Whatever you think of Apple’s products, there’s little doubt that the A9X processor in the iPad Pro is quick — in a few cases, it rivals the performance you’d get from a laptop.
But why is it so quick, especially when Apple tends to shy away from high clock speeds, many-core processors and other conventional performance tricks? Thanks to AnandTech and Chipworks, we now have a good idea. They’ve torn down the A9X to reveal that the chip is a series of calculated tradeoffs. It only has two CPU cores and doesn’t even have Level 3 memory cache to keep the processor humming, but it has a monstrous amount of bandwidth (51GB per second) and a whopping 12 graphics cores. That’s twice as many as in the iPhone 6s’ A9 chip, folks. To boot, the A9X is larger than Intel’s latest quad-core desktop processors — Apple has the headroom for components that you don’t see in many PCs.
From these clues, it’s apparent that Apple designed the A9X specifically with the iPad Pro in mind: it knew that it had the space and battery requirements to fit this beast of a processor inside. That might also explain why the iPad Air 2 is sticking around despite its year-old A8X hardware. Like it or not, Apple probably couldn’t have shoved the A9X into a smaller tablet without making some sacrifices. You may have to wait a while before this kind of speed reaches something more portable.