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New ARM chips offer glimpse of future Apple products

post #1 of 32
Thread Starter 
Chip designer ARM announced this week new dual core Cortex-A9 processors capable of breaking the 2GHz barrier, perhaps foreshadowing the muscle behind Apple's future mobile devices.

According to ARM, the Cortex-A9 MPCore "hard macro implementations" will enable chip makers to create even higher-performance devices from the low-power chips in "high density and thermally constrained environments" that the processors are usually found in, like the iPhone and iPod touch. In addition, the new design consumes less than 250mW per CPU while at peak performance.

"The Cortex-A9 MPCore processor has already been widely accepted as the processor of choice for high-performance embedded applications across a broad spectrum of demanding consumer and enterprise devices, said Eric Schorn, vice president of marketing for ARM's processor division. "ARMs parallel development of advanced, optimized physical IP components demonstrates a new level of collaborative differentiation while enabling our Partners to expand their penetration into high margin domains traditionally occupied by proprietary architectures."

While the implementations are now available for license to chipmakers, the Cambridge, U.K., company said hardware availability is expected in the fourth quarter of 2009.

The new chips could be a sign of what is to come in future iPhones, iPods or other hardware. While ARM creates reference designs, other chipmakers will license those designs, and obtain the right to modify and/or customize them.

Released this year, the iPhone 3GS is powered by a single-core ARM Cortex-A8 from Samsung that runs at about 600MHz. But like on desktop PCs, multi-core architectures are seen as the way of the future for ARM chips, and the new dual core Cortex-A9 is representative of that.

Apple is working to create its own custom iPhone chips after the $278 million acquisition of P.A. Semi in 2008. It is likely that when P.A. Semi creates a chip for the new iPhone, the newly announced dual core ARM chips could serve as a guideline for chip development.

But perhaps the design elements could show up even sooner, in Apple's long-rumored tablet. Months ago, sources told AppleInsider that P.A. Semi is likely to design the chips inside the the hardware maker's forthcoming 10-inch multi-touch device. The new hardware is expected to arrive in early 2010.

The ARM processor outfitted in the iPhone 3GS is separate from the PowerVR SGX GPU employed in the handset. That graphics processor has enabled both the new iPhone and the iPod touch to have OpenGL ES 2.0 support.

While the new ARM Cortex-A9 chips are said to be capable of 2GHz, previous processors in the iPhone and iPod touch have been underclocked from their maximum potential power. Regardless, one would expect any new hardware would provide a performance boost over the current offering.

"ARMs long-standing investment in low-power leadership and ability to develop such high-performance devices enables licensees to lower the cost and risk of entering the high-margin markets currently addressed with competing proprietary solutions," said Will Strauss, principal analyst at Forward Concepts. "With single-thread performance capable of supporting very intensive workloads, the unprecedented level of power efficiency will enable licensees to introduce compelling new products."
post #2 of 32
Apple Tablet:

Mac inside.
As light as possible (no more than 400 g or so).
As small as possible (pocketable would be great).
Video-out.
USB 2.

The ultimate Keynote and PowerPoint presentation device. Here is an order of thousands for our University.
post #3 of 32
If these cores are slightly more advanced versions of the Cortex 8, then even if Apple ran them at half speed, two of them running at 1GHz would be 4 times as powerful as what's in the 3GS and new iPod Touch. What GPU would be paired with it? The top Imagination chip does 30 million triangles a second as opposed to the 14 million for the phone and Touch. would that be enough for a tablet with possibly three to four times as many pixels?
post #4 of 32
This could be designed into one impressive low power SoC. I'm think total power draw with the support I/O and the GPU might be under two watts with everything running flat out. Assuming Apple optimizs for performance in GPU performance, a good size cache and I/O suitable for a tablet.

Using tech like this I could see a single core going into iPhone and doubling performance again. Life is going to be interesting in Apple land next year.

Dave
post #5 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by melgross View Post

If these cores are slightly more advanced versions of the Cortex 8, then even if Apple ran them at half speed, two of them running at 1GHz would be 4 times as powerful as what's in the 3GS and new iPod Touch. What GPU would be paired with it? The top Imagination chip does 30 million triangles a second as opposed to the 14 million for the phone and Touch. would that be enough for a tablet with possibly three to four times as many pixels?

Can you pair the A9 with the Nvidia 9400M?
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post #6 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by zunx View Post

Apple Tablet:

Mac inside.
As light as possible (no more than 400 g or so).
As small as possible (pocketable would be great).
Video-out.
USB 2.

The ultimate Keynote and PowerPoint presentation device. Here is an order of thousands for our University.

1) Under a pound is impossible for a device that has a 9.6 display.
2) If you want a pocketable device you have the iPod Touch.
3) Video out and USB are a giving, even iPods have that.
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post #7 of 32
I can't see a 10 inch tablet using what the iPhone/iPod uses. Rather I see the 10 inch tablet using the same thing as the Macbook Air, an Intel chip and Nvidia or ATI graphics.
post #8 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by Leonard View Post

I can't see a 10 inch tablet using what the iPhone/iPod uses. Rather I see the 10 inch tablet using the same thing as the Macbook Air, an Intel chip and Nvidia or ATI graphics.

Would Ion (Atom + Nvidia 9400M) or something along those lines from PA Semi seems most reasonable to me for this mythical tablet?
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post #9 of 32
This article is somewhat misleading. According to ARM's press release, the Cortex A9 with two cores and 2.0 gHz clock frequency would operate at 1.9 watts. Still, that is less that the Atom's 2.5 watts, and when you consider that the A9 would be part of a SoC, the total savings would be even greater. Also, according to their slides (which I would personally take with a grain of salt), a 2.0 ghz dual-core A9 has about 3 times the performance as a 1.6 ghz atom. Even though it was their slide, it sounds plausible, given hat the atom is single core and in-order, while the A9 is dual-core and out-of-order.

I think we're all really underestimating apple's boldness right now. From what I can gather, most people aren't considering the possibility that Apple might adopt a 2 architecture strategy for OS X. Price, raw performance and performance per watt are on ARM's side, and will be for the foreseeable future. Not only that, but ARm is so much more competitive and customizable than x86, and that alone would make it attractive to apple. They did it from PowerPC to x86, and most developers still have their PowerPC code. What I'm saying is that since the ARM CPU is so much better in the market segments where it competes with Intel, and since OS X code and third-party apps are very portable, and since the fat applications like Photoshop and windows dual-booting won't really have a market on a low power notebook anyway....
post #10 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by labrats5 View Post

This article is somewhat misleading. According to ARM's press release, the Cortex A9 with two cores and 2.0 gHz clock frequency would operate at 1.9 watts. Still, that is less that the Atom's 2.5 watts, and when you consider that the A9 would be part of a SoC, the total savings would be even greater. Also, according to their slides (which I would personally take with a grain of salt), a 2.0 ghz dual-core A9 has about 3 times the performance as a 1.6 ghz atom. Even though it was their slide, it sounds plausible, given hat the atom is single core and in-order, while the A9 is dual-core and out-of-order.

I think we're all really underestimating apple's boldness right now. From what I can gather, most people aren't considering the possibility that Apple might adopt a 2 architecture strategy for OS X. Price, raw performance and performance per watt are on ARM's side, and will be for the foreseeable future. Not only that, but ARm is so much more competitive and customizable than x86, and that alone would make it attractive to apple. They did it from PowerPC to x86, and most developers still have their PowerPC code. What I'm saying is that since the ARM CPU is so much better in the market segments where it competes with Intel, and since OS X code and third-party apps are very portable, and since the fat applications like Photoshop and windows dual-booting won't really have a market on a low power notebook anyway....

This Wikipedia section (and all the citations) backs that up.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intel_Atom#Competition
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post #11 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

2) If you want a pocketable device you have the iPod Touch.

Agreed ! What kind of giant old man pants are people taking about for pocketing a tablet any bigger than an iPhone?!

At a future Apple event Steve will unveil ManBags crafted from the finest Corinthian leather - to carry our tablets around.

Quote:
AppleInsider February 2006:
Apple today also announced new luxurious leather cases designed specifically for the fifth generation iPod and iPod nano models. The "Leather Case for iPod" is made with fine, hand-crafted Italian leather and features a soft and durable interior lining for a secure fit, making it the perfect carrying case for iPod or iPod nano.
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post #12 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by labrats5 View Post

From what I can gather, most people aren't considering the possibility that Apple might adopt a 2 architecture strategy for OS X. Price, raw performance and performance per watt are on ARM's side, and will be for the foreseeable future.

Apple already has OS X running on 2 different architectures:
Mac OS X and the iPhone/iPod touch OS.

I'm no programmer, but from what I understand both OSes share quite a bit of code.

In fantasyland i could see the mythical tablet..

A. running the iPhone/iPod touch OS
or
B. running Mac OS X with the ability to run iPhone/iPod touch apps directly.

I tend to think A.

At some point, I could also see both OSes running concurrently on the Mac OS X desktop (like Parallels, Fusion and VirtualBox) AND possibly expanding the capabilities of the AppleTV by making it able to run the iPhone/iPod touch OS.

It just feels like there's some sort of OS X convergence heading our way. Soon? Maybe?
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post #13 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by melgross View Post

If these cores are slightly more advanced versions of the Cortex 8, then even if Apple ran them at half speed, two of them running at 1GHz would be 4 times as powerful as what's in the 3GS and new iPod Touch. What GPU would be paired with it? The top Imagination chip does 30 million triangles a second as opposed to the 14 million for the phone and Touch. would that be enough for a tablet with possibly three to four times as many pixels?

All you have to realise is that there are already tablets and UMP's running Windows Vista on Atom chips, that get somewhere between "half-assed" and "okay" performance and you can see how Apple's tablet could have rather remarkable performance using this technology.

The Cortex 8 outperforms the Atom, and OS-X for iPhone outperforms Vista on small devices. The Cortex 9 is much faster than that, and PA-Semi is supposedly working on a custom SOC based on the Cortex 9 with integrated hardware acceleration and OpenCL support.

We won't know until we see it, but the processor in the tablet (if there even *is* a tablet), could easily be an order of magnitude faster than anything seen so far in the small portable market IMO.
post #14 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by walshbj View Post

... At a future Apple event Steve will unveil ManBags crafted from the finest Corinthian leather - to carry our tablets around.

I've already spent some time designing a bag for my tablet and picking out the leather too. I'm just waiting for the dimensions to be released.

I'm going to be seriously disillusioned if the tablet turns out to be a myth.
post #15 of 32
Anyone remember what powered the original Apple "tablet"--the Newton? That's right, ARM! You win a naked mole rat. (For you Mac OGs out there)
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post #16 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gazoobee View Post

I've already spent some time designing a bag for my tablet and picking out the leather too. I'm just waiting for the dimensions to be released.

I'm going to be seriously disillusioned if the tablet turns out to be a myth.

No sketches?!
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post #17 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by jeffharris View Post

Apple already has OS X running on 2 different architectures:
Mac OS X and the iPhone/iPod touch OS.

I'm no programmer, but from what I understand both OSes share quite a bit of code.

In fantasyland i could see the mythical tablet..

A. running the iPhone/iPod touch OS
or
B. running Mac OS X with the ability to run iPhone/iPod touch apps directly.

I tend to think A.

At some point, I could also see both OSes running concurrently on the Mac OS X desktop (like Parallels, Fusion and VirtualBox) AND possibly expanding the capabilities of the AppleTV by making it able to run the iPhone/iPod touch OS.

It just feels like there's some sort of OS X convergence heading our way. Soon? Maybe?

When I said "two architecture strategy for OS X", I probably should have said "two architecture strategy for OS X big cat edition ______. I thought that was clear, but I guess not. I just think that the downside of having developers port code (that has already proven to be very portable), and not being able to run windows on a few low end computers comes even close to outweighing the advantage of being able to smother Windows netbooks in performance, battery life, and even price, all while maintaining Applesque margins.
post #18 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by labrats5 View Post

This article is somewhat misleading. According to ARM's press release, the Cortex A9 with two cores and 2.0 gHz clock frequency would operate at 1.9 watts. Still, that is less that the Atom's 2.5 watts, and when you consider that the A9 would be part of a SoC, the total savings would be even greater. Also, according to their slides (which I would personally take with a grain of salt), a 2.0 ghz dual-core A9 has about 3 times the performance as a 1.6 ghz atom. Even though it was their slide, it sounds plausible, given hat the atom is single core and in-order, while the A9 is dual-core and out-of-order.

I think we're all really underestimating apple's boldness right now. From what I can gather, most people aren't considering the possibility that Apple might adopt a 2 architecture strategy for OS X. Price, raw performance and performance per watt are on ARM's side, and will be for the foreseeable future. Not only that, but ARm is so much more competitive and customizable than x86, and that alone would make it attractive to apple. They did it from PowerPC to x86, and most developers still have their PowerPC code. What I'm saying is that since the ARM CPU is so much better in the market segments where it competes with Intel, and since OS X code and third-party apps are very portable, and since the fat applications like Photoshop and windows dual-booting won't really have a market on a low power notebook anyway....

I am just wondering where did you read that A9 uses 1.9W ?
post #19 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by zunx View Post

Apple Tablet:

Mac inside.
As light as possible (no more than 400 g or so).
As small as possible (pocketable would be great).
Video-out.
USB 2.

The ultimate Keynote and PowerPoint presentation device. Here is an order of thousands for our University.

1) Under a pound is impossible for a device that has a 9.6 display.
2) If you want a pocketable device you have the iPod Touch.
3) Video out and USB are a giving, even iPods have that.

Mmmh, don't know about the parent poster but I'd think about a regular USB female.
For plugging external storage, printers, scanners, external audio cards, whatever one would need on the go without having to resort to plug into a "real" computer or connect to a properly setup network.

If Apple is designing its hypothetical tablet to be just a PIM/PMP on steroids, that would not be necessary, but if they want it to be a real touch computer (ie an alternative to notebooks) they should better include it to make it fully functional.
post #20 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by abundance View Post

Mmmh, don't know about the parent poster but I'd think about a regular USB female.
For plugging external storage, printers, scanners, external audio cards, whatever one would need on the go without having to resort to plug into a "real" computer or connect to a properly setup network.

If Apple is designing its hypothetical tablet to be just a PIM/PMP on steroids, that would not be necessary, but if they want it to be a real touch computer (ie an alternative to notebooks) they should better include it to make it fully functional.

Not a female, really, but it is true that many of such devices I am asking for have been requested by females. You got it... LOL...

Anyway, what we need is a device as light and small as possible, for full blown presentations from NATIVE Keynote and PowerPoint presentations. Because even the MacBook Air is too HEAVY and too LARGE for us. We do not need it to work on it, but just for the presentations. And the iPhone or iPod touch cannot deliver that, which requires a FULL MAC COMPUTER. And we need thousands for our University.
post #21 of 32
Didn't apple acquire PA Semi not too long ago? I figured they might use it in this new iPod touch, but they didn't. Does anyone have any info on the situation?
--SHEFFmachine out
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post #22 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by sheff View Post

Didn't apple acquire PA Semi not too long ago? I figured they might use it in this new iPod touch, but they didn't. Does anyone have any info on the situation?

No info, but plenty of rampant speculation. The most popular theories seem to revolve around a tablet or some sort of device that is somewhere between an iPhone and Mac in terms of size and power.
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post #23 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by sheff View Post

Didn't apple acquire PA Semi not too long ago? I figured they might use it in this new iPod touch, but they didn't. Does anyone have any info on the situation?

There have been a number of facts which point toward Apple using a ARM processor core with PowerVR for Graphics. If Apple is making their own SOC, they will probably use the basic design in all their mobile products because the real cost savings come when you make alot of them. Assuming they go with an A9 with PowerVR they can vary the clock speed to meet power requirements for the individual devices higher clock for tablet and lower for Iphone/Touch. IF we want a rough idea of what the design will look like, look at what TI is delivering in the OMAP 4.

OMAP 4
post #24 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by zunx View Post

Apple Tablet:

Mac inside.
As light as possible (no more than 400 g or so).
As small as possible (pocketable would be great).
Video-out.
USB 2.

Funny looking iPhone.
Citing unnamed sources with limited but direct knowledge of the rumoured device - Comedy Insider (Feb 2014)
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Citing unnamed sources with limited but direct knowledge of the rumoured device - Comedy Insider (Feb 2014)
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post #25 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by walshbj View Post

Agreed ! What kind of giant old man pants are people taking about for pocketing a tablet any bigger than an iPhone?!

At a future Apple event Steve will unveil ManBags crafted from the finest Corinthian leather - to carry our tablets around.

Citing unnamed sources with limited but direct knowledge of the rumoured device - Comedy Insider (Feb 2014)
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Citing unnamed sources with limited but direct knowledge of the rumoured device - Comedy Insider (Feb 2014)
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post #26 of 32
"a new level of collaborative differentiation" ??? Thanks for the press release.
post #27 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

Can you pair the A9 with the Nvidia 9400M?

I have no idea.
post #28 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by walshbj View Post

Agreed ! What kind of giant old man pants are people taking about for pocketing a tablet any bigger than an iPhone?!

At a future Apple event Steve will unveil ManBags crafted from the finest Corinthian leather - to carry our tablets around.

Hmm! Cargo pants aren't "old man's" pants (though I have some, and a few of you will think I'm old).
post #29 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by jeffharris View Post

Apple already has OS X running on 2 different architectures:
Mac OS X and the iPhone/iPod touch OS.

I'm no programmer, but from what I understand both OSes share quite a bit of code.

In fantasyland i could see the mythical tablet..

A. running the iPhone/iPod touch OS
or
B. running Mac OS X with the ability to run iPhone/iPod touch apps directly.

I tend to think A.

At some point, I could also see both OSes running concurrently on the Mac OS X desktop (like Parallels, Fusion and VirtualBox) AND possibly expanding the capabilities of the AppleTV by making it able to run the iPhone/iPod touch OS.

It just feels like there's some sort of OS X convergence heading our way. Soon? Maybe?

Fantasyland is not A, but B, for sure. Sigh! It's what I'd prefer to see,
post #30 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gazoobee View Post

All you have to realise is that there are already tablets and UMP's running Windows Vista on Atom chips, that get somewhere between "half-assed" and "okay" performance and you can see how Apple's tablet could have rather remarkable performance using this technology.

The Cortex 8 outperforms the Atom, and OS-X for iPhone outperforms Vista on small devices. The Cortex 9 is much faster than that, and PA-Semi is supposedly working on a custom SOC based on the Cortex 9 with integrated hardware acceleration and OpenCL support.

We won't know until we see it, but the processor in the tablet (if there even *is* a tablet), could easily be an order of magnitude faster than anything seen so far in the small portable market IMO.

When my daughter went to school abroad this summer, she just wanted a small light simple machine for e-mail, Skype, and browsing. I bought her a Toshiba mini 200NB. It's a great machine for a netbook, but it's reeaally slow. And it just uses XP STarter.

Today, we went to the Apple store on 58th st, and she bought (that is, I bought) a MacBook Pro 15.4" 2.8 GHz, 500 GB drive with 4 GB RAM, and a, this is the kicker for all of you who took part in the arguments, a matte screen upgrade.

Well its a LITTLE bit faster.

Considering how well reports say that OS X runs on even slow netbooks, I would say that there's likely no problem. But what will Apple want to do?
post #31 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by melgross View Post

Hmm! Cargo pants aren't "old man's" pants (though I have some, and a few of you will think I'm old).

I'm old. And sometimes I wear cargo pants. But I wouldn't want to walk around with a tablet in the pocket.
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post #32 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by walshbj View Post

I'm old. And sometimes I wear cargo pants. But I wouldn't want to walk around with a tablet in the pocket.

It depends on how big it is.
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