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Apple underclocks A9X chipset on new 9.7-inch iPad Pro

Posted: , by Alan F.

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Apple underclocks A9X chipset on new 9.7-inch iPad Pro
While the 12.9-inch Apple iPad Pro, and the 9.7-inch variant of the tablet both share the same Apple A9X chipset under the hood, the larger-screened model remains Apple's fastest tablet. That is because Apple has decided to underclock the A9X on the new tablet. And we know this because of a comparison Apple made between the chip in each iPad Pro, and the A7 chipset used in the Apple iPad Air.

According to information directly from Apple, the A9X chipset on the 12.9-inch iPad Pro features a CPU that is 2.5 times faster than the A7 chip. Graphics run 5 times faster. On the newly announced 9.7-inch iPad Pro, the A9X chipset has a CPU that run 2.4 times faster than the A7. The graphics chip is 4.3 times zippier.

Since both tablets have the same A9X SoC under the hood, any difference when comparing performance to the A7 has to be from Apple either overclocking the A9X on the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, or underclocking the chip on the 9.7-inch version of the tablet. We'd go with the latter.

As for the reason why Apple would do such a thing, it could simply be because the company wanted the larger screened version to remain the most powerful. After all, the larger slate uses a USB 3 based Lightning port allowing for faster charging times and data transfer speeds than seen with the USB 2 based Lightning port on the smaller tablet. Another theory is that Apple didn't want to tax the smaller battery used on the 9.7-inch version of the iPad Pro.

The bottom line is that the difference in speeds between the two different iPad Pro models will probably not be noticed unless you are performing the same task over both models with a stopwatch in your hand. Both models have enough power to give you the performance you need from a tablet that will be found in the kitchen and in the office.

Apple is underclocking the A9X chipset on the 9.7-inch Apple iPad Pro

Apple is underclocking the A9X chipset on the 9.7-inch Apple iPad Pro

source: AppleInsider

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posted on 22 Mar 2016, 12:09 15

1. SamsungPhanboy (banned) (Posts: 765; Member since: 31 Mar 2015)

The iPad Pro 9.7 has fail written all over it.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 12:25 1

6. AlikMalix (Posts: 5836; Member since: 16 Jul 2014)

I've been waiting for this since the day I fell in love with note 4's s-pen - for drawing.. iPad Pro was expensive, but the pencil is so much better for drawing than any other styles I tried - even my favorite s-pen. This iPad is right up my alley when I'm ready to upgrade my iPad 3 (2012). And it's more portable.

Im hugely disappointed by the protruding camera again - to be honest I don't even need a camera on the iPad (people looks dumb taking photos or videos on that thing. I take my photos on my iPhone it instantly ends up on the iPad, PC, and my 5s - and you avoid looking silly.

If everything works just like my experience with the original iPad Pro - this is gonna be my next iPad. Anyone wants to buy bunch of different stylus pens - don't need em - one pencil rules them all.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 14:36 1

18. TechieXP1969 (limited) (Posts: 10115; Member since: 25 Sep 2013)

Have you ever tried the Bamboo styli from WACOM? Particularly the Bamboo Feel is very nice and feels exactly like a real pen. I would say it is an inkless pen for sure. Very smooth very precise.

The SPen is ok. It was made to be small and used with the phone. But when I had my Galaxy Note 12.2, that tiny pen doesn't do so well so I bought one recommended to me by WACOM. The Feel is very nice, supports all the Note 3/4 pen features. Socks it didn't work on the Note 5 because it doesn't appear to use WACOM anymore. Or at least it's a more updated version.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 14:56

25. AlikMalix (Posts: 5836; Member since: 16 Jul 2014)

I own it, lol. Will be for sale as soon as I get the pencil. I spent over $185 on styluses to do what one Apple Pencil does alone

posted on 23 Mar 2016, 04:02

43. Plutonium239 (Posts: 1048; Member since: 17 Mar 2015)

The pen with the Surface Pro 4 is better.

posted on 23 Mar 2016, 09:38

44. AlikMalix (Posts: 5836; Member since: 16 Jul 2014)

im not at liberty to discuss surface pro's pen - never tried it. The just aren't there - that's important to me - and trust me, I considered WP.

You say it's better. What is it better at? Is it better than just note4 spen or Apple Pencil too? How is it better? Please don't reply with a blanket statements "it's just Better at everything" - that says absolutely nothing. I've used s-pen and I love it, but can live without it - then I used the pencil and I cannot live without it. Call me a fanboy or w/e. But I draw a lot for a hobby and work - pencil is just that great!!!

posted on 23 Mar 2016, 11:16 1

45. elitewolverine (Posts: 5183; Member since: 28 Oct 2013)

There is other reviewers that have gone into more depth than what we will here.

Right now people are using it for published works. I do use it. At first it had a skipping issue, an update later fixed that. It is amazing to use and feel. I cannot tell you the moment my brain triggered that I wasn't using a real pencil on my pro 4. I was using autodesk sketch app that was released in the windows store.

posted on 23 Mar 2016, 14:46

46. AlikMalix (Posts: 5836; Member since: 16 Jul 2014)

That's a great drawing app. Very happy to hear it's on Windows.

posted on 27 Mar 2016, 01:40

47. Plutonium239 (Posts: 1048; Member since: 17 Mar 2015)

The new surface pen had interchangeable tips for different resistance levels for more realistic drawing/writing experiences. It is extremely accurate and the pressure sensitivity is amazing. The two buttons and the eraser button are extremely useful. I could not imagine using a Surface without the pen. It is extraordinary. The apple pencil costs twice as much and doesn't have as much functionality. The only think that I like about it is that it is rechargeable as opposed to the Surface pen's multiple batteries that are non-rechargeable. Many artists and professionals swear by the Surface pen as I do.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 13:02 3

11. Coconut00 (Posts: 479; Member since: 13 Jan 2015)

I think that pricing it at $100 more than what the Air line used to sell at and not calling it the iPad Air 3 will have a negative impact on sales.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 14:54 1

22. nctx77 (Posts: 1959; Member since: 03 Sep 2013)

Every Android fans wishful thinking lol! It won't sell because it's doesn't have the right name.....loooooooool

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 22:30 1

38. Coconut00 (Posts: 479; Member since: 13 Jan 2015)

It's not wishful thinking. The name is confusing and iPad sales are down and its price is up. I personally look forward to buying an iPad this year (most likely the Mini 4) so I don't say this because I hate Apple or iPads. Plus, I didn't say it wouldn't sell, I said it could have a negative impact on sales.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 20:43 3

37. submar (Posts: 462; Member since: 19 Sep 2014)

Apple once claimed stylus suck.

posted on 27 Mar 2016, 02:23

50. AlikMalix (Posts: 5836; Member since: 16 Jul 2014)

Steve claimed that styluses suck if they're supposed to be used as PRIMARY input tool - finger is better - and they're absolutely right. Imaging typing your post using a stylus - letter by letter. See back then the PDAs touch input was inaccurate, scrolling required pushing arrows, so did zoom in and out. If u want to scribble something you needed a pointing device. Apple turned that around with iPhone and multitouch.

Stylus are great and there are hundreds of different ones available for iOS including chap and expensive. But people use the to draw primarily - before iPhone people used them to avoid erroneous input when using a finger.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 17:56

36. Arch_Fiend (Posts: 2468; Member since: 03 Oct 2015)

The 9.7in pro will still perform better than the 12.9in pro because it has a lower screen resolution, I don't see how you think it will fail because of slight underclocking.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 12:10 8

2. tyrionTheWise (unregistered)

And Apple fanboys compare it to mobile SoCs like SD 820, while it can't even sustain TDP limits in tablet form-factor.

Then again, it's way better than the garbage SoCs android manufacturers are packing with their tablets. Even the tegra X1 doesn't hold a candle to the A9x. And guessing by the fact that we didn't see a tegra x2, I guess tegra is dead, leaving Apple uncontested in tablet SoC arena.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 12:13 9

4. miket1737 (Posts: 2541; Member since: 17 Mar 2013)

Lol you got a bunch of numb nuts in both camps, fanboys comparing a tablet SoC to a smartphone SoC means they don't really know what they are talking about.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 12:32 3

8. vincelongman (Posts: 4424; Member since: 10 Feb 2013)

It will be interesting to see the A10X vs the Pascal Tegra

Especially because this year is probably going to be the first in 2 years where Apple doesn't have the process advantage since they're are both probably going to be 16FF+

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 15:15 1

28. vuyonc (Posts: 1014; Member since: 24 Feb 2014)

Pascal Tegra on a new Shield Tablet would be epic and considerably cheaper too. Mixed precision compute, 16nm FF+, better memory compression, slicker LPDDR4x RAM and maybe a Cortex A72 based Denver successor should do wonders for performance per watt. Even Raja Koduri from AMD said their new Polaris architecture (which probably doesn't have mixed precision) can easily fit in mobile devices now.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 12:42 4

9. TylerGrunter (Posts: 1522; Member since: 16 Feb 2012)

That´s what I was missing in the article. Suggesting that Apple undeclocked the A9X because they wanted the bigger tablet to be more powerful or to save battery is pure ignorance.
Most likely Apple did it to reduce the TDP of the A9X to be suitable for a smaller form factor. At least that is the mos logical answer I have for it.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 13:30

13. tacarat (Posts: 769; Member since: 22 Apr 2013)

Then why not use a different chip? I know using the same chip for both saves them money, but since phones are using heat pipes now, is tdp really a good excuse?

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 13:46 2

16. vincelongman (Posts: 4424; Member since: 10 Feb 2013)

Reducing the clock rates is probably cheaper than designing and fabbing another SoC

TDP is a very good reason
The 9.7 Pro has a smaller frame and battery compared to the 12"
So it needs a slightly cooler and more power efficient SoC

Reducing the clocks is the easiest and cheapest way to do that, basically all the other companies do it too

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 13:55

17. tacarat (Posts: 769; Member since: 22 Apr 2013)

Underclocking because of heat was the shame of the SD 810.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 14:55

23. nctx77 (Posts: 1959; Member since: 03 Sep 2013)


posted on 23 Mar 2016, 03:25

41. TylerGrunter (Posts: 1522; Member since: 16 Feb 2012)

It´s not only a good excuse, it´s the most logical answer.
Head pipes just distribute the heat, but are not able to dissipate the amount of head the chip produdes, si it does not increase TDP.
For the rest read vincelongman post, he understand how SoCs work quite well.

posted on 23 Mar 2016, 03:58

42. tacarat (Posts: 769; Member since: 22 Apr 2013)

I did. I agree with his logic. What I'm not following is that, yes, heat pipes distribute heat, but why is it sounding like that doesn't help enough with heat in general? I'm probably missing something.

I'm also sure there were issues about selling a smaller ipad pro that's just as capable. There were probably ways around it they just chose to not implement.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 17:13

35. stanislav (Posts: 136; Member since: 22 Sep 2014)

Comparing tablet with mobile soc is kinda normal when we put in mind that very very few android tables have "tablet" soc. Most use old mobile socs way weaker than one in the modern phones like samsung which use some SD 652 and exynos 5433 in their best tablets

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 12:12 6

3. miket1737 (Posts: 2541; Member since: 17 Mar 2013)

It is okay for them to downclock the GPU a bit because the smaller iPad Pro is pushing less pixels so there wont be any performance loss when comparing the two, they will perform almost essentially equally at their respective resolutions

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 12:20 1

5. tyrionTheWise (unregistered)

I doubt anything will get rendered at native resolution on both products(unless you're running lightroom or something that does render at native resolution).

In most cases the pro will be faster as things will render at same resolution on both. But the difference is ~15% which is small enough.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 13:45

15. Jimrod (Posts: 1356; Member since: 22 Sep 2014)

Also only has 2GB of RAM compared to the larger one's 4GB, not particularly "Pro". I use my PC for my work and have 32GB of RAM in it, doubt I'll be substituting it in any time soon! :D

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 12:29 11

7. vliang86 (Posts: 247; Member since: 05 Oct 2015)


posted on 22 Mar 2016, 14:41 2

19. TechieXP1969 (limited) (Posts: 10115; Member since: 25 Sep 2013)

At what? You ever had a Galaxy Note 12.2? Oh it comes with a pen. Sure the iPad will be faster, but speed isn't everything.

First off it allows you to split 4 apps on the screen, not just 2. Has all the Android advantages over iOS, the charging port is 3.0 something charges faster than the iPad and data transfers will also be faster.

The iPad has the higher resolution, but the Note display is 2560x1600 making it higher then Quad HD. Plenty high enough for a year old tablet. Also supports SD cards too.

To claim the iPad is better than all Android tablets simply makes you misinformed and dumb.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 15:08 1

27. jellmoo (Posts: 1586; Member since: 31 Oct 2011)

Good points. The two negatives in this regard though, are:

1) There is still a lack of good, dedicated tablet apps. This is one area where iOS has done better. They've managed to curate a better list of apps that run more smoothly on the iPad, when compared to Android offerings.

2) Updates are really slow or non-existent. Samsung hasn't been the best when it comes to keeping their tablets up to date when it comes to the latest firmware.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 15:40 2

31. miket1737 (Posts: 2541; Member since: 17 Mar 2013)

iPad is better then all Android tablets, there are much more optimized tablet apps for iPad, much more tablet apps for iPad, much more support for tablets on iOS then Android, the list goes on, there is a reason why iPad absolutely dominates Android tablets in professional/ enterprise use and also regular person usage

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 15:46

32. miket1737 (Posts: 2541; Member since: 17 Mar 2013)

Relatively speaking , iPads that have came out within 1-2 years are better in almost every single way

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 14:56 1

24. nctx77 (Posts: 1959; Member since: 03 Sep 2013)

They still make Android tablets? I thought all robots are on team Windows now with tablets.......lol!

posted on 27 Mar 2016, 01:46

48. Plutonium239 (Posts: 1048; Member since: 17 Mar 2015)

It does not beat tablets running Windows 10, specifically, the Surface Pro line of tablets or even the knock offs created by Lenovo and other brands,

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 13:39 5

14. brrunopt (Posts: 742; Member since: 15 Aug 2013)

LOL ..
They underclock it because of head dissipation ; the 12.9" is bigger and able to dissipate mode heat..
It isnt magic , the A9x is powerfull but makes heat..

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 14:46

21. TechieXP1969 (limited) (Posts: 10115; Member since: 25 Sep 2013)

Yes. But this small drop in clock speed probably wouldn't make that much of a difference.

Just don't put it under your pillow while charging and turned on. It could catch on fire from getting hot, even though some people here don't believe it can happen. Even though we have a prime example.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 15:34 1

30. miket1737 (Posts: 2541; Member since: 17 Mar 2013)

"Since you're so smart, why don't you actually take a video camera and put it in your room. Take a phone, shove it under your pillow. Make sure its own and then lay on it. If it doesn't catch on fire, then consider yourself lucky.

Facst show that cotton will ignite in flames at 250 degree F/120 degree C. which means syntheic materials could ignite at lower tempertures

Did we not see the SnapDraon 810 reach more than that?

This article shows the typical runnign tempertures of several phones -http://www.technobuffalo.com/videos/snapdragon-81​0-heat-test-hot-or-not/

Take those same phones and shove them under a pillow for long hours with no access to air and the temps cpuld easily double or even triple."


From techie's own mouth on the iPhone airplane fire article, he says the Snapdragon 810 can reach over 200 degrees farenheit, and then links something that is irrelevant to his poor argument of having a passively cooled device such as a smartphone under a pillow vs a laptop that is actively cooled with vents and fans, meanwhile the link he linked in his comment, is showing the temperatures of the phones being absolutely stressed test to their brink, i dont think your phone is going to be stressed test to the brink while it is under a pillow, your not running intensive benchmarks over and over again to see thermal throttling/temperatures go up

LOL, Techie getting owned once again, no one said a pillow could NOT catch fire while under a pillow, what I and what most of rest of the world thinks is that the phone has to be defective for it to catch fire under a pillow because a relatively new smartphone nowadays has temperature monitors built into the software and will know when to cut back voltage and power if the phone is starting to get hot, but Techie doesn't realize or understand this. He was trying to pass that putting a laptop under a pillow with active cooling and its vents and fans is the same as putting a smartphone under a pillow that is passively cooled and uses much less power and has much lower TDP.

Techie will always be a Samsung knight fanboy who doesn't know any better. Break out of your ignorant shell soon Techie

posted on 27 Mar 2016, 02:04

49. Plutonium239 (Posts: 1048; Member since: 17 Mar 2015)

It is entirely possible that some sort of software glitch could occur and result in overheating. I have had it occur to me on every mobile OS I have used, Windows Phone 8, 8.1, Windows 10 mobile, Various versions of IOS(No I dont care to recall every version I've used but its occurred at some point for me on every version I've used), Android kitkat,lollipop, and now Marshmellow(although to be honest, I have had overheating occur on almost every samsung phone I have used on android, Samsung needs to quit modifying Android because they don't do an excellent job and it often results in overheating or poor performance day to day or other annoying bugs). When I had my Lumia 1020 on Windows 10 mobile, the thing turned into a pocket warmer and got too hot to hold comfortably(even through its polycarbonate body) at random times. I have on occasion had my Lumia 950 get warm, but not quite "hot" as other devices I have used. I have never used a Sony Xperia, but I am curious to try one. I have used LG phones and they are generally a pleasant experience with few issues. I do still prefer Windows Phone 8.1 and Windows 10 mobile.

My main point being, all phones have the potential to overheat due to some unforeseen software glitch. You could test IOS, Android and Windows 10 mobile for 5 years straight on all hardware(in this scenario we are assuming no technological advances and the software is able to be "perfected" to operate on the hardware) and not see any overheating issues and we could still see users experiencing overheating issues through no direct fault of their own or through using it in a method not intended or foreseen.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 15:46

33. nodes (Posts: 725; Member since: 06 Mar 2014)

with that kind of performance it could run without a cooling system and didn't throttle that much is already impressive enough.
just compare it with Intel M which is a notebook SoC, It easily blows Intel M out of the water.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 15:56 3

34. brrunopt (Posts: 742; Member since: 15 Aug 2013)

No , it doesnt ..

posted on 23 Mar 2016, 02:49 1

40. fyah_king (Posts: 454; Member since: 22 Jul 2013)

You are too funny, sir! You need to stop drinking the Apple juice

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 15:24 2

29. Planterz (Posts: 2070; Member since: 30 Apr 2012)

As previously mentioned, he 9.7" has far fewer pixels to push. ~78% less. The CPU underclocking is minor, and the GPU underclocking, while less minor, makes perfect sense considering it'll have far less work to do. I expect the 9.7" will run cooler and have higher framerates with less battery drain.

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