Here's What Apple Inc.'s A10X Tells Us About the A11 Chip

The A10X is a beast, and in some respects, sets the bar exceptionally high for the upcoming A11 chip.

Ashraf Eassa
Ashraf Eassa
Jun 11, 2017 at 12:30PM
Technology and Telecom

Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) recently refreshed iPad Pro tablets are powered by the company's custom-designed A10X Fusion chip. The chip, which I've written about previously and later provided an update on, is an engineering marvel that delivers a tremendous amount of CPU and graphics performance in a tight power envelope suitable for thin and light tablets.

One of the remarkable things about Apple's tablet chips is that they give us something of a preview of what we can expect from the processor that'll power the iPhone model that's released three to six months after the iPad.

Apple's iPad lineup.

Image source: Apple.

Here's what the A10X seems to tell us about the A11.

Expect a large boost in CPU performance

The iPad version of a chip -- that is, the version of a chip with an "X" suffix -- tends to have appreciably better CPU performance than its iPhone counterpart does. This applies on a core-to-core basis, and in some cases the iPad version of a chip will include more cores than the iPhone version of that same chip.

For instance, in the Geekbench 4 CPU performance test, the A9X processor in my 9.7-inch iPad Pro achieves a single-core score of 3031 and a multi-core score of 5138. The A9 the iPhone 6s Plus, on the other hand, achieves a single-core score of 2555 and a multi-core score of 4410.

The story is also the same with the A10 and A10X. The A10 in my iPhone 7 Plus achieves single-core and multi-core scores of 3473 and 5725, respectively, and the A10X, according to an entry in the Geekbench 4 database, gets scores of 3933 and 9293.

Another trend that's apparent is that while the "X" version of a given chip is generally quite a bit faster than the non-"X" variant, the non-"X" chip in each generation will generally have better per-core CPU performance than even the "X" chip in the previous generation. This held true for the A7, A9, and A10 over their predecessors, and I see no reason it won't also hold true for the A11 over the A10X.

Therefore, I fully expect the A11 to achieve a single-core CPU score in Geekbench 4 that's solidly north of 4,000. Put another way, I expect at least a 15% core-for-core performance boost in comparing the A11 with the A10. Indeed, I wouldn't be surprised if the performance figures shown in this supposed A11 chip leak turned out to be accurate based on the performance of the A10X.

Jury's still out on everything else

While the A10X can clue us in to the processor performance of the next iPhone, it's going to be far less useful in trying to learn about other parts of the A11. However, I would expect that the A11 won't match the A10X in terms of graphics, as Apple dedicates so much chip area to graphics on the iPad chips that it'll be hard to match in a phone-bound processor. Nor will it tell us about the other non-CPU and non-graphics innovations that Apple brings to the A11.

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What I'm confident about, though, is that the A11 will be an incredible piece of silicon engineering.