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Apple lining up A6 CPU suppliers for 2012 iPad, iPhone

post #1 of 55
Thread Starter 
Apple is said to be already meeting with chip suppliers as it looks toward production of its next-generation "A6" mobile processor in 2012.

The iPhone maker is said to have recently visited packaging and testing firm Siliconware Precision Industries, or SPIL, according to DigiTimes. After viewing the company's assembly line, officials from Apple reportedly discussed "opportunities for cooperation," sources allegedly said.

The report indicated that SPIL is now "likely to snatch outsourcing orders" for the A6 processor, expected to debut next year.

"SPIL stands a chance of becoming the first packaging and testing service provider designated by Apple, cutting into the supply chain of the vendor's processor line, the sources said. SPIL has responded by denying the speculation."

Friday's report said the upcoming A6 is likely to be a quad-core design. Previous reports have indicated the chip will incorporate TSMC's 28-nanometer process and 3D stacking technology.

Just a few weeks ago, Apple was said to have begun trial production of its next-generation A6 processor. The ARM-based CPU is expected to go into mass production in the second quarter of 2012, likely for use in a third-generation iPad.



Trial production of the A6 is allegedly being handled by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company. Numerous reports have indicated that Apple is looking to move away from its rival Samsung, which has handled orders for the A4 processor found in the iPhone 4, and the A5 CPU used in the iPad 2.

Though Samsung was originally the exclusive provider of custom ARM-based chips to Apple, the company is now believed to be utilizing foundry services from TSMC. Samsung remains a major supplier of components to Apple, but the two companies are engaged in a bitter legal dispute where each has accused the other of patent infringement.
post #2 of 55
You think we'll get 4 cores for both the CPU and GPU?
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post #3 of 55
Could you possibly use a larger photo of the previous generation chip to the one talked about in the story next time. I couldn't quite make out each individual atom in the one you posted.
post #4 of 55
Quad-core CPU and perhaps a PowerVR SGX 6 series GPU to power a 2048x1536 Retina Display adequately.

Oh and maybe some LTE love as well.

The iPad 3. One tablet to rule them all.
post #5 of 55
This is getting very exciting. Imagine what Apple will be doing with chips in a few years... I can see Intel and AMD getting out of 'the unprofitable consumer market' soon and joining HP and IBM, specializing in only enterprise systems ...
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post #6 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hattig View Post

Could you possibly use a larger photo of the previous generation chip to the one talked about in the story next time. I couldn't quite make out each individual atom in the one you posted.

I just had deja vu ... didn't we have this exact comment last time they ran this pic?
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post #7 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post

This is getting very exciting. Imagine what Apple will be doing with chips in a few years... I can see Intel and AMD getting out of 'the unprofitable consumer market' soon and joining HP and IBM, specializing in only enterprise systems ...

This is no laughing matter for Intel, much less AMD. Intel clearly missed the boat on the mobile revolution by not having chips that matched the power requirements of Apple when the iPhone debuted in 2007. The PC market continues to be a little to no growth business while mobile is exploding (Every iOS, Android, Win7Phone, & RIM device is an ARM licensee). Apple used to be a much smaller company than Intel, even when Apple changed to Intel chips for the Mac in early 2006. Now it's 2011 and it's Apple that is dictating terms to suppliers.

When an Intel exec said they took seriously that threat that Apple might move some of its mobile Mac business to ARM processors, they weren't kidding. If Apple's custom ARM efforts come within earshot of Core i3/5/7 speeds at better power consumption and prices, I could see Apple making another processor move. They already have done in twice earlier in the life of the Mac. (68000->PPC & PPC->Intel).
post #8 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by dagamer34 View Post

Quad-core CPU and perhaps a PowerVR SGX 6 series GPU to power a 2048x1536 Retina Display adequately.

Oh and maybe some LTE love as well.

The iPad 3. One tablet to rule them all.


Nah. iPad 4 would be the one to wait for.
post #9 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sevenfeet View Post

This is no laughing matter for Intel, much less AMD. Intel clearly missed the boat on the mobile revolution by not having chips that matched the power requirements of Apple when the iPhone debuted in 2007. The PC market continues to be a little to no growth business while mobile is exploding (Every iOS, Android, Win7Phone, & RIM device is an ARM licensee). Apple used to be a much smaller company than Intel, even when Apple changed to Intel chips for the Mac in early 2006. Now it's 2011 and it's Apple that is dictating terms to suppliers.

When an Intel exec said they took seriously that threat that Apple might move some of its mobile Mac business to ARM processors, they weren't kidding. If Apple's custom ARM efforts come within earshot of Core i3/5/7 speeds at better power consumption and prices, I could see Apple making another processor move. They already have done in twice earlier in the life of the Mac. (68000->PPC & PPC->Intel).

And now we have Intel taking a risky move that could hurt their standing with Apple. By that I mean those unibody chassis reference designs Intel is making for other vendors to endure their Core chips are in the future of notebooks, not ARM or AMD. Overall I think it's a smrt move but it's nt without some risks.
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post #10 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post

This is getting very exciting. Imagine what Apple will be doing with chips in a few years... I can see Intel and AMD getting out of 'the unprofitable consumer market' soon and joining HP and IBM, specializing in only enterprise systems ...

I don't see Apple's ARM designs becoming industry leaders any time soon, if ever. ARM is widely licensed and well-understood. Apple licenses ARM not to be king of the hill, but in order to spec out a SoC that is tuned to run a given software stack well and within certain thermal constraints, at an acceptable cost over time. It's not greatly different from their strategy of paying-it-forward and making bulk purchases for other key components, but it does give them an ability to fine-tune what they are getting.
post #11 of 55
If it's quad core presumably they are sticking with ARM Cortex A9. A quad core ARM Cortex A15 would be a monster.
post #12 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by ltcommander.data View Post

If it's quad core presumably they are sticking with ARM Cortex A9. A quad core ARM Cortex A15 would be a monster.

Are the Cortez-A15s going to be ready for early 2012?
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post #13 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post

I just had deja vu ... didn't we have this exact comment last time they ran this pic?

Yep.

Not sure if it's the same person but that comment shows up at least once every time they use the graphic. Personally, I don't get it. We see similar sized pictures of the iPhone all day every day. If we then see a picture of the processor once every few months or so I don't get what the big deal is myself.

I'm sure if you had one of these chips in your hand the first thing you would do it put it right up to your eyeball to see the details.
post #14 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

And now we have Intel taking a risky move that could hurt their standing with Apple. By that I mean those unibody chassis reference designs Intel is making for other vendors to endure their Core chips are in the future of notebooks, not ARM or AMD. Overall I think it's a smrt move but it's nt without some risks.

I don't see the unibody reference designs as a threat. They aren't costed out correctly and the manufacturers aren't using them as is. Besides, a spec is just a spec.
post #15 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

And now we have Intel taking a risky move that could hurt their standing with Apple. By that I mean those unibody chassis reference designs Intel is making for other vendors to endure their Core chips are in the future of notebooks, not ARM or AMD. Overall I think it's a smrt move but it's nt without some risks.

Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

Are the Cortez-A15s going to be ready for early 2012?


Ah... we wuve you Lion...
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post #16 of 55
If the A6 is really quad core, then that must mean that Apple thinks they can make productive use of four cores. They wouldn't make it quad core just for marketing purposes.

So if it really does end up being quad core I'll be very interested to see how Apple ends up making use of all those cores. There's no doubt that iMovie could make use of them. But beyond iMovie, what else would really use quad cores? Would it be useful for a lower power way to play back video? (that is, use all four cores to play back video, but run them at a much lower clock speed?)

Of course, that's assuming we're talking about an iPad. How would four cores end up making sense in a phone? Or maybe Apple would split the line?

Frankly it would not surprise me at all if Apple decides to keep the A6 dual core but with the ability to hit higher clock speeds.
post #17 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by Prof. Peabody View Post

I don't see the unibody reference designs as a threat. They aren't costed out correctly and the manufacturers aren't using them as is. Besides, a spec is just a spec.

When your supplier is trying to give a leg up to your competitors by mimicking a design your competitos can't individually compete with there is a strong opportunity to burn some bridges.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Dick Applebaum View Post

Ah... we wuve you Lion...

IPad autocorrect, actually. \
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post #18 of 55
Bye bye Intel.
post #19 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by Blastdoor View Post

If the A6 is really quad core, then that must mean that Apple thinks they can make productive use of four cores. They wouldn't make it quad core just for marketing purposes.

So if it really does end up being quad core I'll be very interested to see how Apple ends up making use of all those cores. There's no doubt that iMovie could make use of them. But beyond iMovie, what else would really use quad cores? Would it be useful for a lower power way to play back video? (that is, use all four cores to play back video, but run them at a much lower clock speed?)

Of course, that's assuming we're talking about an iPad. How would four cores end up making sense in a phone? Or maybe Apple would split the line?

Frankly it would not surprise me at all if Apple decides to keep the A6 dual core but with the ability to hit higher clock speeds.

Things I would hope to see:
-- improved mirroring of video between the iPad and other iPads, iMacs and AppleTV
-- use of the iPad as Personal TV, receiving streamed content from AppleTV or other CableCo STB (multiple concurrent streamed channels to multiple iPads)
-- improved touch resolution/granularity supporting a stylus, the iPad as a graphic/cad tablet
-- if not standalone FCPX, an FCPX client app to use the iPad as a multitouch control surface/display for FCPX running on a Mac
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post #20 of 55
SOT -- Somewhat Off Topic

AAPL Market cap is higher than XOM.

Wouldn't it be sweet if the day that Apple moved ahead, for good -- was Tim Cook's second day on the job...

C'mon Tim -- what's taking you so long?
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post #21 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dick Applebaum View Post

Things I would hope to see:
-- improved mirroring of video between the iPad and other iPads, iMacs and AppleTV
-- use of the iPad as Personal TV, receiving streamed content from AppleTV or other CableCo STB (multiple concurrent streamed channels to multiple iPads)
-- improved touch resolution/granularity supporting a stylus, the iPad as a graphic/cad tablet
-- if not standalone FCPX, an FCPX client app to use the iPad as a multitouch control surface/display for FCPX running on a Mac

seems like none of those things require a quad core CPU (better GPU perhaps, but not a quad core CPU).

One other thought occurred to me after my OP -- if Apple were to add high quality and pervasive voice recognition, that could certainly keep another core or two busy.
post #22 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by Blastdoor View Post

If the A6 is really quad core, then that must mean that Apple thinks they can make productive use of four cores. They wouldn't make it quad core just for marketing purposes.

So if it really does end up being quad core I'll be very interested to see how Apple ends up making use of all those cores. There's no doubt that iMovie could make use of them. But beyond iMovie, what else would really use quad cores? Would it be useful for a lower power way to play back video? (that is, use all four cores to play back video, but run them at a much lower clock speed?)

Of course, that's assuming we're talking about an iPad. How would four cores end up making sense in a phone? Or maybe Apple would split the line?

Frankly it would not surprise me at all if Apple decides to keep the A6 dual core but with the ability to hit higher clock speeds.

One word - AirPlay Gaming.

And I think the other two cores would not be in use unless a gaming app is turned on and it is trying to stream to tv.
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post #23 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by Blastdoor View Post

If the A6 is really quad core, then that must mean that Apple thinks they can make productive use of four cores. They wouldn't make it quad core just for marketing purposes.

So if it really does end up being quad core I'll be very interested to see how Apple ends up making use of all those cores. There's no doubt that iMovie could make use of them. But beyond iMovie, what else would really use quad cores? Would it be useful for a lower power way to play back video? (that is, use all four cores to play back video, but run them at a much lower clock speed?)

Of course, that's assuming we're talking about an iPad. How would four cores end up making sense in a phone? Or maybe Apple would split the line?

Frankly it would not surprise me at all if Apple decides to keep the A6 dual core but with the ability to hit higher clock speeds.

They could make each core do different things rather than making use all 4 cores to do things better. Think it like multithreading independence. They could then achieve remote wireless streaming or extended display more efficiently. One core to handle the stream, two to do processing and one for the rest, for example mind.
post #24 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post

This is getting very exciting. Imagine what Apple will be doing with chips in a few years... I can see Intel and AMD getting out of 'the unprofitable consumer market' soonand joining HP and IBM, specializing in only enterprise systems ...

nonsense. I LOLed.
post #25 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by Blastdoor View Post

If the A6 is really quad core, then that must mean that Apple thinks they can make productive use of four cores. They wouldn't make it quad core just for marketing purposes.

So if it really does end up being quad core I'll be very interested to see how Apple ends up making use of all those cores. There's no doubt that iMovie could make use of them. But beyond iMovie, what else would really use quad cores? Would it be useful for a lower power way to play back video? (that is, use all four cores to play back video, but run them at a much lower clock speed?)

Of course, that's assuming we're talking about an iPad. How would four cores end up making sense in a phone? Or maybe Apple would split the line?

Frankly it would not surprise me at all if Apple decides to keep the A6 dual core but with the ability to hit higher clock speeds.

I'm no programmer, but I think this depends on how the apps are coded and wether the infrastructure of the OS handles multiple cores automatically or not.

For instance I have an 8 Core Mac Pro that's three years old already and the only app (including Apple's built in apps) that uses more than one core is Handbrake, which uses all 7 of them. So the presence of multiple cores doesn't mean they will be used for anything at all if history is any judge.
post #26 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by Blastdoor View Post

seems like none of those things require a quad core CPU (better GPU perhaps, but not a quad core CPU).

One other thought occurred to me after my OP -- if Apple were to add high quality and pervasive voice recognition, that could certainly keep another core or two busy.

Yes! voice would do it.

In my response I was thinking displaying HD on the iPad screen while, at the same time, moving and syncing all those pixels to the ATV, or an iMac, another iPad....

I would think that this would be a natural for multiple CPU cores.

If they do provide some sort of FCPX, or FCPX-like apps on the iPad - they should exploit multiple CPU as well as GPU cores.

When FCP 7 runs on a multi-core CPU it gains little improvement -- the extra CPU cores sit idle.

When FCPX runs on a multi-core CPU you can see the parallelism (in activity monitor) -- all cores are maxed out,

The OS X constructs that make this possible, also exist in iOS...
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post #27 of 55
Apple is going with some other company risking quality problems, yield problems, and manufacturing problems just because it has some grudge against Samsung.

I hope the people who run Apple has a business degree because the bottom line is what matters the most, not personal feelings. Business is not about feelings, its about money.

They are going to throw away the mass production capacity and quality control of Samsung's manufacturing prowess for a increasingly strained non-exclusive chip fabricator TSMC?

Yeah, really smart Apple. I hope they feel the pains when they request increases in production capacity. They are in for a rude awakening.

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post #28 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

IPad autocorrect, actually. \

I had to turn mine off. I couldn't take it anymore. I wish there was a middle setting that would just show you the squiggly red line and let you decide, just like Snow Leopard.

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post #29 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

IPad autocorrect, actually. \

I turned it on recently on my iPad just for fun. It's shocking how its tendencies make it hard to distinguish between it's and its. You have to override its decision every time you don't want to say "it's." It's a disaster.

Edit: I see mstone is also on its case. It's terrible. I'll probably turn it off too.
post #30 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by Galbi View Post

I hope the people who run Apple has a business degree because the bottom line is what matters the most, not personal feelings. Business is not about feelings, its about money.

Well, you know, all those non-business degree guys seem to be doing pretty well with Apple, well, very well, oh, wait - they're one of the absolute top companies in the world. Dang. Think what would have happened if they'd all gotten their degrees!
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post #31 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

IPad autocorrect, actually. \

Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post

I had to turn mine off. I couldn't take it anymore. I wish there was a middle setting that would just show you the squiggly red line and let you decide, just like Snow Leopard.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Flaneur View Post

I turned it on recently on my iPad just for fun. It's shocking how its tendencies make it hard to distinguish between it's and its. You have to override its decision every time you don't want to say "it's." It's a disaster.

Edit: I see mstone is also on its case. It's terrible. I'll probably turn it off too.


Mmm... maybe AI forums need a setting for autoTrollBan, or autoDumbPostCorrection...


I wonder if <typeAndCatchFire> has been implemented in HTML 5 yet?

I know Flash supports the stutterAndSpinFan command!
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post #32 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by Galbi View Post

Apple is going with some other company risking quality problems, yield problems, and manufacturing problems just because it has some grudge against Samsung.

I hope the people who run Apple has a business degree because the bottom line is what matters the most, not personal feelings. Business is not about feelings, its about money.

They are going to throw away the mass production capacity and quality control of Samsung's manufacturing prowess for a increasingly strained non-exclusive chip fabricator TSMC?

Yeah, really smart Apple. I hope they feel the pains when they request increases in production capacity. They are in for a rude awakening.

Last I checked, Tim Cook has an MBA from Duke's Fuqua school.

I'm sure that there is some strategy not to give Samsung all of their supplier dollars after Samsung began copying Apple products. But there's also a practical consideration for spreading the supplier dollars around. It can be dangerous to single-source any major component inn a consumer electronics product. The Japanese earthquake-tsunami proved that. Apple was fortunate that their supply chain wasn't that disrupted but they worked very hard behind the scenes to make sure of that. Apple makes tens of millions of their popular products every year. It makes sense to keep two or three component makers in your supply chain in case bad things happen.
post #33 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post

I just had deja vu ... didn't we have this exact comment last time they ran this pic?

I don't know if that's true or not ..... but you have to admit it does seem like overkill. wouldn't you agree? It's kinda like when someone will quote the whole 4 or 5 paragraphs in a story .... to make a 1 sentence reply.
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post #34 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by xsu View Post

Nah. iPad 4 would be the one to wait for.

Or maybe iPad 5, no wait, iPad 8 ... yea, that's the one or maybe iPad 11, ok, ok, I got it ... iPad 24 ......

When I was younger I waited for the "perfect girl" to come along .... then I found her, only to realize .... she was waiting for the "perfect guy' .... sigh ......!
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post #35 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by Blastdoor View Post

If the A6 is really quad core, then that must mean that Apple thinks they can make productive use of four cores. They wouldn't make it quad core just for marketing purposes.

I wouldn't put it past them to market the heck out of quad cores.

As to your other concern Apple already has the system structured to make use of all the cores available. That is one of the reasons iPad 2 showd consistently good performance in creases on a dual core chip. Apple has put a lot of thought into this and has supplied programmers with the APIs to leverage future hardware. For example NSOperation has been in iOS since version 2.
Quote:

So if it really does end up being quad core I'll be very interested to see how Apple ends up making use of all those cores.

What does Apple have to do with it? Seriously apps have to be written to exploit the hardware, there is very little for Apple to do. IOS underneath is a very UNIX'y environment much of the system load would be balanced across those cores already as part of the normal operation of the kernel.

From the perspective of Apple or the app developer the tools to make use of these cores has steadily expanded. For example iOS4 introduced Grand Central Dispatch. The tools are there, further some methods of implementation mean automatic usage of the available cores.

I know this is long winded but my point is Apple is actually ahead of the game here software wise. They have introduced concepts from Mac OS well before the hardware became available. When you start up an iPad 3 with four cores (if it exists) you will see many apps performing much better if they have embraced Apples APIs and recommendations.
Quote:
There's no doubt that iMovie could make use of them. But beyond iMovie, what else would really use quad cores? Would it be useful for a lower power way to play back video? (that is, use all four cores to play back video, but run them at a much lower clock speed?)

I get really frustrated when I see this question in either context (iOS or MacOS). First off due to the nature of video it is best handled in hardware!

As to other apps well you need to get a grip on the concept here. Almost any app has the potential to use all of those cores. Which do and how often is a question of program design and user input. Frankly I really don't understand people's obsession with this question because honestly how often is a dual core machine using all of it's cores.

Think about it, as you type away on an iPad how loaded are those cores or core. Maybe you are using 5% of the total capability typing with huge bursts of activity when doing something more demanding.
Quote:
Of course, that's assuming we're talking about an iPad. How would four cores end up making sense in a phone? Or maybe Apple would split the line?

I suspect that the SoC line will split soon with tablets getting the more powerful versions. It only makes sense, you wouldn't want tablets held back to keep phones running cool.
Quote:

Frankly it would not surprise me at all if Apple decides to keep the A6 dual core but with the ability to hit higher clock speeds.

It isn't clear to me what will happen other than a huge overhaul is needed to support Retina displays. That means paying attention to cache sizes, data transfer rates and the GPU. Provided that they can do that in the allocated space it might make sense to add more ARM cores rather than to crank power up with high clock rates.
post #36 of 55
To that end I'd suggest that you download XCode and the API documentation and read up on the facilities available in iOS.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Blastdoor View Post

seems like none of those things require a quad core CPU (better GPU perhaps, but not a quad core CPU).

Nothing requires anything more than a single core, if you don't care about responsiveness. Hell I can remember programming my old Mac Plus to solve a problem and waiting hours for an answer.
Quote:
One other thought occurred to me after my OP -- if Apple were to add high quality and pervasive voice recognition, that could certainly keep another core or two busy.

Maybe maybe not, it all depends upon how many turn it on. However you need to realize keeping all of those cores busy is exactly what you don't want to do. Busy cores are cores that eat up your battery capacity. Rather you want those cores to execute small bits of an app and go inactive as fast as possible.

The thing to grasp here is that the cores are there to provide the highest possible amount of responstivity in a app and at the same time minimize power draw.
post #37 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by newbee View Post

Or maybe iPad 5, no wait, iPad 8 ... yea, that's the one or maybe iPad 11, ok, ok, I got it ... iPad 24 ......

When I was younger I waited for the "perfect girl" to come along .... then I found her, only to realize .... she was waiting for the "perfect guy' .... sigh ......!

It worked out... We found each other

Edit: The girl and I... not you and I
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post #38 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by Blastdoor View Post

If the A6 is really quad core, then that must mean that Apple thinks they can make productive use of four cores. They wouldn't make it quad core just for marketing purposes.

So if it really does end up being quad core I'll be very interested to see how Apple ends up making use of all those cores. There's no doubt that iMovie could make use of them. But beyond iMovie, what else would really use quad cores? Would it be useful for a lower power way to play back video? (that is, use all four cores to play back video, but run them at a much lower clock speed?)

Of course, that's assuming we're talking about an iPad. How would four cores end up making sense in a phone? Or maybe Apple would split the line?

Frankly it would not surprise me at all if Apple decides to keep the A6 dual core but with the ability to hit higher clock speeds.

Yeah, I just finished a 30 minute iMovie home "movie". The software is barely useable at that level, having to wait while finger keystrokes catch up in the processor. If Apple decides to significantly upgrade iMovie for the ipad3, then a significant increase in speed is called for. I assume Final Cut X is Apple's vision of being eventually available on ipads. Already Hollywood likes the use of ipads in film production right on the set, so this makes sense to try to develop a quad-core (or whatever) increase in processor speed.
post #39 of 55
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Originally Posted by Hattig View Post

Could you possibly use a larger photo of the previous generation chip to the one talked about in the story next time. I couldn't quite make out each individual atom in the one you posted.

lol x2
post #40 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by Prof. Peabody View Post

I'm no programmer, but I think this depends on how the apps are coded and wether the infrastructure of the OS handles multiple cores automatically or not.

This much is true. An app has to be coded the right way to leverage the cores in a system. Further the OS needs to support the usage of those cores.
Quote:
For instance I have an 8 Core Mac Pro that's three years old already and the only app (including Apple's built in apps) that uses more than one core is Handbrake, which uses all 7 of them. So the presence of multiple cores doesn't mean they will be used for anything at all if history is any judge.

This is the part that is nonsense!!!!!

First off open up Activity Monitor and tell me how many processes use only one thread. Finder list 6 threads, iTunes - 9, QuickTime player - 8, Safari runs 9 idle plus two other associated processes from a fresh start with no Internet connection. Run Flash and Safari will have another process running for that.

I keep seeing this crap from so many people that it is just redicoulus on the face of it. Really think about it, you open up E-Mail and start reading a message while the rest of the mail downloads in background. Heck you might respond to a message and be typing away with a spell checker running in background. All of this requires threading and those threads will get thrown across different processors as needed. If you remember back to the day that Apple tied in the NSOperation family with Grand Central Dispatch mail got an immediate performance boost due to operations being spread across cores.

Almost every App that Apple supplies benfits from cores to some extent or another. This has been true for sometime now with many apps gaining significantly with Snow Leopard. This is not to say that serial bits of code do not exist just that use of those extra cores does not imply saturation of those cores. Apps like Handbrake are the exception to the rule, most gains from threading occur with threads that unevenly take load from the main thread.

Look at it this way more cores means fewer CPU bottle necks. Just as a SATA SSD removes storage bottle necks it does not imply that the SATA channel is saturated all the time. For many users they make use of that SATA channel bandwidth sporadically but when they do use it it makes a big difference. Same thing with cores, when put to use they can have a big impact on performance of an app.
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