Back in June, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) refreshed its iPad Pro line of tablets with an all-new 10.5-inch model and a heavily upgraded 12.9-inch model. At the heart of these devices is Apple's A10X Fusion processor.
The A10X Fusion chip is essentially a highly upgraded version of the A10 Fusion chip that powered the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. The main improvements in the A10X Fusion over the A10 Fusion was the addition of another pair of processor cores, a much more powerful graphics processor, and much greater memory bandwidth to support the faster CPU and graphics.
Now that Apple has introduced the A11 Bionic chip that powers the iPhone 8, 8 Plus, and X, it's now possible to make educated guesses on what Apple will deliver in the A11X Bionic, which will power the next iPad, compared to the A11 Bionic.
Here are three of my guesses.
A third high-performance CPU core
In the A11 Bionic chip, Apple includes two high-performance CPU cores and four high-efficiency cores. Unlike with the A10 Fusion or the A10X Fusion, all six cores can be used independently. By contrast, the A10 Fusion and A10X Fusion paired high-performance cores with high-efficiency cores in a one-to-one ratio, and only the high-performance or high-efficiency cores could be in use at a given time.
The A10 Fusion had two high-performance cores and two high-efficiency cores. I believe that because the CPU cores can operate independently in the new A11 Bionic chip, Apple will keep the number of high-efficiency cores in the upcoming A11X Bionic at four while boosting the number of high-performance cores up to three.
This should allow the A11X Bionic to deliver a relatively large boost in multithreaded performance over both the A10X Fusion as well as the A11 Bionic.
Faster CPU cores
I believe that the A11X Bionic will be manufactured in Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company's (NYSE:TSM) upcoming 7nm manufacturing technology, which promises better performance compared with the 10nm technology used to build the A10X Fusion and the A11 Bionic.
I'm not expecting miracles, but I do expect Apple to move the ball forward on per-core performance from the A11 Bionic by cranking up the peak operating frequencies of the high-performance cores in the chip. A frequency improvement of between 10%-15% is probably reasonable to expect.
Huge graphics improvement
One area where I expect a huge performance improvement is in the graphics department. The A11 Bionic was the first Apple-designed chip to include an Apple-designed graphics processor, and it performed extremely well in the tests I've performed.
Apple says the graphics processor inside the A11 Bionic is a three-core design. Over the past several generations, Apple has endowed the iPad flavors of its chips with twice the graphics cores as their iPhone counterparts.
To that end, I expect the A11X Bionic to include a six-core Apple-designed graphics processor, and I expect that this will translate into a little more than double the graphics performance that the A11 Bionic inside the iPhone 8, 8 Plus, and X delivers.
This should help improve the user experience in graphically intensive applications such as 3D games and augmented reality.