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  • A4 Uses "Lean and Mean" 3GS Cortex A8 Chip?


    Relying on unnamed sources, Jon Stokes at Ars Technica is asserting that the Apple's new A4 system-on-a-chip is based on a stripped-down Cortex A8 CPU, and not the faster A9 that some have been speculating about. The iPhone 3GS and iPod touch are based on the A8, though underclocked to 600 MHz to save power. The CPU on the A4 SoC is believed to run at 1 GHz clock speed.

    When the A4 was announced along with the iPad in January, many observers theorized that the CPU would be a wholly new design that Apple would have developed in-house with the talent from their acquisition of chipmaker P.A. Semi. After the device's specs were revealed, however, it seemed more likely that the CPU was a dual core Cortex-A9 with advanced power-management technology to achieve the 10-hour battery life that Apple claimed.

    According to Stokes's sources, though, Apple was able to run the A8 chip up to 1 GHz and still save power because I/O demands were limited. "With one 30-pin connector on the bottom and no integrated camera of any kind," Stokes writes, "the A4 needs a lot less in the way of I/O support than comparable chips... It's lean and mean to a degree that isn't possible with an off-the-shelf SoC." If this supposition proves correct, it could explain why Apple decided to ship the iPad - at least in its initial version - without a camera. lack of a camera has frequently been mentioned as a disappointment by many observers. The lack of camera support in the hardware allowed Apple to improve performance, Stokes theorizes, suggesting that "Apple has probably ditched some dedicated image processing blocks."

    P.A. Semi's role in the development of the A4 chip may have been limited to power management, Stokes thinks. Noting that the new hires had a little time between when P.A. Semi was acquired in April 2008 and the release of the iPad in January 2010, Stokes suggests they brought their "power-gating" expertise from the development of the PWRficient chipset, which was based on two 2GHz superscalar PowerPC cores running at 2 GHz and had a draw of as little as 5 watts. Power gating requires shutting down the parts of a chip that aren't in use, which is difficult to do on high-speed chips. Killing most of the I/O and image processing blocks would have allowed Apple to squeeze a lot more speed out of the A8.

    A separate story on VentureBeat early last month also asserted that the P.A. Semi team didn't work on the A4, but rather the VLSI team that had been developing Apple's custom silicon going back to the northbridges on the G4 and G5. Ars's Stokes joins other observers in speculating that the A4 may power a future iPhone release.
    This article was originally published in forum thread: A4 Uses "Lean and Mean" 3GS Cortex A8 Chip? started by Paul Daniel Ash View original post
    Comments 28 Comments
    1. Carlos's Avatar
      Carlos -
      English please...lol
    1. NessLookAlike's Avatar
      NessLookAlike -
      Quote Originally Posted by Carlos View Post
      English please...lol
      Apple cut out features everyone wanted (see: front facing camera, awesome integrated GPU, maybe more?) in order to boost battery life. The battery life of the iPad isn't high because of specific advances in their battery technology, but because they cut out components (which would have been great!) so that the device consumed less power.

      I'll sell you a magical Apple car that consumes no gas because it has no engine..
    1. z3r01's Avatar
      z3r01 -
      cortex , cotex, just gimme my damn iPad already!
    1. Conas's Avatar
      Conas -
      I don't think the iPad needs a camera. If it had a camera, I would have 3 cameras every where I go. iPhone, Nikon, and iPad. Kinda senseless. I wonder you'll be able to hook USB devices to the iPad, and grab photos from your cameras.

      Still a pretty impressive chip, and limiting its capabilities to preserve power is smart thinkin'. It said the 3GS is underclocked at 600 mhz, wow. I'd be happy to unrestrict it and deal with the battery issues.
    1. Bluprint's Avatar
      Bluprint -
      I already know what everyone here is going to say...

      Who needs a camera!
    1. Thatskanyon's Avatar
      Thatskanyon -
      I would love to have my 3GS running at 800mhz! Although, I dunno if carrying around my charger and possibly an extension cord to the office would look very professional lol. Why couldn't apple slap a better battery on the 3GS? Jeez.
    1. s4mb4's Avatar
      s4mb4 -
      like this even matters... we all know Apple will release a iPad+ or iPad 2.0 within 6 - 8 months that will have a little bit better speed and a little bit more memory and a little bit more of something... That is what Apple does and why they are so rich....
    1. mikerlx's Avatar
      mikerlx -
      Why do you guys keep talking about front facing cameras???? We (collectively) have never had a cellphone with a front facing camera to ever do video conference OR ichat anywhere near a cellphone. That tech has not existed on a cellphone also there is no service provider offering this on a cellphone...Am I wrong on this info??

      ^ I changed my mind on purchasing the iPad or special order. I think I will see 3-4 months of unboxings and review on youtube first.
    1. sziklassy's Avatar
      sziklassy -
      Quote Originally Posted by Conas View Post
      I don't think the iPad needs a camera. If it had a camera, I would have 3 cameras every where I go. iPhone, Nikon, and iPad. Kinda senseless. I wonder you'll be able to hook USB devices to the iPad, and grab photos from your cameras.
      I see your logic. You personally have no use for a camera on the iPad therefor there is no need for one.
    1. iTouch-Warrior's Avatar
      iTouch-Warrior -
      Hello everyone! I've been lurking this site for a few months now and I decided to hop in today!

      Quote:
      Originally Posted by Conas View Post
      I don't think the iPad needs a camera. If it had a camera, I would have 3 cameras every where I go. iPhone, Nikon, and iPad. Kinda senseless. I wonder you'll be able to hook USB devices to the iPad, and grab photos from your cameras.

      I see your logic. You personally have no use for a camera on the iPad therefor there is no need for one.
      I too wouldn't need a camera on an iPad...but I recognize that many people would love it to have a camera in it. Just remember this: if it did have a camera...it would most certainly be no more than 3MP...5 at most.

      Someone mentioned above me that Apple always ships a device and then keeps making very little additions and adjustments every few months to keep getting money...and the truth is...they do. They've always done the same thing, with computers and with their iDevices...so the iPad won't be any different, IMHO.
    1. extremzocker's Avatar
      extremzocker -
      Quote Originally Posted by s4mb4 View Post
      like this even matters... we all know Apple will release a iPad+ or iPad 2.0 within 6 - 8 months that will have a little bit better speed and a little bit more memory and a little bit more of something... That is what Apple does and why they are so rich....
      or even an iPadS

      oh, and welcome iTouch-Warrior
    1. dbizzy1's Avatar
      dbizzy1 -
      Touché NessLookAlike, lol
    1. se23's Avatar
      se23 -
      i too was gonna buy but ill think ill wait. and even a straight 5 hours would have been cool.....
    1. StealthBravo's Avatar
      StealthBravo -
      No need for a camera. Hope the preorder happens soon
    1. lolcats1's Avatar
      lolcats1 -
      Quote Originally Posted by StealthBravo View Post
      No need for a camera. Hope the preorder happens soon
      or wifi. without that, the battery will last forever!
    1. StealthBravo's Avatar
      StealthBravo -
      sure, who needs wifi either.
    1. rhekt's Avatar
      rhekt -
      i wouldnt exactly say that i do or dont need a front facing camera on the iPAd. but its allways nice to have features as options and possibilities. who knows, maybe youll find out while your playing an online FPS game that it would be really awesome to have a dropped shadow box, [video conferenced in the upper right corner] with the person your playing against.? technologies endless. draw outside the lines.
    1. moon#pie's Avatar
      moon#pie -
      Quote Originally Posted by mikerlx View Post
      Why do you guys keep talking about front facing cameras???? We (collectively) have never had a cellphone with a front facing camera to ever do video conference OR ichat anywhere near a cellphone. That tech has not existed on a cellphone also there is no service provider offering this on a cellphone...Am I wrong on this info??

      ^ I changed my mind on purchasing the iPad or special order. I think I will see 3-4 months of unboxings and review on youtube first.
      By that time, I would just wait a few more months for the next gen ipad.
    1. mofolo's Avatar
      mofolo -
      Quote Originally Posted by sziklassy View Post
      I see your logic. You personally have no use for a camera on the iPad therefor there is no need for one.
      Personally, I believe if you want to take a photo, use a proper camera.
      The photos mobile phones make are just grainy and pathetic.
    1. politicalslug's Avatar
      politicalslug -
      That's disappointing. I'd rather half the battery life with a Tegra 2 or comparable A9 based SoC. And I may not upgrade my iPhone 3GS in the summer if it's using this A8 chip. That would be a waste of an upgrade.