iPad Pro A9X chip breakdown shows 12 GPU cores and no L3 cache

iPad Pro A9X chip breakdown shows 12 GPU cores and no L3 cache
Apple is notoriously cagey when it comes to giving complete spec breakdowns of its devices, which leaves a lot of info to be supplied by teardowns, benchmarks, or partner slips after the fact. A manufacturer slip is how we first learned that the iPad Pro featured 4GB of RAM, and now a teardown is how we're getting a more complete breakdown of the A9X chip Apple has in the iPad Pro.

Chipworks and AnandTech worked hard over the Thanksgiving break to get images of the A9X chip and sort out what is there and what isn't. The breakdown confirms that TSMC made the SoC using a 16nm FinFET process, and the full chip is roughly 147mm2 in die size, which makes it slightly larger than the A6X and A8X, but smaller than the A5X. 

A large amount of that space is dedicated to fitting in 12 GPU cores as part of Imagination's PowerVR 12 cluster Series7 design, which doesn't even exist on Imagination's roadmap. The A9 chip used Imagination's 6-core PVR GT7600, but the A9X is in a strange grey area between the 8 core GT7800 and 16 core GT7900, so it doesn't get a fancy name. But, when you combine those 12 GPU cores with the 128-bit memory bus, the A9X is capable of pushing memory bandwidth of 51.2GB/sec, which is pretty impressive. 

The A9X SoC also doesn't have an L3 cache, which is somewhat surprising. AnandTech posits that the omission of the L3 cache was acceptable because of the size of the memory bandwidth on the chip, or it may be that Apple simply didn't need the power-saving afforded by the L3 cache. The answer is likely a bit of both, but we'll never get confirmation from Apple, so it'll have to remain an educated guess. 


source: AnandTech

Related phones

iPad Pro
  • Display 12.9" 2048 x 2732 pixels
  • Camera 8 MP / 1.2 MP front
  • Processor Apple A9X, Dual-core, 2260 MHz
  • Storage 128 GB
  • Battery 10307 mAh

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16 Comments

2. sgodsell

Posts: 6737; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

Another paid ad which is indirectly paid by Apple to boost their chip with more pomp and circumstance.

3. rubyonrails3

Posts: 368; Member since: Oct 01, 2014

You are wrong.. How do I know? cuz they copied this from Anandtech.. at least PA is not being paid for this. ;)

14. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

Nice trolling skills you have there. Care to explain how AnandTech published the report first and not PA? I'll wait.

4. lpratas

Posts: 398; Member since: Nov 09, 2011

That is now, because there is more than 4 years before Steve Jobs died the specs of Apple devices weren't complete breakdown and nor appealing.

6. Acer_Predator unregistered

what a pointless what for? calling or texting? draining battery??

8. khaldoon

Posts: 62; Member since: May 17, 2013

just because Apple did it doesn't mean we have to hate on them. This chip is far more capable than anything on the market. It surpasses the Intel core i5 bridge graphics by miles. Yet it is in a thin package that doesn't heat, require something to cool it, or drain battery. All YouTubers agreed that this iPad passes the 10 hours video play back easily. So imo this chip is the most impressive chip on the market right now. Unfortunately the iPad pro doesn't have anything currently to take advantage of this chip

9. marorun

Posts: 5029; Member since: Mar 30, 2015

In fact with no L3 cash multitasking will get a major hit if one of the app running use a lots of bandwith. Its will slow down and lag like a bitch. This is a way to make the chip irrelevent in 1 to 2 years. Sure its has some nice spec and memory bandwith but no L3 really? This is like having a 1000 hp engine running on 15 inch narrow tire.

11. Ninetysix

Posts: 2933; Member since: Oct 08, 2012

I'm having issues finding any reports. Can you help me? http://lmgtfy.com/?q=ipad+pro+multitasking+lag

12. jove39

Posts: 2137; Member since: Oct 18, 2011

While I am not fan of iOS...apple engineers have managed to stuff lot of power into small footprint...excellent work.

15. guest

Posts: 368; Member since: Jun 13, 2012

Uh no the A9x is massive compared to Core M intel which is only 89mm and does more work than the A9X and consumes less power under load. Give Intel that much real estate and their graphics would blow past the A9X.

18. ibend

Posts: 6747; Member since: Sep 30, 2014

but intel M didnt have that much GPU core, but its more than capable to handle any 3D game u can play on iPad, lol

22. perry1234

Posts: 623; Member since: Aug 14, 2012

I agree , brilliantly designed. Apple iPad pro does have apps to make use of this chip . such as turning 2D graphics into 3D. Haters need to see Apple's September event.

16. iusshpandeh

Posts: 250; Member since: Jul 23, 2014

It's an ARM chip!

20. alex3run

Posts: 715; Member since: May 18, 2014

Strange... I was pretty sure that A9X has a 16 core PowerVR GT7900.

23. Iodine

Posts: 1470; Member since: Jun 19, 2014

It's like a thing from the distant future.... The fastest and most effiecient, holding out both intel and nvidia in terms of performance. Was Apple even making custom chips 6 years ago ?

34. MrElectrifyer

Posts: 3960; Member since: Oct 21, 2014

All that power yet it still trails behind an Intel Core i3 Haswell in terms of on-screen graphics... bit.ly/1O3fb5D Not to talk of i5...battery efficiency, I think Intel is slowly figuring that out without compromising on the x86 architecture: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OVHNmv_-7bQ

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