Apple's A6X: The iPad gets a serious CPU upgrade

Apple didn't just unveil the iPad mini today, it also refreshed the iPad, and at the core of that refresh is a new chip -- the A6X processor.

One of the surprise announcements to come out of today's Apple event was the unveiling of a fourth-generation iPad, which Apple is now called the "iPad with Retina display".

And the biggest surprise of that announcement was the revelation that processor performance has been doubled.

The new A6X chip inside the iPad 4 (yes, I'm calling it that) is a new dual-core CPU combined with quad-core graphics. According to Apple, it is up to twice as fast as the previous-generation A5X chip.

Because this is a SoC (System-on-a-Chip) design, incorporating a CPU and a GPU on the same die, it means that both personas have received an upgrade.

All these processor improvements don't come at the cost of battery life either. The iPad 4 gets the same 10 hours of battery life from the same 42.5 watt-hours battery that the iPad 3 enjoyed.

We'll have to wait for a teardown of the A6X before we know for sure what's inside it. But if the A6 processor inside the iPhone 5 is anything to go by, it's likely to be a very custom piece of kit.

Apple also claims to have improved image signal processing capabilities of the A6X chip, so that photos and videos taken using the 5-megapixel iSight camera are better than ever.

We'll have to wait for the hardware to land to get independent benchmark results, but Apple's figures are usually pretty close to the mark, so this represents a serious performance upgrade for the iPad.

The iPad mini and the new iPad 4

Image source: Apple.