iPad 4 and iPad mini performance tests

The iPad 4 has an Apple A6X system-on-a-chip (SoC) is marketed as twice as fast, both in central and graphics processing, as the iPad 3 released only 7 short months ago. Apple's custom, manually-set ARM v7s processor -- called Swift -- remains the 32nm CMOS dual-core beast found in the iPhone 5, but it's been cranked up to 1.4 GHz. The X in the iPad 4's A6X once again represents a quad-core graphics processor, this time the PowerVR SGX554MP4. On spec, that's some serious fire-power.

The iPad mini, by contrast, has the same die-shrunk Apple A5 SoC found in the iPad 2. That's a 1GHz dual-core ARM Cortex A9 and PowerVR dual-core SGX543MP2. But the iPad mini also has the same 1024x768 display as the iPad 2. It's smaller but denser, going from 9.7-inches to 7.9 inches, and 132 ppi to 163 ppi, but it's the raw pixel count here that makes the difference.

Retina comes at a price, and that price is performance for the first generation devices that have to support it. The iPad 3, iPhone 4, the iPod touch 4, even the Retina MacBook Pros were and are maxed out trying to push all those pixels. Once that's done, though, once the price has been paid, however, performance improvements go back to where they belong -- making things feel faster.

So, even with the older, less powerful Apple A5, the iPad mini should fly. But will the new A6X help the iPad 4 do likewise?

Benchmarks aren't that useful for humans, but they do provide some amount of relative measure, and a way to tell if your particular device has a problem (i.e. it's way slower than expected.) So, here's what the difference in CPU looks like on Geekbench 2 between the iPad 1, iPad 2 (top left and right), iPad 3, and iPad 4 (bottom left and right).

Those are pretty close to Geekbench's standard listings of 454, 781, 790, and 1755.

Here're SunSpider results for JavaScript rendering, which try to give an idea of how code-heavy sites like FaceBook or Google Docs will perform.

That's 454, 781, and 790 compared with 1755, which is a numerically impressive jump.

More importantly, however, the video up top shows what the iPad 4 and iPad mini look like in real-world situations like booting up, rendering web pages, and launches apps, compared against the iPad 3, iPad 2, iPad 1, iPhone 5, and iPod touch 5. They're ludicrously unscientific, but perception is reality and how something works, day to day, is far more important than how it looks on the spec sheet.

As you can see, the difference looks much bigger in numbers than it turns out to be in daily usage. The iPad mini was, as expected, every bit as good as the iPad 2. With the iPad 4, the best way I can phrase it after using it side by side with the iPad 3, is that you don't really notice much if any speed improvement, you just notice much less lag. Everything launches and moves at about the same pace, it just doesn't stick and stutter anywhere nearly as much while doing it.

It's still not perfect, mind you, but it's better.

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • Re: "Everything launches and moves at about the same pace, it just doesn't stick and stutter anywhere nearly as much while doing it." iOS allows developers to control the timing of animation effects, so things will happen at the same speed matter how fast the CPU and GPU are. Of course, the extra processing power will make sure that the iPad (4th gen) rarely, if ever, falls behind in reacting to user input. (Great nail polish Georgia!)
  • Rene, You said that the iPad 4 compared to 3 isn't so much faster as it is less laggy. I use my iPad 90% with RSS apps such a Mr. Reader, Byline, and Reeder. I don't play any graphic intensive games. My question is, does the iPad 4 improve the pace in these types of apps over the 3? With the iPhone 5, in those apps, every thing is click click click, very responsive and excellent rhythm. I have no way to test this in a store, and I am hoping you could shed some light on this. I would be willing to sell my 3 and get a 4 if I could save a bundle of seconds going from article to article. Any thoughts based on your experience would be greatly appreciated.
  • Drop out of school then genius.
  • +1
  • Poor original iPad it got picked last everytime.
  • The original iPad really wasn't that far behind in the "unscientific tests" ... it wasn't even started at the same time as the others in ANY of the tests - someone had to jump over to it after starting the iPad 2, which gave everything else an unfair lead.
  • None of these test videos I've seen have been done using anything that even remotely begins to test the limits of the processors.. which makes sense since that's how most people use their iPads. Until devs start making more intensive apps, the only time you'll notice much of a difference is when you're doing stuff like heavy video rendering or photo / audio processing. For just about anyone I'd say there no reason to go from 3 to 4, but if its your first iPad get the 4 because it will last you longer.
  • Did I miss something here or are we assuming that the mini stacks up equally to the iPad 2 because they have the same processor? All of the results show iPad 1, 2, 3, and 4 but no mini? I would think that the screen size would make some difference. Otherwise, I would like to see all of the same tests run on the mini as well.
  • Here are the Tech Specs for those who don't know---- Hardware:
    Height 9.5 inches
    Width 7.31 inches
    Thickness 0.37 inches
    Weight 1.44 pounds
    Color Silver / Black, Silver / White
    Speakers Mono Display:
    Screen size (diagonal) 9.7 inches
    Technology IPS LCD
    Resolution (X) 2048 px
    Resolution (Y) 1536 px
    PPI 264
    Touchscreen type Capacitive
    Multitouch Yes Software:
    Operating system iOS
    Launch OS version 6
    Media streaming AirPlay Processor:
    CPU brand Apple
    CPU model A6X
    Clock speed 1.4 GHz
    Cores 2 Memory:
    RAM size 1 GB Storage:
    Internal size 64 GB, 32 GB, 16 GB Connectivity:
    Wi-Fi Yes
    Wi-Fi support 802.11n, 802.11g, 802.11b, 802.11a
    802.11n frequencies 5GHz, 2.4GHz
    Bluetooth Yes
    Bluetooth version 4.0 Front Camera:
    Effective pixels 1.2 megapixels
    Video resolution 720p
    Video framerate 30 Rear Camera:
    Effective pixels 5 megapixels
    Focus type Autofocus
    Video resolution 1080p
    Video framerate 30 Ports:
    Video out Yes
    Headphone 3.5mm
    Data connections Lightning Sensors:
    Sensors Ambient Light, Gyroscope, Accelerometer Battery:
    Capacity 42.5 Wh
    Removable No
    Quoted use time 10 hr This is the best tablet out there so far!! The screen is amazing and apple once again did an excellent job!
  • ipad 4 faster, stronger GPU, play games essential.