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The iPad Air 2 is even more impressive than everyone thought

Published Nov 12th, 2014 3:51PM EST
iPad Air 2 GPU
Image: Apple Inc.

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When unveiling the iPad Air 2 during its special mid-October media event, Apple specifically highlighted the new A8X processor inside the slim tablet, which is supposed to offer an even better performance than its predecessor, both when it comes to processor and graphics. Following its launch, the iPad Air 2 was dismantled, with professionals revealing the tablet packs a triple-core processor and 2GB of RAM.

AnandTech took a closer look at the A8X’s graphics processing unit (GPU), finding it to be even more impressive and powerful than people initially thought.

FROM EARLIER: Big Android fan reviews Apple’s iPad Air 2 after using it for two weeks

“Since publishing our initial iPad Air 2 review last week, a few new pieces of information have come in that have changed our perspective on Apple’s latest SoC,” the publication wrote. “As it turns out I was wrong. Powered by what we’re going to call the GXA6850, the A8X’s GPU is even better than I thought.”

Apparently, Apple has been allowed to customize the GPU it uses in its iPad models to take full advantage of its power, and the custom PowerVR GPU it uses in its iPad Air 2 has eight clusters. This is a first for mobile devices, and something other OEMs don’t have access to.

“[W]hile we can’t publish an image we can describe the die shot in full,” AnandTech wrote. “To get right down to business then, the die shot confirms what we had begun suspecting: that A8X has an 8 cluster Series6XT configuration. All 8 GPU clusters are clearly visible, and perhaps unsurprisingly it looks a lot like the GPU layout of the GX6450. To put it in words, imagine A8’s GX6450 with another GX6450 placed right above it, and that would be the A8X’s 8 cluster GPU.”

The publication says that Apple was allowed to cook its own GPU design, making an 8 cluster Series 6XT that doesn’t officially exist.

“As far as performance is concerned this doesn’t change our initial conclusions – iPad Air 2 performs the same no matter how many GPU clusters we think are in it – but it helps to further explain iPad Air 2’s strong GPU performance,” AnandTech added. “With 256 FP32 ALUs Apple has come very close to implementing a low-end desktop class GPU on a tablet SoC, and perhaps just as impressively can sustain that level of performance for hours. Though I don’t want to reduce this to a numbers war between A8X and NVIDIA’s TK1, it’s clear that these two SoCs stand apart from everything else in the tablet space.”

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.


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