Blog of Geof

Friday, Nov. 9th

Regarding The iPad Pro 3rd Generation

Arstechnica: Apple walks Ars through the iPad Pro’s A12X system on a chip

The iPad Pro outperforms every MacBook Pro we tested except for the most recent, most powerful 15-inch MacBook Pro with an 8th generation Intel Core i9 CPU. Generally, these laptops cost three times as much as the iPad Pro.

Shimpi offered a pitch for the GPU. “It's our first 7-core implementation of our own custom-designed GPU,” he said. “Each one of these cores is both faster and more efficient than what we had in the A10X and the result is, that’s how you get to the 2x improved graphics performance. It’s unheard of in this form factor, this is really an Xbox One S class GPU. And again, it's in a completely fanless design.”

Typically when you get this type of CPU and GPU performance, a combination of the two, you have a discrete memory system. So the CPU has its own set of memory and the GPU has its own set of memory, and for a lot of media workloads or pro workflows where you actually want both working on the same data set, you copy back and forth, generally over a very narrow slow bus, and so developers tend to not create their applications that way, because you don't want to copy back and forth.

We don't have any of those problems. We have the unified architecture, the CPU, the GPU, the ISP, the Neural Engine—everything sits behind the exact same memory interface, and you have one pool of memory.

On top of that, this is the only type of memory interface that iOS knows. You don't have the problem of, well, sometimes the unified pool may be a discrete pool, sometimes it may not. iOS, our frameworks, this is all it’s ever known, and so as a result developers benefit from that. By default, this is what they're optimized for, whereas in other ecosystems you might have to worry about, well, OK, sometimes I have to treat the two things as discrete; sometimes they share.

Apple has come to dominate in mobile SoCs. In a lot of ways, though, Qualcomm has been an easy dragon to slay. Should Apple choose to go custom silicon route on the Mac platform, Intel will not be quite as easy to beat. But the rapid iteration that has led to the iPad Pro's A12X makes a compelling case that it's possible.

Now, if only there were iOS versions of Final Cut, Xcode, and Logic. Powerful hardware is nothing without strong software support, and as we've noted in our review, that's the area where we need to see some improvement for the iPad Pro to truly live up to its considerable potential.

Arstechnica: 2018 iPad Pro review: “What’s a computer?”

With that kind of performance, the iPad Pro seems like it should make a strong case that it can replace powerful laptops as a designer, photographer, video editor, musician, or artist's primary on-the-go workhorse. Unfortunately, that incredible potential is hindered by insufficient software support.

But what about full versions of Illustrator or Adobe Premiere? Or Apple’s own Final Cut, for that matter? What about Xcode? What about Logic? What about… this could go on.

These things could be solved. Maybe—just maybe—this feat of design and engineering will inspire Apple’s iOS team to branch out an iPad Pro-specific version of the OS that takes off the training wheels. Maybe—yes, just maybe—this tablet will make such an impression that it draws developers to bring their pro apps to the platform, or to update the stripped-down versions they already offer to unleash their full power.

There’s a few additional items that I would like to add:

Hardware

  • It really is as fast as everyone says.

Industrial Design

  • It really is as beautiful and well-crafted of a device as everyone says.

External Displays

  • The external monitor support is currently pretty bad. I plugged my 2018 iPad Pro into my 4k LG usb-c monitor to find that my iPad’s springboard and aspect ratio was mirrored to the display. This included large black letterboxing because the iPad’s 4:3 ratio couldn’t properly fill the LG’s aspect ratio.
  • I opened a few of my favorite (and popular) apps to see if there was external display support for any of them. None of them supported it beyond the basic mirroring. This is especially awkward when the onscreen keyboard fills a large amount of the external (non-touch) display’s screen.

Apple Pencil

  • The new matte finish and the flat edge make it considerably more enjoyable to use.

Software

  • I wonder if software support would be better or could be improved to support the iPad Pro faster if users were not stuck in the habit of expecting all software to be practically free.

Size

  • I love the new 12.9" form factor. Keeping the same large gorgeous display but shrinking the bezels and the device’s outer diameter is really nice. I would probably buy a 15" iPad if they made one (and I could afford one).
  • The 12.9 size, as with before, does really expose which app layouts are adjusted for the larger dimension. iOS and its apps aren’t ready for a 15” iPad let alone a desktop iOS device if there were to ever be one. If iOS is ever going to be a serious desktop replacement, the OS and apps need to be preparing for a 27" or 30" today.

Updates:

  • 11/13/18—Added Hardware, Industrial Design and Size sections