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back to article iPad 3 chip leak squeaks dual-core tweaks

Apple's next tablet offering will feature a dual-core A5X system-on-a-chip, if snaps of a supposed iPad 3 logic board that surfaced on-line are anything to go by. The Cupertino giant is predicted to announce an upgraded processor for its forthcoming fondleslab, with an A6 chip the logical step. This was cast into doubt earlier …

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Anonymous Coward

Hmm, anyone else see a pattern?

Ipad2 specs leaked originally, with 8MP cameras, retina displays, but when the product launched, it ended up with 700kP cameras, and piss-poor screen resolution.

I reckon Apple leak all these high specs, as they know how dumb their customers are, that once they decide to buy anything (based on rumours and leaks), they rarely change their mind....

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Stop

Re: Hmm, anyone else see a pattern?

I don't think it has much to do with how dumb the fanbois are, as that demographic are likely to be buying the Apple product regardless of whether specs are leaked in advance. "Authorised leaks" are generally used to drive the hype machine, convincing potential new customers to hold off on buying a rival product.

The case of leaking overestimated specs is dodgy, though. When those potential customers go looking for information on the product, a casual search is more likely to find the leaked fake specs than the genuine specs because the leak has been around for longer and generated more traffic.

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Re: Hmm, anyone else see a pattern?

Well it's not going to work for me. I skipped the iPad 2 because I was expecting a "retina" display and I might skip the iPad 3 if it doesn't have a quad-core CPU. Every other Android tablet is likely to have quad-core by the end of this year so Apple will have a job convincing me to upgrade my iPad 1 to iPad 3 if it's just using a souped-up dual-core to push that hi-res screen.

If Apple are responsible for these leaks about high specs they really ought to stop them as all they do is put me off the finished product because what they launch doesn't live up to the hype (I really ought to stop reading all the rumours).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Re: Hmm, anyone else see a pattern?

This is precisely it. Google for "ipad2 specs" and see all the bullcrap about retina displays and other rumours litter the page amongst the truth.

It surely benefits Apple for their customers.

I wonder how many iPad2 owners actually know the cameras are 1/4 of the resolution of my 5 year old Nokia 6300? Not too many I think....

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Re: Re: Re: Hmm, anyone else see a pattern?

"I wonder how many iPad2 owners actually know the cameras are 1/4 of the resolution of my 5 year old Nokia 6300? Not too many I think...."

I wonder how many iPad2 owners actually use the camera for anything more than Facetime. I wouldn't use it as a camera if it were the best in the world.

Let's face it, the point of it was for Facetime which it does adequately.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Re: Re: Re: Hmm, anyone else see a pattern?

That is, until the fanbois get an 8+mp camera, then they will say how wonderful it is.

Same with number of cores, clock speed, screen resolution, ports, removeable storage and feature that the Apple doesn't have but the competition does.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Re: Hmm, anyone else see a pattern?

Who cares what the specs are, I care how well it works.

Specs tell you absolutely nothing about the overall appliance performance.

Not unsurprisingly, reviewers constantly note that despite the iPad's lower specs, it has a better overall performance than iDroid tablets.

Surprise, surprise...

I couldn't care less about how many cores there are.

Anyway, isn't 4+1 the new black?

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Meh

mehPad

I'll see your piffling alleged 2 cores and raise you a Samsung Galaxy S3 with its alleged 4-and-a-bit cores.

Doubtless Samsung are waiting for Apple to drop the mehPad on their pavlovian-slavering fanbase before they drop the Tab2 on the world with a bazillion cores and rams and pixels and stuffage.

When guys like Samsung and Sony are making such nice gear (watch the hardware specs rocket past anything fruity this year, possibly also LG & HTC too) the iPad is less of a mehPad and more of a whyPad. Plus you can always switch to a SONY/HTC/LG/etc and *keep your apps*

No I don't care if you think Android has inferior apps, likelihood is you never tried any anyway.

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FAIL

Re: mehPad

Why would I need 4 cores if my GPU can do all the grunt work anyway? I've yet to see an iPad (or any rival tablet) app that needs four core CPUs more than it needs multi-core GPUs.

Also, I rather value battery life. All the CPU cores in the world are useless if they drink so much power that your tablet is dead by lunchtime.

OTOH, it's possible that the iPad 3 won't have the retina display. There may be some truth to the rumours of an iPad 4 (or "iPad 3 HD") later in the year, when the CPU and GPU technology is more likely to be ready to do such a high-res display justice.

Or, of course, these could be photos of an early prototype.

That's the problem with rumours: they're just... rumours!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Re: mehPad

> All the CPU cores in the world are useless if they drink so much power that your tablet is dead by lunchtime.

Yep that's why Tegra3 (5 cores), uses the low power companion core for almost everything pulling in some or all of the other 4 only on demand - when encoding, gaming, for a fraction of a second when opening a browser or App etc. On Android at least, no programming skill is needed to leverage multiple cores - it just works :)

>Why would I need 4 cores if my GPU can do all the grunt work anyway?

How about the reason you just cited above?

>Or, of course, these could be photos of an early prototype.

Doubtful somehow. It needs to be cheap with a high margin and last years technology will achieve that. A raft of techinically superior handsets didn't stop people buying the iPhone4S, all that actually matters is that people believe its more advanced and that's about marketing not specs.

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Re: Re: Re: mehPad

Which is exactly what Samsung are doing with their ('enyx', 'exynon'? can't remember) chip I think.

4 Cores for wide-awake processing grunt, a fifth low-power one for tick-over and background bits.

I would expect the SG3 to be incredibly responsive and any tablet using that Tegra-style multicore tech, also.

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Cores

Interestingly enough, all the droidtards with dual core Androids that play around with my single core Lumia 800 say just one thing: "It's fast".

It seems Android is so crap that it needs hardware specs similar to the server I'm currently logged in. Next year, dual CPU quad-core smartphones with 16GB RAM and 2TB storage.

Apple (and MS) don't need hardware similar to Android phones/tablets, their software are more optimized than Google's.

Well, let the downvotes commence!

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Boffin

Re: Cores

@Renato:

The performance metric that counts is the amount of RAM on the device. "Droidtards" have real multitasking, so they can switch between web-browsing (while it's loading) to pull up their playlist, pop over to a remote desktop window, jump back to their picture album, etc etc etc, all without causing disconnects (with the webpage or remote desktop), nor having to page RAM to/from the flash storage. Without this multitasking ability for iOS, they don't need to load up iDevices with more than their 512MB allotment. (iOS has limited multitasking for i-branded apps only, so yes you can play your iTunes music while surfing, I know).

Now, how to power all of these things, plus anything else that might come up in the next year or so you own the device? A quad-core chip should do it. Since the platform is threaded as a standard (unlike the Windows environment of yester-year), all 4 cores could actually get used. Zipping around on a single core with a 800x600 screen (or worse, the phone you cited) won't see much of a performance bottleneck (CPU-wise) with your apparent workload. Mine, however, makes even 1GB RAM dual core chippery fall over (props to the Galaxy Tab 10.1 for handling it best though). We'll see if the iPad2S can top what we can pick up today with the Asus Transformer Prime.

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Linux

Re: Re: Cores

Ok, if the issue is RAM, why my ol' single core 800MHz Pentium 3 with 384MB 133MHz SDRAM could handle a similar load you are describing here without a sweat?

Remote Desktop, web browsing, playing MP3 (and even XviD) etc. worked flawlessly on a single core with a crappy onboard SiS video card (or what they thought they could sell as a video card), rendering at 1024x768, as it were the top resolution my CRT monitor could work. Nowadays we offload a smaller resolution GUI and h264 video decoding to the GPU.

The only reason you need a faster CPU, for a similar load you are describing, than the ol'P3 of the day is if your platform is very bloated.

And seriously, if each full-screen application you run on your operating system needs one core to barely run, it seems you have a performance bottleneck created by the bad design of your operating system shell, as Android is not an operating system. Just a (badly designed) shell. Remembers me of Windows ME, because back in the real Linux days which my ol' trusty P3 ran, we had real operating systems.

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Re: Cores

"Interestingly enough, all the droidtards with dual core Androids that play around with my single core Lumia 800 say just one thing: "It's fast"."

Didn't know Apple made an ipad called "Lumina 800".

"Apple (and MS) don't need hardware similar to Android phones/tablets"

Thank you for demonstrating the power of marketing to overcome reality.

The interface on my droid moves as fast as my finger does - are you saying Apple products move faster than your finger tells them to? Processors have come a long way, but are you saying your phone has precognition? That *would* be an achievement LOL!

As said a few posts up, the advantage of multiple cores is better battery life while retaining great processing power.

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Re: Re: Re: Cores

"Ok, if the issue is RAM, why my ol' single core 800MHz Pentium 3 with 384MB 133MHz SDRAM could handle a similar load you are describing here without a sweat?"

And how long would that computer operate for while being powered by a 1500mAh phone battery? I'm guessing minutes, not a working day...

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Re: Re: mehPad

You GPU isn't doing any of the "grunt work". It helps on 3D games... that's pretty much it. It's not as if you trade off CPU for GPU performance. Sure, the CPU can do a few GPU chores... poorly. The GPU can't replace anything the CPU is supposed to do. In a game, they support each other... the CPU has to compute the vectors that the GPU is going to render, etc.

Outside of higher end gaming, the GPU does nothing (nope, not even video decode; that's a different processing unit on a modern ARM SOC). So the CPU becomes more important. I rather wonder if it's just Apple's chip design schedule holding them back from the quad cores that everyone has already released (heck, we're going to see A15 quad cores this summer from TI, and a different faster-than-A9 core from Qualcomm even before then), or if iOS doesn't actually do enough real multithreading to get full use from a quad core at this point. That would be a good reason to not bother... they don't want to establish that as a parameter of the iOS known to the public.

In terms of power, a double-clocked dual core will typically use 4x as much power as a single clocked quad core -- that's the big reason the ARM folks are all going to quad core quickly. But this jump is even more than that, since most of the single and dual core chips were 40-45nm CMOS, and the quad cores are moving to 28-32nm CMOS. So there are actually two jumps in low power. Add in the addition of the fifth management core some companies are using, and you'll see a dramatic jump in battery life. At least once Android power management gets some more work (I'm actually so far happier with it in ICS than Honeycomb or earlier versions, but they're not at Apple's level yet).

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Re: Re: Re: Cores

> Ok, if the issue is RAM, why my ol' single core 800MHz Pentium 3 with 384MB 133MHz SDRAM could handle a similar load you are describing here without a sweat?

The issue isn't just RAM. But your 800MHz Pentium 3 had virtual memory -- it could swap out data to disc, and it only had to load the parts of any program that it needed. Portable systems don't have swap space, everything has to be in RAM.

The other thing, of course, is that your Pentium system was built with early 1990s expectations. No one expected you to play high definition HD video... even AVC was too much for that kind of system. The modern expectation is 24-bit color on all data and even into the UI on some apps... particularly Apple's, which are all expected to have the UI mimic real-world items. And of course, no one expected your Pentium to do all this for 10 hours on a battery, and fit in a pocket.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Re: Re: mehPad

"all that actually matters is that people believe its more advanced and that's about marketing not specs."

All that actually matters is if it does what it says the box.

There, fixed that for you.

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Paris Hilton

Re: Cores

Symbian was so efficient it allowed Nokia to "underspec" their CPU and overspec their Camera for years with no noticeable performance lag compared to vastly overspecced (CPU) alternatives.

Haven't tried the Lumia, so I can't comment on it, but the implied message that Android is a slug is most likely accurate.

Paris: Coz she's never underspecced

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WTF?

Re: Re: Re: mehPad (@hazydave)

"You GPU isn't doing any of the "grunt work". It helps on 3D games... "

Er, no. The GPU is used all the time on a composited GUI like iOS's. I think Android's is the same now, although it used to be entirely reliant on the CPU in older releases.

So iOS uses the GPU for all its rendering, even for the settings pages and home screens. It's a composited GUI built on "Display PDF" (an evolution of NeXTSTEP's Display Postscript engine). This is why both iOS and OS X have PDF support 'baked in' at the OS level; developers get PDF support for free.

As iOS is built on a task-switching design, there's little need for more than a couple of CPU cores for the vast majority of apps. The design favours frugal resource usage, improved stability, and increased battery life, at the expense of a feature few users appear to miss given the sales figures, so I'd say Apple made the right choice here.

Games, (and some apps, like "Elements", that rely heavily on rich media), really gain far more from GPU improvements than CPU improvements. Simply nailing on a couple more ARM cores really doesn't have as much benefit for iOS devices compared to Android devices. If you're going for full-on multitasking, those cores do come in handy, but you also need to throw in a lot more RAM too, both of which will increase your bill of materials.

That's also why, try as they might, Android device manufacturers are having such a hard time beating Apple's prices: Android does more, but this means it has higher minimum system requirements. Which means it will cost more to build an Android tablet than to build an iOS one. For now.

If the iPad 3 is coming with a Retina display, that means it'll be shunting pixels around a screen with a higher resolution than any currently available laptop. That's going to require some serious GPU power, not more CPU cores.

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Anonymous Coward

"A date code of "1146" on the A5X indicates that it was manufactured in the 46th week of 2011, which would have corresponded to November 14-20. "

Which makes it too old to be a final design, if the iPad is coming out around the second week of March as rumoured.

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week 46

Yeah but that chip could have been on a shelf somewhere for a week or two, surely? You'd not have a conveyor belt from the chip plant into the assembly plant, you'd have to have a stock buffer in case the chip fab broke down which would instantly halt production while it was fixed. Your stock buffer hopefully lets you fix the fab or bring a secondary (dearer) temporary fab into play while it's fixed.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: week 46

According to a tear down of the iPad 2, of one of the first retail units, their A5 chip had a manufacturing date of late-January/mid-Februrary 2011

http://www.macrumors.com/2011/03/11/ipad-2-teardown-underway/

I'm sorry but it's doubtful Apple would need such a large 2 months-extra buffer this time.

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Stop

So why is it not possible

That Apple are going for 4 ARM Cortex A9 cores in this variant? The A4 SoC had a single Cortex A8 CPU, so moving to twin A9s was worth a full version bump. ARMs A15 core is a bit heavy on the juice (which is why they came up with the new A7, which could quickly activate an A15 and transfer heavy tasks to it) so it makes sence to rev the clock and number of cores in Apple's A5 until the A7/A15 combo is ready.

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Could it not just be possible that this component is destined for the oft-rumoured iPad mini with that also rumoured 8 inch display?

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Alternative opinion

Just a thought - maybe the X stands for Experimental?

Then again, if this *is* a production part, would this make it the Ipad2"S" like the tweaked iphone4"S"?

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Stop

Who cares

Really, speculation over speculation over speculation..... Who cares?

iWhatever.

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