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The A9X chip in Apple's 9.7-inch iPad Pro is underclocked compared with the bigger model

Apple might be marketing the two iPads as being identical in most ways, but the A9X chip in the smaller iPad Pro is actually less zippy than the same processor in its 12.9-inch big brother
March 22, 2016

Here's a surprising piece of information: according to Apple's website, it seems the A9X processor that ships inside of Cupertino's 9.7-inch iPad Pro is actually underclocked compared with the A9X chip included in the larger 12.9-inch tablet. The news indicates that, despite appearance, the two tablets certainly don't offer consumers the same level of performance.

The 9.7-inch iPad (slightly less) Pro

The 9.7-inch iPad (slightly less) Pro

The 9.7-inch iPad (slightly less) Pro

The news comes from AppleInsider, which cites information available at Apple's iPad comparison Web page. And to be honest, I'm surprised to hear it. Before now, and since Apple's event came to a close yesterday, I'd seriously been considering switching from my 12.9-inch iPad Pro to the 9.7-inch model. There are pros and cons, but the idea of owning a more mobile iPad that packed all the power of the iPad Pro I've been using these past few months (as well as support for the Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard) was an appealing thought.

But there's a problem

Take a look at Apple's iPad comparison page, though; it really does speak for itself. There, you can see that the processor in the 9.7-inch iPad Pro is described as being 2.4x faster CPU (with 4.7x graphics), while the larger 12.9-inch model offers 2.5x faster CPU with 5x faster graphics. And so the smaller iPad is far from being on a par with the larger model.

This fits in with Apple's previous practice: in the past, smaller devices have been underclocked by Cupertino (like the iPad mini), resulting in lesser performance even when the device is using the same chip as a more capable counterpart.

Pros and cons

Does this make the 9.7-inch iPad Pro less appealing? For sure. But consider, however, the smaller device's support for True Tone display, its enhanced camera offerings, and its lower price point (as well as its more mobile form factor), and the playing field between the two devices could be leveled. Just.

Yet if, on the other hand, you're looking to push your iPad Pro to its limits, either through graphics design or high-end photo and video editing, the differences outlined above could sway your decision between the two models. You can pick up the 9.7-inch iPad Pro from March 31, and prices start at $599.