The Curious Case of the Evolving M2 iPad Air: A Tale of Core Importance

In a culture of consumer technology that has come to expect that the launch of a new product will set not just the web but a galaxy of Twitter accounts ablaze, APPLE is back in the news. Not this time, though, for a new product but for how the release of the latest one, the M2 iPad Air, has become a story of tech specs and the fine print that are causing APPLE fans and tech enthusiasts to wonder and worry. What is the deal with missing GPU core?

The M2 iPad Air's GPU: A Core Short of a Full Deck

When APPLE introduced its latest iPad Air, with its M2 chip, back in March, it trumpeted that the tablet packs a 10-core GPU. Consumers enticed by all the hype were expectant, with excitement in the air. In the weeks since, APPLE has gone about quietly and almost invisibly revising the tech specs on the new iPad Air in its family catalogue – but now the device comes with only a 9-core GPU.

APPLE's Discreet Revision Raises Eyebrows

Without a press release or any other explanation, APPLE reduced the GPU count of the M2 iPad Air from 10 cores (which it had stated upon introducing the new model last month) to 9. According to the Wayback Machine, that’s when it changed the page’s information. The tech giant must have snuck it in during the last 10 days, because an archive of the page records a count of 10 cores on 20 September.

Navigating the Core of the Mystery

This flies in the face of APPLE’s original claims, and has a number of people in the tech world scratching their heads and making some rather strong claims and proclamations. That’s without an official rebuttal from APPLE, who have left in place the original press release and several support pages that suggest a 10-core GPU. APPLE’s official communications are hard to track at the best of times, and increasingly incoherent.

Unraveling the Core Discrepancy

The change raises some questions about M2 chip variants. In particular, note that this is the first time APPLE has offered an M2 with a nine-core GPU, and until now all M2 chips have had either eight cores (as in the M2 MacBook Air) or 10 cores (as in the M2 MacBook Pro). The ratios between M2 Mac processors and their graphics processor cores could have been arbitrarily designed. But it’s just slightly suspicious that the M2 is the first time APPLE has released a nine-core GPU, so it feels like it might still be a ‘binned’ nine-core CPU that was built as a 10-core chip in the first place.

Impact on Users and the Tech Landscape

It might well not make even a perceptible difference in everyday use — it’s not like the 10 GPU-cores are going to scream out and hijack your next eBay session — and it’s also an issue that doesn’t greatly affect the impression you’ll get of the device as a whole. But the cry of transparency will continue to be heard, this time from users and the wider industry. It’s not what we were expecting, APPLE.

Reflecting on APPLE's Approach to Transparency

As this story began to unfold, it also raised some larger issues about what we might expect of the tech giants in the way of transparency. Whether or not specifications have inherited the mantle of innovation, they certainly define how the field of competition is gated. When details suddenly alter without explanation, those on the outside feel cheated.


APPLE, of course, is a behemoth of the technology sector – less for its commonly held title of ‘world’s most valuable company’, but because of its ethos of design and simplicity. Telephony has never been the same since the iPhone transformed how we use phones, while the iPad has helped us reimagine what personal computing can be. APPLE seems committed to its tradition of innovation with or without the odd stumble like the GPU core change in the M2 iPad Air. How this particular story will end, I’m not sure, but it is always good to be reminded of the complexities of technological development and the sacrifices that get made along the way.

A lot of people are thinking about the new M2 iPad Air and the tech gurus are nerding out on specs. This deeply matters. And it doesn’t. It’s more like a story about expectation, communication and the achievement of perfection in human-artefact levels of the computing stack. And it’s one that will be part of APPLE’s legacy for a long time to come.

Jun 02, 2024
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