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iPad's custom Apple A4 processor includes ARM-based CPU, GPU

post #1 of 198
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Details of Apple's custom-built processor inside the newly unveiled iPad are beginning to surface, with a report stating the system-on-a-chip includes an ARM Cortex-A9-based CPU accompanied by a GPU.

According to Bright Side of News, the Apple A4 is based mostly on intellectual property from ARM reference designs. The new, custom chip from Apple, through its purchase of fabless chip designer P.A. Semi, includes the Cortex-A9 MPCore (identical to the processor in the nVidia Tegra and Qualcomm Snapdragon), a ARM Mali 50-series GPU, and a memory controller all on one die.

"The A stands obviously for Apple, and the difference between the Samsung processor inside the iPhone 3Gs and A4 is the clockspeed and the core type," the report said. "A4 runs at 1GHz while the chip on iPhone 3GS works clocked to 0,6GHz. This is one of main reasons why iPad can deliver a lively interface compared to stale iPhone one."

Reference designs for the Cortex-A9 call for either two or four cores. The architecture is the successor to the ARM Cortex-A8 upon which the 600MHz iPhone 3GS is based.

As noted in AppleInsider's hands-on impressions with the new iPad, the next-generation processor even makes Apple's speedy iPhone 3GS seem a little slow. It's possible that the new iPhone model, expected to be introduced this year, could also sport a custom Apple-built chip.

Bright Side of News allegedly learned that Apple and P.A. Semi were contracting with ARM when they spoke with the company's CEO, Warren East, during the Global Foundries event in Las Vegas. As first reported by AppleInsider in 2008, Apple has been a licensee of the ARM architecture for years. Apple purchased P.A. Semi for $278 million in 2008.

Pictured in Apple's iPad video presentation, the new A4 processor was manufactured in September of 2009. Previous rumors have alleged that the processor is likely designed in-house, but manufactured by Samsung.



Apple claims the power efficiency of the chip will allow the iPad to offer users 10 hours of battery life in use, and over a month of standby.

"iPad is powered by our own custom silicon. We have an incredible group that does custom silicon at Apple," company co-founder Steve Jobs said during Wednesday's keynote. "We have a chip called A4, which is our most advanced chip we've ever done that powers the iPad. It's got the processor, the graphics, the I/O, the memory controller -- everything in this one chip, and it screams."



post #2 of 198
So...this A4 chip is a multicore processor?
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post #3 of 198
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rogzilla View Post

So...this A4 chip is a multicore processor?

Yes. It's a multi-core ARM Cortex-A9 CPU similar to that of NVIDIA Tegra 2

That's quoting THIS site.
post #4 of 198
Is this an assumption? I don't see any empirical data to back up the idea that Apple didn't modify the processor or GPU.
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post #5 of 198
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rogzilla View Post

So...this A4 chip is a multicore processor?

Yes, and it can multitask.

http://www.arm.com/products/CPUs/ARM...A9_MPCore.html

http://www.tomshardware.com/news/App...rtex,9528.html


http://www.slashgear.com/apple-ipad-...ailed-2871865/

Just need to wait for the OS to catch up with the hardwares capabilities.
post #6 of 198
I wonder if we'll see an iMac or MacBook running on an ARM chip in the next 10 years.
post #7 of 198
multicore iphone
post #8 of 198
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

According to Bright Side of News, the Apple A4 is based mostly on intellectual property from ARM reference designs. The new, custom chip from Apple, through its purchase of fabless chip designer P.A. Semi, includes the Cortex-A9 MPCore (identical to the processor in the nVidia Tegra and Qualcomm Snapdragon), a ARM Mali 50-series GPU, and a memory controller all on one die.

Fact check please? Just because BSN didn't bother to be precise doesn't mean you should. Nvidia's Tegra uses ARM11 cores (however, Tegra 2 uses dual Cortex A9s) and the Snapdragon isn't powered by A9 either.

Furthermore, A9 doesn't necessarily have to implemented in multicore configurations. Surely Apple would have mentioned that the iPad was multicore in its tech specs?
post #9 of 198
Steve Jobs also said that their software guys worked with the chip designers. Maybe GCD (Grand Central Dispatch) related hardware features or special support for parts of OS X that the software guys discovered to be slow in profiling their code. There are lots of interesting things they could be doing with custom extensions to the ARM instruction set that a normal CPU vendor wouldn't be able to do. GCD is part of Apple's power efficiency strategy, so special scheduling support in the CPU might be interesting.
post #10 of 198
The big question I have is whether or not the A4 (or a variant) will also be able to be used in a future iPhone and/or iPod Touch...

A combined CPU/GPU chip could lead to even more powerful and energy efficient devices that will make it even harder for competitive devices to keep up....
post #11 of 198
Quote:
Originally Posted by esummers View Post

Steve Jobs also said that their software guys worked with the chip designers. Maybe GCD (Grand Central Dispatch) related hardware features or special support for parts of OS X that the software guys discovered to be slow in profiling their code. There are lots of interesting things they could be doing with custom extensions to the ARM instruction set that a normal CPU vendor wouldn't be able to do. GCD is part of Apple's power efficiency strategy, so special scheduling support in the CPU might be interesting.

I'm thinking more of OpenCL stuff.
post #12 of 198
Sure Apple hasn't come out with the UI for multitasking yet, but there's also how much RAM the iPad has (for actually running applications, not for storage). That's what is killing jailbroken iPhones from effectively running multiple apps at once, namely the limited amount of RAM. The 3GS has greatly help, by having double the amount of RAM from the previous models.

Anybody know how much the iPad has?
post #13 of 198
Whatever it is, Apple making it themselves will translate into a better experience for the user. Whether it has incredible power/energy consumption ratio, or it simply optimized to take advantage of mobile OSX better than any other chip, you can bet they've chosen this as the greater of several options.

Amazing though that their first product of this kind is seen in this new device. Can't wait to revision b
post #14 of 198
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zandros View Post

Fact check please? Just because BSN didn't bother to be precise doesn't mean you should. Nvidia's Tegra uses ARM11 cores (however, Tegra 2 uses dual Cortex A9s) and the Snapdragon isn't powered by A9 either.

Furthermore, A9 doesn't necessarily have to implemented in multicore configurations. Surely Apple would have mentioned that the iPad was multicore in its tech specs?

When I first heard A4, I hoped that the "4" stood for the number of cores. I haven't heard any better explanations (unless the A1, A2, and A3 went through some sort of preliminary design before the A4 was created). I don't think it's a given that Apple would explicitly state how many cores it has. They haven't discussed the specs of the iPhone; when the 3GS came out they just said it was faster. Apple told us about the A4 because they made it, that's all. They probably want us to think these run on Apple designed fairy dust or something.
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post #15 of 198
The A4 has 4 core, could it be more obvious ?
post #16 of 198
Quote:
Originally Posted by sidste View Post

Yes, and it can multitask.

http://www.arm.com/products/CPUs/ARM...A9_MPCore.html

http://www.tomshardware.com/news/App...rtex,9528.html


http://www.slashgear.com/apple-ipad-...ailed-2871865/

Just need to wait for the OS to catch up with the hardwares capabilities.

Of course it can, we've been using single core processors for the last 20 years that can multi-task.
post #17 of 198
Quote:
Originally Posted by troehl View Post

The big question I have is whether or not the A4 (or a variant) will also be able to be used in a future iPhone and/or iPod Touch...

A combined CPU/GPU chip could lead to even more powerful and energy efficient devices that will make it even harder for competitive devices to keep up....

The Iphone/Ipod touch already contain a SOC with a CPU/GPU. It is ARM Cortex A8 and the Power VR 540 GPU. The new A4 probably is an ARM Cortex A9 with Power VR GPU I doubt Apple is using MALI when they get great performance from the PowerVR GPU and PowerVR supports OpenCL. The article is so full of factual errors, that it is obvious that they are guessing like everyone else. As far as seeing an A4 in the iphone/itouch. You can bet on it with the next version. The upfront design cost of a modern SOC means you need to build a bunch to make it worthwhile.
post #18 of 198
Quote:
Originally Posted by sidste View Post

Just need to wait for the OS to catch up with the hardwares capabilities.

It ain't going to happen because multitasking on mobile devices simply don't make sense and there is NO logical argument to support that it does.

Considering how quickly you can change apps multi tasking is just a crap idea made by people who don't understand portable devices.

The design of OS X ensures that multitasking isn't needed so there's no reason to add it. I mean how many apps do you NEED to run on a portable device at one time?
post #19 of 198
Quote:
Originally Posted by lowededwookie View Post

It ain't going to happen because multitasking on mobile devices simply don't make sense and there is NO logical argument to support that it does.

Considering how quickly you can change apps multi tasking is just a crap idea made by people who don't understand portable devices.

The design of OS X ensures that multitasking isn't needed so there's no reason to add it. I mean how many apps do you NEED to run on a portable device at one time?

C'mon dudes-
OSX (from the biggest Mac down to the smallest iphone) supports multitasking. This is a kernel property that *all* OS X variants (Mac OS and iPhone OS) share.

What Apple is not allowing you to do is run multiple *3rd Party Apps* concurrently. You most certainly *can* multitask on an iPhone (ever make a call and look at a map at the same time?) The kernel in the OS supports multitasking just fine.

What is limiting you is the *user interface* (e.g., Mac Finder version iPhone UI). Battery life has long been listed as the primary reason for no multi-3rd-pary-app execution in the iPhone, but I suspect that the amount of available memory is a bigger reason for this.

One question I have: does the CPU circuitry included in iPhones (and, presumably, iPads) support demand-paged memory management (or something similar like segmentation)? I don't know the answer to that question. And if the answer is no, then it would be *rather difficult* to allow multitasking (something along the lines of the kludge in WinCE might be possible, but that's ugly to say the least).

Perhaps the reason Apple only multi-tasks their apps and prevents 3rd parties from doing so is because of the memory-management issues. I don't know if this is true or completely off base, but it is a guess. Perhaps someone has some knowledge and can enlighten me?
post #20 of 198
Quote:
Originally Posted by lowededwookie View Post

It ain't going to happen because multitasking on mobile devices simply don't make sense and there is NO logical argument to support that it does.

Considering how quickly you can change apps multi tasking is just a crap idea made by people who don't understand portable devices.

The design of OS X ensures that multitasking isn't needed so there's no reason to add it. I mean how many apps do you NEED to run on a portable device at one time?

At least two that I can think of off the top of my head. For instance, I can't tell you how often I would like to continue listening to Pandora while checking my e-mail or playing solitaire or a tower defense game. The iPad takes this even a step further. If I were say listening to a radio program and wanted to take some notes in Pages. These are just a couple examples of things that I would be doing on a regular basis.
post #21 of 198
Quote:
Originally Posted by lowededwookie View Post

It ain't going to happen because multitasking on mobile devices simply don't make sense and there is NO logical argument to support that it does.

You've obviously never wanted to browse the net whilst listening to Spotify or received a text whilst playing geoDefense.

Have you seen how elegantly WebOS handles multitasking?
post #22 of 198
I'm sure Apple didn't want to spill the beans on iPhone OS 4.0 before this year's iPhone rollout. It's months away, and Steve doesn't want anything to distract consumers from iPad until then.

The key word being "consumers." The iPad is aimed the big fat middle of the bell curve: people who may or may not have a computer at home already. And if they do, they probably hate having to navigate through that 1980s desktop-with-folders office-productivity metaphor. Why should casual computer users be forced to wade through such an archaic interface?

If you're a regular reader of this site, you're at one of the thin edges of that curve. Tech-savvy, opinionated as hell about hardware and software features. Up on all the latest specs, rumors, and full of pet peeves. Well, sorry, but the market is passing us all by.

It's hard to give up the old ways, I know. But not that hard. Especially when the new way is easier.

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post #23 of 198
Quote:
Originally Posted by lowededwookie View Post

It ain't going to happen because multitasking on mobile devices simply don't make sense and there is NO logical argument to support that it does.

No, it does make sense. You know why? Because you can browse web using Safari while listening to music and running Timer in the background. It only makes sense, but it shpuld be implemented properly.

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post #24 of 198
What exactly do you need to multitask? People keep saying that but take a moment and think about it in a practical sense. Are you going to play a game while listening to music... editing a document and watching porn.... all on a 9.3" touch screen. From what I've watched... I see all the Apps open instantly on tap. Within a micro second you are doing whatever you want to. If you need to multitask in the true sense you use a laptop or a desktop. I'd rather have 10 hours of battery life than multitasking on the iPad. I'm sure eventually true multi-tasking will arrive on such a mobile device but defiantly not to sacrifice battery and performance.
post #25 of 198
Just kind of looked around on that "Bright Side News" site: ugh. Doesn't really appear to be a paragon of investigative reporting, and the Apple stuff, in particular, seems to be larded with pointless snark.

I'll wait for the grownups to get a read on the A4.
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post #26 of 198
Wow, that's really ignorant, azzurri. YES, people want to continue to listen to music that might _not_ come from "iPod" while reading/writing mail, notes, Pages documents. And YES, a chat client wouldn't take up _that_ much RAM in the background, so the notification-route seems like an unnecessary roundabout. It doesn't mean people want those applications in the _front_ at the same time, just have them running in the background instead of quitting and restarting.
post #27 of 198
Quote:
The A4 has 4 core, could it be more obvious ?

I thought it was because "A4" is (roughly) the size of the paper that the iPad "replaces".
post #28 of 198
Quote:
Originally Posted by azzurri View Post

What exactly do you need to multitask? People keep saying that but take a moment and think about it in a practical sense. Are you going to play a game while listening to music... editing a document and watching porn.... all on a 9.3" touch screen. From what I've watched... I see all the Apps open instantly on tap. Within a micro second you are doing whatever you want to. If you need to multitask in the true sense you use a laptop or a desktop. I'd rather have 10 hours of battery life than multitasking on the iPad. I'm sure eventually true multi-tasking will arrive on such a mobile device but defiantly not to sacrifice battery and performance.

Crazy people.

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post #29 of 198
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zandros View Post

Fact check please? Just because BSN didn't bother to be precise doesn't mean you should. Nvidia's Tegra uses ARM11 cores (however, Tegra 2 uses dual Cortex A9s) and the Snapdragon isn't powered by A9 either.

Furthermore, A9 doesn't necessarily have to implemented in multicore configurations. Surely Apple would have mentioned that the iPad was multicore in its tech specs?

Just wanted to clarify your comment. Snapdragon is powered by a Cortex family device so is absolutely ARM based, and is closer in performance to an A9 than an A8. The same as is likely of this custom chip from Apple.
post #30 of 198
Quote:
Originally Posted by circuslife View Post

Yes. It's a multi-core ARM Cortex-A9 CPU similar to that of NVIDIA Tegra 2

That's quoting THIS site.

I'm very skeptical. Why would they waste silicon and power on a second core when the OS doesn't support multi-tasking?

And you don't even need multiple cores for multi-tasking.
post #31 of 198
Quote:
Originally Posted by troehl View Post

The big question I have is whether or not the A4 (or a variant) will also be able to be used in a future iPhone and/or iPod Touch...

A combined CPU/GPU chip could lead to even more powerful and energy efficient devices that will make it even harder for competitive devices to keep up....

This has been in all major designs since OMAP2. iPhone 2G, 3G and 3Gs have SoC like this, just not as powerful properly
post #32 of 198
Quote:
Originally Posted by azzurri View Post

What exactly do you need to multitask? People keep saying that but take a moment and think about it in a practical sense. Are you going to play a game while listening to music... editing a document and watching porn.... all on a 9.3" touch screen. From what I've watched... I see all the Apps open instantly on tap. Within a micro second you are doing whatever you want to. If you need to multitask in the true sense you use a laptop or a desktop. I'd rather have 10 hours of battery life than multitasking on the iPad. I'm sure eventually true multi-tasking will arrive on such a mobile device but defiantly not to sacrifice battery and performance.

Have you guys ever made a presentation or something like that?
There is no way to make that without multitasking. You need keynote running, safar, for images, and informations, a messenger to communicate with your colleague, a dictionary, e-book reader to quote from books, and so on...
The ones telling, that multitasking is not needed at all, probably have no idea of productivity!
post #33 of 198
Quote:
Originally Posted by azzurri View Post

What exactly do you need to multitask? People keep saying that but take a moment and think about it in a practical sense. Are you going to play a game while listening to music... editing a document and watching porn.... all on a 9.3" touch screen. From what I've watched... I see all the Apps open instantly on tap. Within a micro second you are doing whatever you want to. If you need to multitask in the true sense you use a laptop or a desktop. I'd rather have 10 hours of battery life than multitasking on the iPad. I'm sure eventually true multi-tasking will arrive on such a mobile device but defiantly not to sacrifice battery and performance.

Yes, agree completely. "You mean I can't listening to music while playing video games?! It takes a fraction of a second to push the current thing I'm doing aside and launch another task! But I have to be able to play Mobsters online, while I wait for a girl to maybe message me on Facebook!"

It's nice to see that Apple resisted the temptation to market this device towards teenagers (the most prolific, but least savvy tech demographic). The lack of a video camera means this device will flourish in IT, where cameras are not typically welcome. The other problem is that if you put one on the face, you can't point it and click the screen to take the picture with any ease. Putting a camera on the back, means all the people wanting to video conference can't use it. So the only answer is to add 2 cameras, which of course brought up the question "why do we even need a camera on this?" It would seem to Apple that the vanity of whiny, entitled teens is not a compelling technical need. Maybe they'll make an iMirror to meet demand for all those that can't go five minutes without looking at themselves.

Most people (brats) here don't need cameras or multi-tasking, they need the iCry then the iShutTheF@ckUp apps. You think they'd just be stoked to have an upgrade to the iPod Touch that makes masturbation a better experience with the larger screen? Guess they'll just have to use their existing device to take pictures of themselves doing "it".
post #34 of 198
Quote:
Originally Posted by drivendriver View Post

I'm very skeptical. Why would they waste silicon and power on a second core when the OS doesn't support multi-tasking?

And you don't even need multiple cores for multi-tasking.

The OS does support multi-tasking. The only programs which can use multi-tasking are built by Apple. All other programs must quit. If you ever get a notification when you are playing a game guess what that is multi-tasking. The reason for using multi cores, is to reduce power consumption. When a core is unused you can shut it off and then if a process needs a core you turn it back on. The number of transistor for a given area continues to shrink with Moore's Law and you need to do something with all the extra transistors. With Apple designing their own chips they can use the transistor for what they think is important rather then what Intel or Samsung build.
post #35 of 198
I would've thought A4 was referring to a sheet of paper, and Apple meant it for the iPad, so it fits perfectly. But I could be wrong...
post #36 of 198
Quote:
Originally Posted by esummers View Post

Steve Jobs also said that their software guys worked with the chip designers. Maybe GCD (Grand Central Dispatch) related hardware features or special support for parts of OS X that the software guys discovered to be slow in profiling their code. There are lots of interesting things they could be doing with custom extensions to the ARM instruction set that a normal CPU vendor wouldn't be able to do. GCD is part of Apple's power efficiency strategy, so special scheduling support in the CPU might be interesting.

Insightful point!
post #37 of 198
Quote:
Originally Posted by drivendriver View Post

I'm very skeptical. Why would they waste silicon and power on a second core when the OS doesn't support multi-tasking?

And you don't even need multiple cores for multi-tasking.

What comes out in June? New iPhones. What does that mean? iPhone OS 4.0. What do we know about iPhone OS 4.0. Nothing. Could it include multitasking? Most definitely. Will Apple still be selling this tablet when iPhone OS 4.0 comes out? Yes would be a good guess.

iPhone OS 3.2 is the launch OS, but I suspect we might get a preview of iPhone OS 4.0 before this tablet actually starts selling (history indicates they will have a preview in March). I'm hoping for lots of goodies in 4.0 for both my iPhone and the iPad that I will almost inevitably buy.

PS: Individual programs can be and are multi-threaded, so you don't even need to multi-task to make use of multiple cores.

I guess the only real question is why I replied to a first poster who is most likely trolling.
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post #38 of 198
Quote:
Originally Posted by lowededwookie View Post

It ain't going to happen because multitasking on mobile devices simply don't make sense and there is NO logical argument to support that it does.

Considering how quickly you can change apps multi tasking is just a crap idea made by people who don't understand portable devices.

The design of OS X ensures that multitasking isn't needed so there's no reason to add it. I mean how many apps do you NEED to run on a portable device at one time?

I agree with your general point here - particularly for phones. But I think the game changes when your "portable device" is the iPad which is closer to a laptop in most respects. Once you start creating content instead of just viewing it, read Pages, Keynote here, then you enter territory where your "multitasking isn't needed" breaks down.

Perhaps this is one reason that SDK 3.2 is iPad only?
post #39 of 198
No it's named after the Burroughs A4 ;-) from its A Series, the later version of the original B5000. The link is very close - Robert (Bob) Barton designed the B5000 and later taught students such as Alan Kay at Uni of Utah. Kay of course started all this Mac and iPad stuff at Xerox and later worked at Apple. His original thinking came up with the Dynabook:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dynabook

Maybe Barton was the original different thinker of the industry - design hardware and software together, radical for early 1960s. They also wrote all system software exclusively in a high-level language ALGOL long before Unix was done in that pale rip-off C (the scourge of computer security). Burroughs machines had true mutlitasking, multiprocessing and virtual memory before the others and championed stack-based architectures that are now in virtual machines:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_(Bob)_Barton

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burroughs_large_systems

Thus Burroughs was influential in all the good things we have now and it would be nice to think the A4 as a subtle tribute to that!
post #40 of 198
.. I'm sorry, but this thing just baffles me. I felt seriously sorry for Jobs, watching the keynote and seeing all those webpages load with the missing Flashplayer icon. I see he's totally into it, and honestly seems to believe in it, but no camera? iPhone OS? It sucks on the iPhone, why wouldn't it suck more on a 9" screen? I guess i could see this thing being kinda cool in a classroom, for rented textbooks, etc.. but, how about a little OLED clamshell, real keyboard, 16:9 screen, blu-ray support or even an internal blu-ray drive (Shoot, while their at it, how about an HD-DVD/Blu-Ray drive for all us suckers who adopted HD-DVD) Did Apple actually do any customer market research on this thing? Because i know if apple asked ANY of us about it, they'd have made something very different (or at least incorporated desired/functional features). I'd pay $900 for something like that. They've mastered overseas manufacturing for pennies on the dollar, made billions in the last few years. How about giving people a price break and offering something seriously killer??? I'm optimistic they could make up the profit loss in volume??? I love Apple, don't get me wrong, i've been fully Apple from the get-go, but this thing just seems like a rich guy's toy, about 3 years behind the times.
Ugh.. my rant is over.
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