Apple is gearing up for M4 Mac launch — here’s a look at the release window and all the new chips

 Photo illustration of Apple M4 chip colorfully springing to life from the control board of a MacBook Pro.
Photo illustration of Apple M4 chip colorfully springing to life from the control board of a MacBook Pro.

In a surprising twist, the first product to ship with the new Apple M4 chip wasn't a Mac, it was the new iPad Pro. As exciting as that is for iPad fans, it's leaving many Mac fans wondering when their devices will get an M4 refresh.

On May 7, Apple unveiled its cutting-edge chip designed to take AI capabilities on Apple Silicon to a new level, launching right in the heat of an AI boom in consumer tech. However, while the iPad Pro M4 is certainly a sleek device, Macs remain the preferred Apple products for power users. Luckily, we may not have to wait much longer to see the M4 Mac line-up.

Here's everything we know so far about the potential release window for the M4 Macs, the chips each model could get, and why Apple put the iPad first this year.

M4 Mac makeover rumored for late 2024

Official Apple M4 chip marketing image
Official Apple M4 chip marketing image

As surprising as it is to see the powerful M4 chip launch in an iPad first, the Mac might not be far behind. According to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman, Apple may be gearing up to announce the first M4 Macs at the end of the year with more to follow in 2025. A late 2024 launch makes sense considering Apple announced the first M3 Macs in October 2023.

The entire Mac line-up is getting an M4 makeover, too. There will reportedly be at least three varieties of the M4 chip, most likely following a similar pattern to the current M3 line-up, which includes the M3, M3 Pro, and M3 Max. The M2 series had a fourth member, the M2 Ultra, which has yet to appear in M3 form. Apple may bring the Ultra back with the M4 series, although it likely won't arrive until 2025 if Apple still plans to release an M3 Ultra Mac.

We won't know for sure until we get an official announcement from Apple, but the new round of M4 Macs will likely include:

  • Macbook Pro, Macbook Air, and Mac Mini with base M4 chip

  • Macbook Pro, Mac Studio, and Mac Mini with M4 Pro chip

  • Macbook Pro and Mac Pro with M4 Max chip

  • Mac Pro and Mac Studio with M4 Ultra chip

The first group of M4 Mac devices will most likely be the Pro line-up with the Air models following in 2025, similar to Apple's release schedule for the M3 Macs.

The highlight of the M4 generation is AI, so we can expect to see Apple show off on-device AI capabilities when they unveil the first M4 Macs. We could get a peek of what Apple has in store at its annual Worldwide Developer Conference in June, where Apple is expected to focus heavily on new AI features across iOS, iPadOS, and macOS.

Why did Apple put the M4 chip in the iPad first?

ipad pro m4 display
ipad pro m4 display

Since the launch of Apple Silicon in 2020, Apple announced new M series chips in Mac devices first. So it's perplexing that Apple chose to start with the iPad for the M4 generation.

One possible reason for this unusual release schedule could be timing. It's only been about 7 months since Apple launched the first round of M3 Macs, but it didn't release any new iPads in 2023. Plus, it's no secret several of Apple's competitors are getting ready to launch devices with the Qualcomm Snapdragon X Elite, one of the only AI processors that can compete with the M4 chip.

Apple likely wanted to announce the M4 chip before the first devices with the Snapdragon X Elite hit shelves. Due to the timing of its Mac release schedule, starting with an M4 Mac may have been technologically unfeasible and could have hurt M3 Mac sales. The iPad, on the other hand, was long overdue for a refresh.

The iPad is also a less complicated device than the Mac line-up, particularly the high-end Macs. The iPad doesn't need the more powerful versions of the M4 chip like the M4 Pro or Max. By starting with the iPad, Apple was able to get the M4 generation out the door while still giving their product development teams more time to get the more powerful versions of the M4 chip ready for the Mac line-up.

While Mac fans may be disappointed they won't be getting the M4 chips first, it looks like they won't have to wait much longer. We can also expect to get more details on Apple's AI plans in just a few weeks at WWDC 2024, which kicks off on June 10. We'll be covering all the latest rumors and news on the M4 Macs, Apple Silicon, and Apple AI leading up to WWDC, so stay tuned for more info.

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