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  • Inside Apple's New A4

    Arguably the most notable iPad technology is the chip that powers it, the new A4. The iPad's 1GHz system-on-a-chip, clocked at 1 GHz (compared to about 600MHz for the iPhone 3GS) was designed by Apple itself, through its acquisition of chipmaker PA Semiconductor. The processor's speed, along with the advanced power-management that allows Apple to brag that the iPad will be able to play 10 hours of continuous HD video without recharging, could be a significant selling point for the new device as it establishes its space in the marketplace.

    The A4, as a system-on-a-chip (SoC), combines the CPU, graphics processor, memory management and other components such as the I/O controller on a single piece of silicon. Though Apple has not released detailed specs on the chip, observers have gathered details out of reports from suppliers, leaks and a healthy dose of conjecture.

    Most observers are certain that the A4's CPU is ARM's Cortex-A9 MPCore, which is also used on the Qualcomm Snapdragon, a popular chipset used in smartphones and netbooks. The graphics processor is believed to be the ARM Mali 50 Series, and the entire ASIC was built by Samsung - whose process management is credited with the low power draw - based on designs by Apple, using its PA Semi brain trust. The result is an SoC that is substantially similar to the NVIDIA Tegra, with (at least claimed) better performance, especially relative to its power draw.

    So when Apple CEO Steve Jobs described the A4 as "custom silicon that we designed for this product," he was certainly speaking the truth, though it may have left the impression that the entire chip was homegrown. Though it uses technology from other manufacturers, Apple's design of this SoC potentially gives it the edge over smartphone competitors, and its proprietary nature means Apple can keep it all for themselves. As Richard Doherty, director of technology consulting firm Envisioneering Group, told CNET this week, Apple has an edge over companies like Qualcomm, Freescale, and others that license ARM chips:
    There's nothing that I can see from ARM licensees or Intel that could challenge the power-per-watt, the power-per-buck, the power-per-cubic-millimeter of size. Apple is going to have quite a performance, battery efficiency, and cost advantage over the competition.
    Speculation has already begun that the A4 will be at the heart of a fourth-generation iPhone, which is expected to be released this summer.

    image via Apple
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Inside Apple's New A4 started by Paul Daniel Ash View original post
    Comments 23 Comments
    1. rhekt's Avatar
      rhekt -
      Quote Originally Posted by ukfitch21 View Post

      nuff said
      what an idiot.

      Nuff said.

      [oh yeah, dumbass removed his 4 iphones ductaped together .jpg]
    1. adrian1480's Avatar
      adrian1480 -
      1st gen definitely looks like something to stay away from.

      also, looks like jailbreaking is once again the only way to make an iPod OS-based product worth purchasing. In this case, backgrounder alone makes it a bit more interesting.

      but lack of front-facing camera, no way to print, no flash, and no "normal" storage space for 'net downloads (or even a way to download things from the net without jailbreaking) are combine into one large deal-breaker.

      I also have my doubts about reading for long periods of time on an LCD screen. haven't people tried that before? it's all kinds of fail for prolonged reading. not sure if people will just force themselves to pretend to like reading whole books it because Apple's name is on it (thus, they believe they should like it, no matter what) or if the screen is somehow a color version of e-ink. we'll see.

      Prediction: like a piece of infomercial exercise equipment, this will be a device that lots of people buy...only to find it collecting dust after a few months when they realize the iPad creates an unnecessary and even impractical transition from their smartphone to their computer.
    1. smuggler's Avatar
      smuggler -
      Quote Originally Posted by Ticko View Post
      im highly against SoC's yes it is clocked at 1ghz but running a pad/tablet on an SoC is nuts. It has to run mem management and gpu's and processing...thats a lot for just 1ghz. I mean 95% of all gpu's (graphics processing units)have between 750mhz and 1ghz just for themselves and a separate cpu clocked at 2ghz+ and separate mem control for real sticks of memory, and are needed to play hd rich content and opengl products. also an HD YouTube video is not High Definition....I dont care what anyone says...unless the pad can play bluray it doesnt play hidef. i also think that is why the pad is forced to run an iphone os because anyform of leapord would not be able to work as smoothly on this SoC. the reason why it is so fast and so smooth is because the OS is dumbed down enough to work reasonably smooth on a SoC in a iPhone. just having a blown up iPod/iPhone with a blown up SoC will increase the performance/battery life on an iPhone os but lets see how it handles anything else. Most netbooks use SoC's aswell but theirs are clocked at 2ghz+ and play hd content on them is still iffy at best. And god knows i would never want to play any MODERN openGl game on a netbook id have to turn all my settings way down and pray that it doesnt skip too badly. what makes the most sense to me is the LED screens put onto the pad..that will clear any content up to look HD in my opinion. So in short...if they wanted to make the pad a lil cooler they coulda put a REAL chip in and made it slightly thicker fit a opengl standard video card (nvidia preferably) and stuck with flash memory and then that thing would be sweet probably run leapord aswell.
      amen ticko, amen. sums up my thoughts exactly.