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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.

That’s not what you’d think if you peeped at Geek Bench 3. Per core, remember, it’s a CPU test that shows the iPad Pro to be every bit as fast as a current Core i5 Skylake CPU.

Some have claimed the problem is how Geek Bench 3 weights its results. SHA2 encryption, for example, is overly represented for CPU performance. Given the hardware acceleration in the A9X, it’s showing Apple’s chip to be far faster than that it actually is.

Geek Bench 3 lets you view sub scores, and here’s how SHA2 performance played out across various devices, including a desktop 3.4GHz Core i7-2600 and a water-cooled 4GHz Core i7-4790K chip. Because it's single-core performance, the Hyper-Threading and additional cores don’t cloud the issue. The results are rather interesting.

ipad pro geek bench single core sha2 performance
Critics have said Geek Bench’s over reliance on a SHA2 performance skews the test. Click on image to enlarge.

If you believe Geek Bench 3’s SHA2 numbers, the A9X in the iPad Pro and Nvidia’s Tegra K1 are actually faster than all of Intel’s current mobile dual-cores in SHA2 encryption performance. 

Both are also faster than a desktop Sandy Bridge chip. To put that in perspective, the SHA2 performance of the Tegra K1 and A9X aren’t too far behind that of an 88-watt 4GHz Core i7-4790K chip. 

Geek Bench 3 is hardly without controversy either. Often cited by its detractors is a post by calm sage Linus Torvalds from a forum in, where he went Kanye West on Geek Bench 3.

”Wilco, Geek Bench has apparently replaced dhrystone as your favourite useless benchmark,” Torvalds wrote. ”Geekbench is SH*T.”  

It actually seems to have gotten worse with version 3, which you should be aware of,” Torvalds wrote. “So basically a quarter to a third of the ‘integer’ workloads are just utter BS. They are not comparable across architectures due to the crypto units, and even within one architecture the numbers just don’t mean much of anything. And quite frankly, it’s not even just the crypto ones. Looking at the other GB3 ‘benchmarks,’ they are mainly small kernels: not really much different from dhrystone. I suspect most of them have a code footprint that basically fits in a L1 cache.”

Geek Bench’s side of the story

To get Geek Bench’s side of the story, I spoke with John Poole, one of the primary developers behind the test. Poole said he understands the controversy and has taken it to heart, but he also disagrees with Torvalds.


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