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iPad Pro processor leak teases massive performance gains

Published Mar 24th, 2021 7:31AM EDT
iPad Pro 2021
Image: Apple Inc.

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Apple might launch several new products in early April if recent rumors are to be believed, including brand new iPad models. The iPad Pro is expected to deliver the most exciting hardware refresh, including 5G support, the brand new mini-LED display tech (for the 12.9-inch version), Thunderbolt support, and the new 5nm A14X chip. The latter is an expected upgrade, considering Apple’s way of doing things and the fact that the 2020 iPad Air runs on the A14 Bionic, just like the iPhone 12. This gives the iPad Air an edge over the 2020 iPad Pro and its A13Z chip.

A brand new leak indicates that Apple is indeed nearing the 2021 iPad Pro launch, as the company included code references to the upcoming A14X chip in the latest iOS 14.5 beta release. This is the sort of code update that signals an imminent product launch, but that’s not the most exciting discovery. The leak indicates the A14X will get massive performance gains.

Apple has always sold the iPad Pro as a faster computing device than most Windows 10 laptops. The A-series chips in the iPhone and iPad were often compared to Intel processors, prompting many to speculate that Apple would eventually make its own ARM-based processors for Macs. That happened last year when Apple started to transition its computers to the M-series processors developed in-house. The M1 MacBooks are so powerful that Intel has mounted a massive attack against this particular Mac variety in recent weeks.

Analyzing code in the latest iOS 14.5 beta, 9to5Mac found references to a GPU from a chip called “13G.” That’s a chip not found inside any of the existing iOS devices. Based on Apple’s previous chip-naming schemes, the blog says the 13G is the A14X version of the A14 Bionic.

Additional research brought up an interesting detail. The A14X is based on the T8103 or the codename Apple used for the M1 chip launched last year. If this is true, the A14X could deliver similar performance to the M1 MacBook Air and M1 MacBook Pro. The two laptops share the same processor, and they offer essentially the same performance. The Pro does come with a fan for active cooling to provide peak performance for a more extended period.

Having the iPad Pro match the performance of the M1 MacBooks would be an impressive achievement. A separate report from Bloomberg said recently that the new iPad Pro would have “an updated processor that is on par with the faster M1 chip.”

9to5Mac also discovered the codenames of four new iPads that are about to be unveiled: J517, J518, J522, and J523.

Separately, MacRumors obtained a different tidbit about the new iPad Pro models. The tablets will generally have the same design as their predecessors, but accessory maker ESR informed the blog that the speakers would have fewer holes on the new models.

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.