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Apple walks Ars through the iPad Pro's A12X
By Thom Holwerda on 2018-11-08 00:52:36

Apple's latest iOS devices aren't perfect, but even the platform's biggest detractors recognize that the company is leading the market when it comes to mobile CPU and GPU performance - not by a little, but by a lot. It's all done on custom silicon designed within Apple - a different approach than that taken by any mainstream Android or Windows device.

But not every consumer - even the "professional" target consumer of the iPad Pro - really groks the fact this gap is so big. How is this possible? What does this architecture actually look like? Why is Apple doing this, and how did it get here?

After the hardware announcements last week, Ars sat down with Anand Shimpi from Hardware Technologies at Apple and Apple's Senior VP of Marketing Phil Schiller to ask. We wanted to hear exactly what Apple is trying to accomplish by making its own chips and how the A12X is architected. It turns out that the iPad Pro's striking, console-level graphics performance and many of the other headlining features in new Apple devices (like FaceID and various augmented-reality applications) may not be possible any other way.

During Apple's event last week, the company didn't even mention Intel once, and profusely made it very clear just how much faster the A12X is compared to all other laptops - even its own - that obviously all run on Intel (or AMD) processors. It seems like with this exclusive Ars Technica article, Apple is continuing its A12X marketing blitz, which all just further solidifies that Intel's days inside Apple's Macs are almost over.

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Read Comments: 1-10 -- 11-20 -- 21-30 -- 31-39
Who is it for
By avgalen on 2018-11-08 08:34:52
The iPad Pro really has me confused. They are far too powerful and expensive for a pure consumption device. The regular iPads/Chromebooks/Android-t ablets/etc have that market covered.
They are also far too limited for a general production device, both by connectivity, screensize, software and price. In the previous iOS release they tried to make the software a bit more useful (splitscreen) but they have a long way to go and really didn't improve with this release. Connectivity and screensize are now slightly improved with the USB-C/Thunderbolt port, but it is up to the app (not the OS) to support hardware at the moment. Just connected an external disk and accessing the filesystem is still not possible unless the app supports it.
The iPad Pro is still "the future", but it really seems that the hardware is now far ahead of the software.

Of course there will be niches where an app-developer makes an excellent app that makes great use of the iPad Pro and there will be a user group for whom this makes perfect sense. For that group the price will not be a problem either, but for now:
* Too expensive for consumption
* Too limited for production
* ...so who is this product for?
Permalink - Score: 5
RE[4]: Comparing processors
By Alfman on 2018-11-08 08:37:10

> The link is in the original article where the A12X beats the MacBook (with 2 year old CPU's as I point out in another reply). MacBook isn't the same as MacBook Pro!

You're right, I didn't notice ksec dropped that after talking about "pro".
Permalink - Score: 2
By cipri on 2018-11-08 10:22:14
I guess at least now it should start to be clearer to the masses, that intel has good chances to start loosing market share in the near future. There are systems that depend on legacy apps/code, but I guess the masses will start moving away from x86 . Years ago I was betting on ARM replacing x86, but now with the success of risc-v I must say that risc-v looks a lot more promising to me than arm.
Permalink - Score: 1
RE: Who is it for
By A.Dev on 2018-11-08 13:42:38
Permalink - Score: 2
By XtoF on 2018-11-08 14:20:09
All the CPU benchmarks are based on Geekbench. How faithful is it?

If I remember well, a few years ago, Linus Torvald was very critical of GB3. He explained that the code was not general enough and gave too much weight to algorithms that may be hardware assisted.

Also how long do the benchs run? I mean, mobile SoCs are tuned to excel during relatively short times before throttling. If geekbench does not run long enough, it may not be a representative load. For instance, when I import and build previews of photos with Lightroom, the process lasts at the very least 15 minutes.

I know that Apple did an incredible job and that the A12 is in another league than the other ARM based cpus on the market.

But I don't believe in magic and I'm always skeptical when I read that it can compare favorably to the latest and actively cooled Intel CPU. This assertion is always supported by Geekbench. I understand that the architecture may be more efficient and that Intel is still stuck at 14nm, but I doubt that it is enough to close the wattage gap.
Permalink - Score: 4
They say it's aimed at professionals...
By gan17 on 2018-11-08 14:54:59
... and yet they remove the 3.5mm headphone jack. I'm guessing audio professionals weren't a consideration. Wireless/Bluetooth might be what the fashionistas want, but they still haven't (not even Apple with its W chips) gotten over the latency issues.

Edited 2018-11-08 14:55 UTC
Permalink - Score: 3
RE[2]: Who is it for
By thedaemon on 2018-11-08 15:10:24
This is exactly it, artists. It's why I bought an iPad Pro. They are finally fast enough to handle much of the type of artist based software that I use and the Apple Pencil is as good as Wacom. Still no 3d software solution... come on Zbrush or someone else. Port to iOS!
Permalink - Score: 2
RE[3]: Comparing processors
By viton on 2018-11-08 17:20:42
Intel single thread performance is stalled in 2015. They shelve the same microarchitecture all these years. Even unreleased second gen 10nm chip IceLake is only barely faster. All they can do is to pump frequency at excessive power like i9-9900

Edited 2018-11-08 17:23 UTC
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Comment by agentj
By agentj on 2018-11-08 19:22:55
Pro ? What's "pro" about macbooks or iPads? No ports ? Glue ? Mediocre components and build quality ?
Permalink - Score: 4
By zima on 2018-11-08 19:31:28
> It's all done on custom silicon designed within Apple - a different approach than that taken by any mainstream Android or Windows device.
Samsung and Huawei also make their own chips, perhaps not typically used in flagship, but definetely mainstream... (well, less custom from the reference ARM designs)
Permalink - Score: 4

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