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Tested: Why the iPad Pro really isn't as fast a laptop

Gordon Mah Ung | Nov. 26, 2015
One benchmark makes it look good. A lot of other benchmarks show a different story. Get all the details here.

The improved graphics core in the Skyake Core m3 is even more impressive. I'm currently testing the Asus UX305 with the Skylake-based Core m3, and it's posted an overall 3DMark score of 51,181, which would make it third in the chart above.

I had access to an Nvidia Shield TV, which can run 3DMark in Android TV, so I threw the score from the Tegra X1 into the mix for reference. The idea is to to show where Google’s Pixel C could fall, as it should be the first mobile use of a Tegra X1. Before you think the Tegra X1 will whip the A9X, you should remember that the Shield TV is thicker than any tablet and runs on unlimited AC, not DC. There’s no need to worry about chewing through the battery in the Shield TV, unlike with the upcoming Pixel C, so the latter's graphics performance could fall shorter. We’ll see.

3DMark breaks out performance for two areas: Graphics and physics. Here are the scores for the same devices in graphics. The Asus UX305 with its Core m3 isn’t on the chart, but it produces a score of 65,904, so third again.

One thing I will say after all of this is my opinion on Atom X7 is changing for the worse. It would be nice if Intel’s budget chip didn't drag its butt across the finish line dead last in just about every test.

ipad pro 3dmark ice storm unlimited graphics
In 3DMark's Ice Storm, the iPad Pro can't even pass the older Surface Pro 3. Click on image to enlarge.

3DMark also runs a physics test, which measures how the platform would run a theoretical game engine. In short, it’s supposed to measure how fast a device’s CPU would be, not its GPU. The result here actually puts the iPad Pro and the A9X at a pretty big disadvantage against all of the x86 chips—yes, even the lowly Atom. Nvidia’s Shield Tablet and the Shield TV also run past the A9X. The rest of the legit x86 chips are sipping lemonade and reading the paper while the iPad Pro crosses the finish line. 

ipad pro 3dmark ice storm unlimited physics
3DMark’s Physics scores for the iPad Pro actually slower than the Atom-based Surface 3. Click on image to enlarge.

The search for answers

The iPad Pro's demise may lie with how the A9X works and the way Futuremark builds its benchmark. Futuremark has been through this before, when the iPhone 5s proved no faster than the iPhone 5 in the physics test despite claims of double the performance from Apple. Futuremark’s investigation led to how the A7 chip in the iPhone 5s (and iPad Air) handles non-sequential memory structures. Futuremark said it was a conscious design change Apple made between the A6 and A7 that hurt its performance, and 3DMark was showing the result of that.


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