Posts Tagged ‘Apple A5’

Apple A5 Teardown…

We had decapsulated the A5 a couple of days ago, but as you could see in those early pictures, you can’t tell much of a chip’s layout from the top metal – it’s all power and ground buses.  So we have to de-layer the chip down to a level where we can see the block layout of the chip; not an easy thing when there’s nine layers of metal!  In fact, these days it’s easier to go in from the back and remove the substrate silicon, and look at the gate level from below.  Then we can identify the circuit blocks that make up the full device.

[W]e’ve labeled the key blocks; the ARM cores are in the right half of the die, with ~4.5 Mb of cache memory each.  We can also see the USB interface at the top, and the DDR SDRAM interfaces at the bottom right, for the memory in the top part of the package-on-package.  Other I/O blocks are strewn around the edge of the die.

Interesting stuff.

Posted: March 15th, 2011
Categories: Apple, Geek, Technical Specs, ipad, iphone
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Apple A5 : Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing?

We think the A5 is likely not built around Cortex A9 cores, but instead probably uses two [of] the same custom low-power A8 cores used in the A4. If Apple had indeed used two Cortex A9-based cores, raw performance should be more than double that of a single core A8-based design.

This makes a lot of sense. I noted in February that Apple had received custom silicon for what we expected to be the Apple A5. But that it had not had enough time to transition that silicon into iOS (or ongoing iPad 2 manufacture) for an early 2011 launch. So my best guess was that the iPad 2 would ship with an interim SoC. I suggested something like a beefed up A4, with a faster ARM Cortex A8, and a much better GPU most likely making up an iPad 2 specific Apple A4-and-a-half.

To be honest, until someone (iFixit and friends) rips the silicon in the iPad 2 apart and sticks it under a microscope, none of us will have much more than guesses to go on about what exactly the Apple A5 is. But it seems very likely that Apple has made expedient decisions to maximise performance as well as keep battery life gains.

I’ve have always maintained that Apple’s mobile silicon lineup is more than powerful enough in the CPU department, and what it really needed was a kick on the GPU side. Even the CPU in the original iPhone is still very capable. But the GPUs in all current iOS devices are constantly fighting an uphill battle with fill rate.

It remains to be seen if the iPhone 5 will get this Apple A5, or a further iteration.

Posted: March 8th, 2011
Categories: ARM, Apple, Technical Specs, ipad
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iPad 2 Features Rumour Roundup…

A nice little roundup of what most people think the iPad 2 will offer…

  • Dual Core ARM Cortex A9 CPU.
  • POWERVR SGX543 GPU (with Open CL).
  • No Retina Display, but a less reflective screen more suited to eBook use.
  • Front and Rear Cameras similar to the iPhone 4′s.
  • Gyroscope.
  • More RAM.
  • Smaller, lighter, thinner – especially the screen.
  • NFC capabilities (maybe).

I am hopeful of the “full monty” Apple A5 making an appearance in the iPad 2. i.e. Dual Core ARM Cortex-A9, and the all singing all dancing Imagination Technologies’ POWERVR SGX543 GPU, with OpenCL support and superb OpenGL ES capabilities – approaching OpenGL 3.x in actual fact. But I am still concerned that the silicon was only available to Apple very late last year. So we may be disappointed, or get one half of the full deal.

But all in all I think the collection of rumours Jonny Evans has gleaned from all the usual Apple web sites are pretty solid.

You can take it to the bank that all of the Apple A5 related goodies outlined above will certainly be the core of the iPhone 5.

Oh, one more thing: I don’t think the iPhone 5 will be called by that name exactly.

Posted: February 3rd, 2011
Categories: Apple, Technical Specs, ipad
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Rumour : iPad 2 to Feature 2048 x 1536 Display?

A more practical approach [to increasing the iPad's screen resolution] would simply be doubling the resolution of the current iPad (1024×768) to 2048×1536 at a 260 DPI. While not quite a “Retina” display, it would follow with Apple’s efforts to avoid fragmenting their product line. From a developer’s perspective, the doubling of an existing resolution is much easier to support. Apple similarly doubled the iPhone’s resolution from 480×320 to 960×640 when they introduced the iPhone 4.

Most people hold the iPad further from their face than they do the iPhone, so 260 DPI would appear very close to the quality of the Retina display on the iPhone 4, in real world usage.

[S]ome findings by @StroughtonSmith by way of @Xuzz on Twitter, [seem to show that] Apple is going to take this pixel-doubled approach again for the iPad 2. These icons were also previously found in August.

This was always to be expected.

Based on this information, and persistent rumors of a higher resolution iPad 2, we believe the next iPad will have a 2048×1536 screen resolution. It would also explain why Apple would have to upgrade the GPU on the new devices to drive this higher resolution.

It certainly seems that the stars are aligning for an April iPad 2 launch, rather than late January / early February as I expected. And if Apple is seriously going to quadruple the amount of pixels that the device has to push it seems that we’ll see the PowerVR SGX543 in this new device, which also suggests that it will be based on a dual core ARM SoC which will be bundled as the Apple A5.

The SGX543 is an incredibly capable GPU for a mobile device, even incorporating Open CL capabilities, as well as enabling the use of “higher performance POWERVR SGX cores and multi-processor support”. How much of this Apple will give us remains to be seen.

Posted: January 17th, 2011
Categories: Apple, ipad
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SGX543 Drivers Found in iOS 4.3

[H]ints included in the new iOS 4.3 beta seeded to developers earlier this week indicate that Apple may be preparing to move to Imagination Technologies’ next-generation GPU architecture with the SGX543 on future devices.

From MacRumours.

That is kind of like saying the sun will rise tomorrow! Of course Apple are going to move their mobile GPU line up forward with each generation of iOS device. I am just surprised they let this slip out in some beta software if we are not going to see it sooner, rather than later…

Imagination Technologies extends graphics IP core family with POWERVR™ SGX543
POWERVR graphics roadmap continues to outpace competition with debut of POWERVR Series5XT architecture

Las Vegas, 8th January 2008: Imagination Technologies – the leader in semiconductor System on Chip Intellectual Property (SoC IP) – announces POWERVR SGX543, the first graphics processor IP core based on Imagination’s extended POWERVR Series5XT architecture, which enables higher performance POWERVR SGX cores and multi-processor support.

The debut of POWERVR SGX543 takes the POWERVR roadmap to the next level. The SGX family now offers the ultimate scalability, ranging from the world’s smallest OpenGL™ ES 2.0 mobile core through solutions for performance mobile and HDTV, to high-performance gaming and computing solutions, confirming the ultimate scalability of the Series5 POWERVR SGX architecture.

POWERVR SGX543 is the first POWERVR SGX graphics IP core available in both single core and multi-processor solutions. Imagination will release further details of POWERVR SGX543’s multi-processor capabilities at Multicore Expo 2009 in March.

POWERVR SGX543 – the first POWERVR Series5XT architecture IP core
The four pipeline POWERVR SGX543 is the first in a series of new SGX IP cores that utilise the POWERVR Series5XT architecture, which delivers significant enhancements to the Series5 SGX architecture used in previous SGX IP cores.

SGX543’s wide-ranging architectural enhancements include:

USSE2 – extended USSE™ instruction set with comprehensive vector operations and co-issue capability,

Upgraded tile handling to further reduce memory bandwidth and improve performance for setup-bound applications,

Typically 40% faster performance for ‘shader-heavy’ applications,

2x floating point and 2x hidden surface removal performance,

Enhanced triangle setup delivering up to 50% higher throughput,

Improved multi-sampling anti-aliasing performance,

Features for optimised performance when used with POWERVR VXD and VXE video cores,

Advanced colour space handling and gamma correction,

Further optimised OpenVG 1.x support,

Cache and MMU improvements,

The new POWERVR SGX543 delivers real-world performance of 35 million polygons/sec and 1 Gpixels/sec fillrate at 200MHz,* capable of driving HD screens with ultra smooth high definition 3D graphics. Even in a single-core solution POWERVR SGX543’s performance is unprecedented in any GPU, demonstrating Imagination’s pace of innovation and ability to drive the consumer experience in graphics to levels unheard of only a few years ago in anything less than high end specialist platforms.

Tony King-Smith, VP marketing Imagination Technologies says: “With POWERVR SGX543 Imagination continues to extend its leadership and dominance of the embedded graphics acceleration market with a solution capable of delivering blistering 3D, 2D and vector graphics. The Series5XT architecture enables us to continue to extend our dominance in mobile and embedded graphics solutions by addressing the rapidly growing demands for high performance graphics in a wide range of market segments.”

The POWERVR Series5XT architecture builds on the highly efficient Series5 architecture, which ensures that maximum performance is achieved across a wide range of applications, regardless of whether the content is dominated by polygon throughput, pixel processing, high fill rate or any combination of these. Other architectures that use separate polygon and pixel processing units cannot achieve the sustained throughput or silicon utilisation of POWERVR SGX graphics cores.

USSE2 (Universal Scalable Shader Engine2), the main programmable processing unit within each POWERVR SGX543 pipeline, incorporates a major upgrade of the data path to deliver vastly improved vector processing performance and overall throughput. This datapath upgrade is a key reason why SGX543 delivers on average 40% faster performance for ‘shader-heavy’ applications than earlier POWERVR SGX cores.

USSE2 is a scalable multi-threaded GPU shader processing engine that efficiently processes graphics as well as many other mathematically-intensive tasks. These tasks are automatically broken down into processing packets, which can include parts of shaders, which are then scheduled across a number of hardware multi-threaded execution units for maximum processing efficiency. USSE2 is programmed using the GLSL language that forms part of the OpenGL ES 2.0 API specification from the Khronos Group.

Imagination is also part of the OpenCL Working Group in Khronos defining the new GPGPU processing API, which will enable developers to gain greater access to the full capabilities of USSE2 in a broader range of applications.

From Imagination Technologies.

If I am wrong about the “iPad 2″ being pushed out in the next week or two then this could possibly be the solution to Apple’s fill rate problem on this next model. Most likely this is going to be part of the Apple A5 in the iPhone 5. In any case, when the iPad gets a higher resolution, HD?, screen (either in April or at the end of the year) this will be essential.

The SGX543 also supports OpenCL.

Posted: January 15th, 2011
Categories: Apple, iOS, iPod, ipad, iphone
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TI OMAP4440 : Something like this, Apple?

The OMAP 4 platform is a highly-optimized system-on-chip (SOC) leveraging two ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore general-purpose processors, reaching speeds of 1.5 GHz per core, complemented by two ARM Cortex-M3 cores to power-efficiently offload time-critical and control tasks. High-performance multimedia capabilities are provided by programmable cores including a POWERVR™ 3D graphics engine, TI IVA 3 for high-definition/multi-standard video, TI image signal processor (ISP) for high-quality/high-megapixels imaging, TI low-power audio processor and TI digital signal processor (DSP) based on the TI C64x DSP for natural user interface and signal processing innovations optimized for mobile applications.

Knock a few .1 GHz off, add some custom power management, cull a couple of ports and this is not a bad approximation of what I think the Apple A5 will look like.

Posted: December 9th, 2010
Categories: ARM, Apple
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The Apple A5

Designed using Samsung’s 45 nanometer low-power process technology, Orion features a pair of 1GHz ARM Cortex A9 cores, each comes with a 32KB data cache and a 32KB instruction cache. Samsung also included a 1MB L2 cache to optimize CPU processing performance and provide fast context switching in a multi-tasking environment. In addition, the memory interface and bus architecture of Orion supports data intensive multimedia applications including full HD video playback and high speed 3D action games.

With a little bit of tweaking by “PA Semi” and “Intrinsity” this is going to be the Apple A5.

Using an enhanced graphics processing unit (GPU), the new processors are capable of delivering 5 times the 3D graphics performance over the previous processor generation from Samsung.

**The GPU was supposed to be OpenGL 3.x compatible, and from PowerVR (at least in the Apple A5). But it is possible that Samsung, and therefore also Apple are considering a Mali GPU from ARM.

Orion features an onboard native triple display controller architecture that compliments multi-tasking operations in a multiple display environment. A mobile device using the Orion processor can simultaneously support two on-device display screens, while driving a third external display such as a TV or a monitor, via an on-chip HDMI 1.3a interface.

The iPad 2 & iPhone 5 are going to be rather special.

**It is worth noting that it is possible that Apple are planning an interim speed bump to the Apple A4, which may or may not be called the A5. Pushing a dual core mobile GPU to the moniker A6. In that case the A5 may well be single core and sport the PowerVR GPU.

Posted: September 7th, 2010
Categories: Apple, Samsung, Speculation, Technical Specs
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