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New iPad Air reports lower benchmark score than older Pro model despite using the same M2 chip

Not all are created equal it seems
Last Updated on May 28, 2024
New iPad Air reports lower benchmark score than older Pro model despite using the same M2 chip
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Looking into benchmarks and reviews is always a good thing to think about before you buy a piece of hardware and this curious detail when comparing the new iPad Air M2 (2024) with an older-generation iPad Pro M2 shows some disparity. This relates to the chip’s GPU performance, showcasing a noticeable difference between the two.

There could be a number of reasons why this is the case, leaving some fans scratching their heads. We have to say that the performance difference isn’t the biggest in the world, so the Air still has its place on the market for those looking to upgrade.

iPad Pro M2 shows better GPU performance than the iPad Air M2

It has been a couple of generations since the iPad Pro got the upgrade to the M2 chip. For reference, the new 2024 model boasts the latest M4 chip – which is of course safely ahead of the rest. However, it’s the first time the Air has gotten the M2 upgrade and the benchmarks are in. By taking a look at iOS benchmarks on Geekbench, we can view recent Metal benchmarks. For the uninformed, Metal is a graphics API that is Apple’s preferred choice for hardware-accelerated apps. Since we’re talking GPU performance here, this is the benchmark you’ll want use for comparisons.

We can see on Apple’s website comparison that all these Apple M2-based iPads feature a 10-core GPU, which is assumed to mean the same performance across the board. This has proven not to be the case, as the iPad Pro scores higher in the Metal benchmark. The biggest difference being the 12.9″ iPad Pro (M2) scoring 45,446 versus the 11″ iPad Air (M2) scoring 41,206.

iPad Pro and iPad Air benchmarks
iPad Pro and iPad Air benchmarks (image source: Geekbench)

What is the cause of this?

We can’t know for certain just why the iPad Air falls behind. You may assume that because it’s generally the cheaper model, this should be a given – but when the chip’s hardware is the very same, all running at a 3.5 GHz clock speed, it does seem peculiar. There are a few theories that could explain it though, such as a worse battery throttling the GPU’s performance or a difference in thermal design between the two tiers. The smaller models do perform worse, which could also relate to thermals.

In lighter news, the new iPad Air M2 does actually pull ahead ever so slightly in single core and multi-core benchmarks. Plus, there could always be some slight variation in testing environments and other external variables. If you’re looking to upgrade lately, then these kinds of details are worth comparing and contrasting.

At PC Guide, Jack is mostly responsible for reporting on hardware deals. He also specializes in monitors, TVs, and headsets and can be found putting his findings together in a review or best-of guide.