Should you be worried? M2 iPad Air GPU downgrade explained

In May 2024, Apple introduced its latest line-up of iPads, including the M4 Pad Pro and M2 iPad Air. These announcements promised significant upgrades, with the updated iPad Air featuring Apple’s advanced M2 chip. However, recent revelations have caused quite a stir among consumers. Apple initially advertised the M2 iPad Air as having a 10-core GPU, but it has now been confirmed that the device actually contains a 9-core GPU.

 M2 iPad Air

Shortly after the launch, users and tech reviewers began to notice discrepancies in the M2 iPad Air’s performance metrics. Benchmark tests revealed that the GPU performed about 10% slower than expected for a 10-core GPU, prompting further investigation. This led to the discovery that the M2 iPad Air indeed houses a 9-core GPU, not the 10 cores originally advertised.

Apple quietly updated the tech specs on its website to reflect this change, a move first reported by 9to5Mac. Despite this correction, the original press release and several international versions of Apple’s site still listed the GPU as having 10 cores, adding to the confusion.

The likely reason for this discrepancy is a process known as “binning.” In semiconductor manufacturing, binning involves using chips that do not meet the full performance standards for all cores. Instead of discarding these chips, manufacturers disable the underperforming cores and sell the chips with fewer active cores. This practice helps optimize yields and reduce waste.

M2 iPad Air chip

In this case, Apple appears to be using a binned version of the M2 chip with one GPU core disabled, resulting in a 9-core configuration. This practice is common in the industry and ensures that more chips can be used effectively.

Despite the reduction in GPU cores, the M2 iPad Air still offers significant performance improvements over its predecessor. According to Geekbench’s Metal benchmark tests, the M2 iPad Air scores around 41,095, compared to 45,195 for the M2 iPad Pro’s 10-core GPU. This 10% difference is relatively minor and likely unnoticeable in everyday use for most users.

Apple maintains that all performance claims for the M2 iPad Air are accurate and are based on the 9-core GPU. The device still features an 8-core CPU, improved memory bandwidth, support for Apple Pencil hover, and enhanced connectivity options like WiFi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3.

The revelation of the GPU core discrepancy has understandably led to mixed reactions from users. Those who rely on iPads for graphics-intensive gaming, video editing, and 3D modeling might be particularly disappointed. However, the overall impact on performance is minimal for the average user.

Apple has apologized for the confusion and updated its website to reflect the correct specifications. However, it has not offered an extended return window for launch-day customers, who are now beyond the standard 15-day return period.

About the Author

Asma is an editor at iThinkDifferent with a strong focus on social media, Apple news, streaming services, guides, mobile gaming, app reviews, and more. When not blogging, Asma loves to play with her cat, draw, and binge on Netflix shows.