When Apple introduced the fourth-generation iPad Air, many people probably got the idea that now there would be no need for an iPad Pro. The novelty took over not only the form factor of a professional tablet, but, obviously, took over the palm in performance. After all, it is unlikely that the newest A14 processor could be less powerful than the A12Z, which is in fact the chip of the last generation, which was unlocked with additional graphics cores. However, Apple claims that these are completely different tablets and should be treated accordingly.
The iPad Air 4 and iPad Pro are devices of different classes and purposes, explained Bob Borchers, Apple’s vice president of product marketing, on the Same Brain program on YouTube. According to him, despite the external similarities and overlapping technologies, there are quite a lot of differences between them that make them different from each other. First of all, it is, of course, hardware. The A12Z processor gives iPad Pro users more graphics options than the A14, which, while newer, doesn’t do the same.
How the A14 and A12Z processors differ
The A12Z processor we use in the 2020 iPad Pro is specially optimized for professional tasks and processes that can be more graphics-intensive in hardware. Therefore, the A12Z has a clear advantage over the A14, albeit newer, in graphics intensive scenarios, while the A14 is more versatile. It is intended to be more comprehensively developed, explained Bob Borchers.
However, the executive stressed, this does not mean that it took less time or effort to design the iPad Air 4. Some aspects of the novelty turned out to be so difficult to implement and demanding on resources that it would be impossible to implement the same technology on older devices. We are talking, of course, about the fingerprint recognition technology. The fact is that in this generation of tablets, the scanner was built into the power button, which was placed on the top edge. Despite the seeming primitiveness of the methodology, it was a real challenge for engineers to do it this way.
Touch ID on iPad Air 4
According to John Ternus, Apple’s vice president of hardware engineering, the Touch ID built into the power key is an incredible engineering feat for the company. The minimum width of the button that activates the tablet has greatly complicated the implementation of the seemingly familiar verification method. In order not to be mistaken, the biometric sensor must be incredibly sensitive and make an unlock decision based on a minimum of incoming data. After all, if the Touch ID in the Home button can scan most of the first phalanx, then the Touch ID in the power button has access only to a narrow strip with a pattern and, accordingly, can make a mistake.
But Apple wouldn’t be itself if it didn’t solve this problem. Thanks to the use of Neural Engine technology, the company’s engineers were able to design a completely new model of fingerprint recognition. It is a special component of the 11th generation A-series processors that is responsible for machine learning and thus improves the efficiency of many processes running on the device. With its help, the scanner itself completes the invisible part of the pattern on the finger based on what it saw and only then removes the lock from the device.