BROOKLYN-Apple's new iPad Pro sports several new features of the note, including the most dramatic aesthetic redesign this year, Face ID, new pencil features, and most welcome to USB-C. But the star in the show is the new A1
Apple made some great demands on the A12X during the presentation and announced the product: it has twice the graphics performance of the A10X; that it has 90 percent faster multi-core performance than its predecessor; that it matches the GPU power to the Xbox One S game console without fan and in a fraction of the size; that it has 1000 times faster graphics performance than the original iPad released eight years ago; that it is faster than 92 percent of all laptops.
If you have read our iPad Pro Review, you know that most of these requirements stop. Apple's latest iOS devices are not perfect, but even the platform's largest detectors realize that the company is leading the market in mobile processor and GPU performance – not a little but a lot. It's all done on custom silicone designed in Apple – a different approach to that of a regular Android or Windows device.
But not all consumers – even the "professional" target consumer for iPad Pro-really grouch the fact that this gap is so big. How is this possible? What does this architecture actually look like? Why has Apple done this and how did it come?
After hardware announcements last week, Ars joined Anand Shimpi from Hardware Technologies at Apple and Apple's senior VP for Marketing Phil Schiller to ask. We wanted to hear exactly what Apple is trying to achieve by creating own chips and how the A12X is architectured. It turns out that iPad Pro's striking console level graphics performance and many of the other headlining features in new Apple devices (like FaceID and various expanded reality applications) may not be possible in any other way.
A12X Top Level View
A12X is obviously closely related to A12 from iPhone XS, XS Max and XR. The latter was the first silicon made in a 7nm process available in a consumer device, and this is the first for a tablet.
The A12X consists of many components. We would like to dive exactly how this architecture works, but Apple usually does not come up with details like that. Anandtech recently ran a detailed analysis of an A12 door, but we have no such thing for the A12X yet. We still know the big picture. For this purpose, components of A12X include:
- A CPU (Processor) that performs most instructions that are not specialized on other processing devices.
- A GPU (Graphics Processing Device) Handling Graphics, From Home Screen Display to Effects in 3D Games for Extended Reality Applications Assets
- Neural Engine, Handling Neural Networks and Machine Learning Tasks
- An IMC (Integrated Memory Control) As Effectively controls data that goes in and out of memory.
- An ISP (Image Signal Processor), which analyzes images created when you take a photo and process them, improve them and more.
- The secure enclave (also SEP or secure enclaver processor) that handles sensitive data as biometric identifiers so that it is difficult for anyone unwanted to access it.
- There are several other components, such as a screen motor, a storage device, a HEVC decoder and encoder, and more that we do not get into much detail this.
Chief among this list is CPU, GPU and Neural Engine, so we will focus a little more on them.
The iPad Pro's CPU has eight kernels four focused on performance, and four focused on efficiency. And unlike any previous Apple chips, all the kernels can be active at the same time. This is the first device in this product line that uses these many kernels at the same time.
"We have our own tailor made performance controller that lets you use all eight at the same time," said Shimpi to Ars. "And then when you run these hard-stressed workloads, you can find things that you'll find in pro workflows and pro applications, that's where you see up to 90 percent improvement over the A10X."
For single core performance, Apple's marketing material claims that the A12X is 35 percent faster than the A10X. We have come a long way from the 412MHz single-core CPU manufactured by Samsung to Apple's specifications for the original iPhone in 2007.
We tested the A12X for our iPad Pro Review, so let's review these references to confirm these requirements. First, here are some basic specifications of all devices included in the tests.
|12.9-inch 2018 iPad Pro||Apple A12X|
|10.5-inch 2017 iPad Pro||Apple A10X|
|12.9-inch 2016 iPad Pro||Apple A9X|
|2018 iPad||Apple A10|
|Samsung Galaxy Tab S4||Qualcomm Snapdragon 835|
|Model||iPhone XS||Apple A12||19659028] iPhone X||Apple A11|
|iPhone 7||Apple A10|
|Google Pixel 3 XL||Qualcomm Snapdragon 845|
PCs and laptops
|Model||CPU  GPU|
|2018 15-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Screen||Intel Core i9-8950K at 2.9 GHz (4.8 GHz Turbo)||AMD Radeon Pro 560X 4GB GDDR5|
|2017 15- inch MacBook Pro with touch line||Intel Core i7-7820HQ at 2.9 GHz (3.8 GHz Turbo)||AMD Radeon Pro 555 2GB GDDR5|
|2016 15-inch MacBook Pro with T Ouch Bar  Intel Core i7-6820HQ at 2.7 GHz (3.6 GHz Turbo)||AMD Radeon Pro 455 2GB GDDR5|
|2017 iMac Pro||Intel Xeon W at 3GHz (4.5 GHz Turbo)||AMD Radeon Pro Vega 64 16GB HMB2|
|2017 iMac (5K)||Intel Core i7-7700K at 4.2 GHz (4.5 GHz Turbo)||AMD Radeon Pro 580 8GB GDDR5|
|] 2018 Dell XPS 15 2-in-1||Intel Core i7-8705G at 3.1GHz (4.1GHz Turbo)||AMD Radeon RX Vega M GL 4GB HMB2|
And now for the results.
We did not detect 35 percent improvement in single-core performance (although this is only a reference). but it is quite close. The multi-core requirement also checks out.
This performance is unparalleled in something like this form factor. In addition to the ability to engage all the kernels at the same time, there is reason to believe that the cache sizes in the A12, and probably the A12X, are an important factor driving this performance.
You can also make the case that the A12X performance In general, it's partly so strong because Apple's architecture is a master class in optimized heterogeneous computing. It's smart use of well-equipped, specialized processors to customize specialized tasks. Although the A12X is of course related to ARM's major. LITTLE architecture, Apple has done a lot of work here to get results that others do not have.
Unfortunately, Apple would not discuss any of it in too much detail with us. Regardless of the specifications, this chart makes a particularly good job of illustrating why this is remarkable:
iPad Pro surpasses every MacBook Pro we tested, except the latest powerful 15-inch MacBook Pro with an 8-generation Intel Core i9 CPU. Usually these laptops cost three times as much as iPad Pro.
"You usually only see this type of performance in larger machines, bigger machines with fans," Shimpi claimed. "You can deliver it in this 5.9-millimeter thin iPad Pro because we've built such an efficient architecture."