The powerful Apple-designed ‘A9X’ system-on-a-chip—the engine that drives the iPad Pro—outperforms its predecessor inside the iPad Air 2 by a large margin while offering approximately the same performance as Intel’s Core i5 processor for notebooks from 2013.
In terms of graphics, the iPad Pro still manages to outperform the fluidness of the iPad Air 2 despite having more pixels on a bigger screen. That’s the gist of a series of synthetic benchmarks that ArsTechnica ran as part of its massive review of the iPad Pro in order to determine just how speedy Apple’s new tablet is.
No tablet can touch iPad Pro in CPU speed
Apple does not divulge details about its in-house designed chips for competitive reasons, but ArsTechnica suspects the A9X package includes a dual-core processor with Apple’s custom-designed “Twister” CPU architecture.
Each CPU core is clocked at about 2.25 GHz, a significant increase over a 1.84 GHz CPU inside the A8X system-on-a-chip that powers the iPad Air 2.
By the way, the A8X has three CPU cores so the iPad Pro’s benchmark scores achieved with only two CPU cores are even more fascinating. In addition, the A9X maintains its high speed without CPU throttling, unlike the A9 inside the iPhone 6s.
As you can see, the A9X scored 3,233 on Geekbench’s single-core tests versus 1,831 for the iPad Air 2 and 2,537 for the iPhone 6S.
“The A9X can’t quite get up to the level of a modern U-series Core i5 based on Broadwell or Skylake, but it’s roughly on the same level as a Core i5 from 2013 or so and it’s well ahead of Core M,” Ars writes.
Fast, fluid graphics
As for the graphics, the OpenGL version of the GFXBench benchmark shows the A9X beating not only all previous iOS devices but also Intel’s Iris Pro 5200 graphics powering the 15-inch MacBook Pro and the Intel HD 520 in the Surface Pro 4.
Most of that power is used to driving the iPad Pro’s higher-resolution screen. Make no mistake, the iPad Pro is still faster than the iPad Air 2 in terms of graphics. It’s just that GPU results for the A8X and A9X “will look more-or-less the same” because each is tested on its tablet’s native resolution (iPad Air: 2,048 x 1,536; iPad Pro: 2,732 x 2,048).
Wrapping it up
Ars notes that even though the iPad Pro doesn’t look all that much faster than the iPad Air 2 in multi-core CPU tests, “the fact that it’s doing that work with two cores means the single-core scores are drastically higher.”
“There’s no hesitation while manipulating multiple apps at once in Split Screen mode or jumping between apps,“ the site writes.
“We’re looking at MacBook Air-class CPU performance and MacBook Pro-class GPU performance, so the iPad Pro ought to be able to handle more multitasking features with aplomb as Apple sees fit to add them.”
Unlike Android chips that usually achieve speed gains by increasing clock frequency and adding more CPU cores, Apple’s 100 percent custom CPU architecture designs have allowed its A-series chips to outperform Android chipsets with just two CPU cores.
While high multi-core CPU performance is always appreciated, the real-world effects of multiple CPU cores are far less obvious because a vast majority of mobile applications just aren’t optimized for multi-core computing.
Despite the faster chip, the bigger screen and more pixels, the iPad Pro is roughly in line with the other iPads in terms of battery life.
“Apple has become a fascinating chip company,” concludes Ars.