As part of its iPad Pro (2018) introduction today, Apple announced that the chipset powering its newest tablet computers is the A12X Bionic, and to those following mobile tech in general, this means one thing: this is the fastest mobile processor ever created. The current leader is the A12 Bionic found in the just recently released iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR, and that one is already quite the little beast, so how much further is the A12X going to take things when the new iPad Pro 11" and 12.9" (2018) launch next week?
Apple has not released specific numbers when it comes to the improvement brought by the A12X versus the A12; the company focused more on the comparison against the last-generation iPad Pro tablets and their A10X Fusion chips. However, they did mention that the A12X houses 10 billion transistors, and that appears to be 45% more compared to the A12, which has 6.9 billion transistors.
Now, that doesn't mean the A12X will have 45% better performance than its phone version, because there's more to CPU performance than the sheer number of transistors, but it's definitely an indication that solid improvements have been made to the chip. Loading up its iPads with stronger chipsets than those in iPhones has long been a practice for Apple, and that makes a lot of sense. The reasons they are doing this is 1) because thermal management is easier in the more spacious body of the tablet, versus the cramped insides of the phone; and 2) because the iPad can supply more power to the processor, without burning through its battery supply in a snap (an iPad has a way bigger battery than an iPhone).
Apple did go through some specific performance numbers to try to give us more context on how much faster the new iPad Pros are going to be, compared to the previous-generation iPad Pros. The new, 7nm A12X Bionic chipset is going to enable up to 35% better single-core performance, and up to 90% better multi-core performance. These are substantial upgrades, partly thanks to the new 8-core design. The A10X Fusion in the previous iPad Pros, AND the A12 in the iPhone XS, XS Max and XR have a 6-core CPU architecture.
Switching gears to the new GPU, we immediately see that it's a new, 7-core unit, and not the same 4-core GPU as in the A12. The graphics processing increase from the previous generation iPad Pro is expected to be very substantial – up to 2x! Apple even threw a fun stat for us to marvel at: the graphics power of the new iPad Pro 11" and 12.9" (2018) is 1000 times bigger than that of the original iPad! Sure, it's been 8 years, but this still sounds like quite the enormous amount of progress. And another fun stat: Apple claims these new iPads will be more powerful than 92% of all "portable PCs" sold between June 2017 and June 2018. It's not clear exactly what kinds of devices "portable PCs" means here, but from the looks of it Apple may be including all notebooks and tablets.
Software developers will always find ways to put the increased processing power to good use, and we already know some of the titles that will take advantage. Adobe has promised to release full-blown Photoshop CC for the iPad in 2019, while a demo by game company 2K revealed that a new NBA 2K Mobile game with console-quality graphics is in development for the iPad (see header image). Obviously, Apple itself will also be looking to put its hardware to good use, as the company continues to advance its push into the field of Augmented Reality.