to be a computer?” gradually turned into a mockery of the iPad: The gap between iPad and “computer” is like the gap between iPhone and computer – your next computer must be a computer.

Although Apple also announced at the press conference that it will bring Final Cut Pro 2 and Logic Pro 2 to the new iPad, making them more suitable for working on the iPad. But what really restricts the iPad from becoming a “computer” is iPadOS, not something that can be changed by just a few applications.

Take the AI ​​capabilities of the M4 chip claimed by Apple as an example. Its AI capabilities are mainly reflected in accelerating software performance, rather than the popular generative AI. For example, the iPad Pro equipped with the M4 chip can easily separate the subject from the background in 4K video in Final Cut Pro, and in StaffPad, it can automatically generate musical scores in real time during piano performance.

As far as the new iPad is concerned, Apple still focuses on upgrading chips and screens. As for whether iPadOS can also usher in more new system-level changes and even more AI functions, we can only wait for WWDC in June (Apple Developer Conference) to find out.

iPad sales slump, Apple needs more stimulus

According to Canalys data, in the first quarter of this year, global tablet shipments increased slightly by 1% to 33.7 million units; Apple ranked first with 12 million units shipped, accounting for 36% of the market share. But at the same time, Apple was also the only brand among the top five manufacturers to decline, with a year-on-year decline of 13.9%. This resulted in Apple’s market share falling by 6 percentage points, from 42% to 36% in the same period in 2023.

Huawei and Xiaomi are the two fastest-growing manufacturers. Huawei has ranked third for two consecutive quarters, with shipments reaching 2.7 million units, a year-on-year increase of 70%; Xiaomi’s market share has directly doubled.

According to Apple’s financial report, in the first quarter of this year, Apple’s iPad business revenue was US$5.559 billion, a year-on-year decrease of approximately 17%, recording double-digit declines for two consecutive quarters.

For Apple, it is very important to save the decline of iPad in time. Therefore, making the iPad Pro the first M4 chip, upgrading the screen, appearance design, etc. are all Apple’s attempts to inject a shot in the arm into the iPad. However, whether the price increase of up to 32% can convince users to pay for it remains to be tested by the market.

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