Apple M4 vs Snapdragon X Elite: Can Qualcomm Keep Up?

In Short
  • The Apple M4 maintains a healthy lead against the Snapdragon X Elite in CPU performance and especially, efficiency. M4 is 23% faster than the top-tier X Elite variant.
  • The 6-core Adreno GPU on Snapdragon X Elite is no match for the 10-core GPU on Apple M4.
  • However, in NPU performance, Snapdragon X Elite delivers 45 TOPS whereas the Apple M4 performs up to 38 TOPS.

Apple has once again one-upped Qualcomm by releasing its latest silicon, Apple M4, before the Snapdragon X Elite debut. The new Apple M4 chipset has been introduced with the OLED iPad Pro. However, we are interested in comparing the Apple M4 chipset with the upcoming Snapdragon X Elite processor for Windows PCs. So in this article, I extensively look at their CPU, GPU, and NPU/Neural Engine, and try to find out who takes the lead in consumer chipsets. On that note, let’s begin.

We have updated the frequency specification of Apple M4 based on the recently surfaced Geekbench listing. In addition, we have added the Geekbench score of the Apple M4 chipset into our analysis.

Apple M4 vs Snapdragon X Elite: Specs Comparison

Glance over the specs comparison between Apple M4 and Snapdragon X Elite to understand the difference between the two chipsets.

Apple M4Snapdragon X Elite
Fabrication ProcessTSMC’s 2nd-gen 3nmTSMC’s 4nm
Transistors28 billionNot known
CPU Cores9 CPU cores
3 performance + 6 efficiency
10 CPU cores
4 performance + 6 efficiency
12 CPU cores
8 performance + 4 efficiency cores
10 CPU cores (Snapdragon X Plus)
6 performance + 4 efficiency cores
GPU Cores10 GPU cores
HW Ray Tracing
HW Mesh Shading
6 Adreno GPU cores (likely)
4.6 TFLOPs
FrequencyUp to 4.4GHz3.8GHz; Dual-core boost up to 4.2GHz
3.4GHz; Dual-core boost up to 4.0GHz
3.4GHz (X Plus); No dual-core boost
TDPNot known yet35W to 82W (likely)
Neural Engine16 cores; 38 TOPSHexagon NPU; 45 TOPS
Unified Memory (RAM)8GB and 16GBUp to 64GB
Memory Bandwidth120 GBps135 GBps
RAM TypeNot known yetLPDDR5X
OthersAV1 decodeAV1 encode and decode

Apple M4 vs Snapdragon X Elite: CPU

Apple has introduced the M4 chipset with the iPad Pro (2024) and currently, it offers only two variants: one with 9 CPU cores and another with 10 CPU cores. The M4 is built on TSMC’s 2nd-gen 3nm (N3E) process node which is promised to deliver better performance while improving efficiency. This is also the first consumer chip developed on the N3E node.

Apple has packed 3 performance and 6 efficiency cores in the first variant and 4 performance and 6 efficiency cores in the second variant. While Apple has reduced the performance cores, it has clocked the Apple M4 CPU at a mighty 4.4GHz.

apple m4 cpu vs snapdragon x elite cpu
Image Courtesy: Apple

As for the Snapdragon X Elite, it comes in four different variants: three have 12 CPU cores and one has 10 CPU cores which is the Snapdragon X Plus. The Qualcomm PC chip is fabricated on TSMC’s mature 4nm process node. Its peak frequency can reach up to 3.8GHz which is much lower than Apple M4’s max clock speed. Qualcomm also offers a dual-core boost of up to 4.2GHz on the top-end variant, but it’s still below M4’s 4.4GHz clock speed.

If we compare the Snapdragon X Plus with the base Apple M4 (given that both have 10 CPU cores), the former delivers a peak frequency of up to 3.4GHz having no benefit of dual-core boost to amp up its processing speed. In contrast, the base Apple M4 can achieve top clock speeds of up to 4.4GHz, significantly widening the frequency gap by 1000MHz.

snapdragon x elite processor
Image Courtesy: Qualcomm

The performance difference is evident when we compare the Geekbench scores of both chipsets. The leaked Geekbench score of Apple M4 shows that it achieved a monumental score of 3,810 in the single-core test, outperforming all Snapdragon X Elite variants. The Qualcomm reference device running the top-tier variant (X1E-84-100) scored 2,944 in the single-core test. And the upcoming Samsung Galaxy Book4 Edge (X1E-80-100) scored 2,785 in the single-core test.

apple m4 geekbench score
Image Courtesy: Qualcomm

There is a performance difference of 23% and 37%, respectively, when compared against the top-two Snapdragon X Elite variants. Bear in mind that we are comparing the base Apple M4 on a thin iPad in a fanless form-factor with the top-tier Snapdragon X Elite variant that is said to consume more than 80W, requiring proper thermal cooling. And yet, Apple M4 manages to beat Qualcomm’s Oryon-based PC chipset by a wide margin.

Apple M4 (10-core, 4P+6E)3,81014,541
Snapdragon X Elite (X1E-84-100) (12-core, 8P+4E)2,94415,422
Snapdragon X Elite (X1E-80-100) (12-core, 8P+4E)2,78513,925
Sources linked above

In the multi-core test, the base Apple M4 scored 14,541 with just 10 CPU cores (4P +6E) whereas the top-end Snapdragon X Elite variant with 12 CPU cores and double the performance cores (8P+4E), scored 15,422, leading with a 6% margin. When compared against the X1E-80-100 variant (13,925 in multi-core), Apple again takes the lead by 4%.

It’s amply clear that Apple has once again demonstrated its supremacy in chip designing.

It’s amply clear that Apple has once again demonstrated its supremacy in chip designing. The Apple M4 CPU is highly-performant while drawing less power and M4’s performance-per-watt metric is off the charts. We don’t know whether the improvements can be attributed to the ARMv9 architecture or TSMC’s N3E process node, but Apple has a substantial lead over Qualcomm in the CPU category.

Apple M4 vs Snapdragon X Elite: GPU

Coming to GPU, Apple has built upon the next-gen GPU architecture introduced with the M3 family last year. The Apple M4 packs 10 GPU cores and brings flagship features like hardware-accelerated Ray Tracing and Mesh Shading for a rich gaming experience. It also supports dynamic caching for better utilization of the GPU.

apple m4 gpu
Image Courtesy: Apple

On the other hand, the Adreno GPU on Snapdragon X Elite is said to come with just 6 GPU cores. It’s decidedly a weaker GPU when compared to Apple’s M-series GPUs. The Adreno GPU doesn’t bring HW-accelerated Ray Tracing either.

Qualcomm says its Adreno GPU can perform up to 4.6 TFLOPS on the top-end X Elite variant. While Apple has not disclosed the figure for the M4 GPU, the older M2 GPU (10 cores) can deliver up to 3.6 TFLOPS. And according to Apple, the new M4 GPU is nearly 4x more powerful than the M2 GPU, as we noted in our comparison between Apple M4 and M2.

The multi-fold improvement might not reflect in compute scores, but Apple’s GPU on the M4 is really a powerhouse, and Qualcomm needs to up its game in the GPU department.

Apple M4 vs Snapdragon X Elite: NPU

Next, we come to NPU, or what Apple says, a Neural Engine. The M4 Neural Engine has 16 cores and it can perform up to 38 trillion operations per second (TOPS). In this regard, the Hexagon NPU on the Snapdrag0n X Elite can deliver up to 45 TOPS which means Qualcomm has the lead in AI compute.

snapdragon x elite vs apple m4
Image Courtesy: Qualcomm

However, the TOPS figure is meaningless if we don’t consider the type of operations and precision. Qualcomm’s 45 TOPS figure is based on INT8 (8-bit integer operations) and Apple has also calculated the 38 TOPS on INT8, as confirmed by Ben Bajarin. It means Qualcomm has indeed outranked Apple in the AI compute race.

Besides the hardware prowess, it must be noted that software optimization and memory bandwidth play a crucial role in fully leveraging the NPU. At this point, Apple has developed its MLX framework and CoreML for Apple Silicon to leverage its Neural Engine and it’s being widely used by developers as well. Qualcomm is putting effort into its AI Stack, but it needs more support and optimization after the X Elite debut.

Apple M4 vs Snapdragon X Elite: Memory Bandwidth

The base Apple M4 has a memory bandwidth of 120 GBps whereas the Snapdragon X Elite supports LPDDR5X memory which can deliver speeds up to 135 GBps. The upcoming M4 Pro, Max, and Ultra variants will obviously offer better speeds, but if we compare the base variants, you will get slightly better memory speeds on Snapdragon X Elite.

apple m4 overview
Image Courtesy: Apple

Apart from that, Apple has also included hardware-accelerated AV1 decode support in M4’s Media Engine, but it doesn’t have AV1 encoding yet. On the other hand, Qualcomm has added both AV1 encoding and decoding on the Snapdragon X Elite. This video codec draws less power while watching high-resolution videos.

The Verdict

Apple decided to release its M4 chipset just before the Snapdragon X Elite debut scheduled for May 20. The move is seen as a strategy by Apple to keep up with its healthy lead in consumer chipsets, outranking Qualcomm, and x86 players like Intel, and AMD.

And from our analysis, we conclude that the Apple M4 does have a substantial lead in both CPU and GPU performance. The Snapdragon X Elite is the closest contender and rivals the M3, but it’s still behind the M4 by a wide margin. Especially, in terms of performance-per-watt, Apple has showcased superior efficiency than the competition. In the NPU department though, Snapdragon X Elite packs a punch.

We will run more benchmark tests to ascertain the performance gap between the two chipsets and come to a definitive conclusion. Meanwhile, what do you think about Qualcomm’s challenge to Apple? Let us know in the comments below.

comment Comments 2
  • Menno says:

    well, given the M4 specs it is coming pretty close to the snapdragon x elite. But I think that Apple will out perform that snapdragon x elite chip. My guess is that, with WWDC in upcoming month, they will announce the M4 Pro and M4 Max (or ultra) and then we shall see what happends then

    • holysmokes says:

      Exactly my take.

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