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Apple Inc. Totally Undersells A10X Chip Capabilities

By Ashraf Eassa - Jun 9, 2017 at 7:00AM

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Apple's marketing team wasn't anywhere near as aggressive as it could have been in promoting the capabilities of its latest flagship tablets.

At its Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple (AAPL 1.40%) released a new 10.5-inch iPad Pro that replaced the 9.7-inch iPad Pro. It also unveiled a substantially upgraded 12.9-inch iPad Pro.

At the heart of these new iPads is the company's A10X chip. In a presentation unveiling the device, Apple said that the CPU performance of the A10X was 30% better than the CPU performance of the prior-generation A9X chip.

Apple's 9.7-inch iPad Pro lineup.

Image source: Apple.

Given that the A10X chip includes six processor cores -- three "high performance" and three "high-efficiency" cores -- I suspected that this 30% performance increase referred to the chip's multi-core performance. Based on a processor performance test called Geekbench 4, Apple seems to have dramatically undersold the gains in processor performance in going from the A9X to the A10X.

Thirty percent is accurate, but 82% would be, too
In Geekbench 4, my A9X-powered iPad Pro (9.7-inch model) achieves a single-core score of 3031 and a multi-core score of 5138. Per an entry in the Geekbench 4 database that appears to belong to one of the new iPad Pro devices, the A10X achieves a single-core score of 3929 and a multi-core score of 9372.

Core for core, the A10X does, indeed, offer about 30% more performance than the A9X does. Where Apple dramatically undersold the A10X is in the multi-core capabilities of the chip. The performance increase in workloads that can use multiple cores is around 82.4%.

Apple has dramatically undersold the A10X's capabilities, particularly as the A10X is part of a device that's likely to be used for multi-tasking and more computationally intensive applications that could very well use all those cores.

This is a laptop-class processor
The kind of performance that Apple has managed to cram into the A10X is no joke. Not only does it utterly shame the performance of last year's iPad, but it delivers CPU performance that's quite close to the Intel (INTC 2.27%) processors inside of the 15-inch MacBook Pro.

Indeed, per MacRumors, the entry-level 15-inch MacBook Pro achieves a single-core score of 4255 in the Geekbench 4 test and a multi-core score of 13,727. Of course, the 15-inch MacBook Pro can be configured with faster Intel processors that can pull cleanly ahead of what the A10X can deliver, but that performance leadership comes at a price: form factor.

Remember that Apple is cramming this kind of performance into very thin, passively cooled tablets. Moreover, the A10X likely consumes a fraction of the power that a high-end Core i7 inside of a 15-inch MacBook Pro does.

The A10X appears to be, once again, a significant engineering feat that should give Apple, as well as third-party iPad app developers, an incredibly robust canvas upon which to craft great, feature-packed applications.

Apple might not be able to stem the secular decline of the tablet market, but the company is still forging ahead and continuing to deliver impressive technologies into that market.

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