Apple expected to pack ultrafast, dual core SGX543 graphics into iPad 2, iPhone 5

Posted:
in iPad edited January 2014
Apple's next generation iPad and iPhone, both due the first half of this year, will pack a new version of the company's custom A4 chip, with dual, faster graphics cores capable of supporting a Retina Display iPad and potentially bringing 1080p HD support to iOS devices, including Apple TV.



Later this year, Apple will introduce its second generation iPad, reportedly with double the resolution and four times the pixels to process. That type of display upgrade would necessitate a big boost in graphics and video processing power.



The same source behind's AppleInsider's coverage of the secret licensing deal that occurred between Apple, Imagination Technologies and Samsung beginning back in 2008, and resulting in the new chips that powered the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4, is now indicating what can be expected from Apple's A4 replacement.



Apple's next custom System on a Chip is expected to jump from the SGX535 (which has been used since the iPhone 3GS) to the new SGX543 graphics and video core, which is said to offer around twice the processing power at the same clock speed. The new graphics core also supports OpenCL, used to offload general purpose computing tasks on the GPU for fast execution.



Faster video, HDMI



This speed boost applies not only to graphics, such as drawing polygons in a video game or rendering fonts in a productivity app, but video processing as well. The A4 includes hardware acceleration for video decoding and encoding, and both appear to be used to support high quality video conferencing in Apple's FaceTime on iPhone 4. FaceTime and a front facing camera did not make the cut in the original iPad, but are expected on the new iPad 2.



Faster video processing could also enable Apple to upgrade the iPad and iPhone 4 from VGA-style component video output to the more modern HDMI, which is already used by the new iOS-based Apple TV. Some high end smartphones and tablet devices already support HDMI output, although not flawlessly.



Apple TV has its own share of HDMI problems being reported by users, including handshaking problems that appear to affect nearly every Philips HDTV model and many Sony sets.



Multiple SGX graphics cores



A source familiar with Apple's graphics strategy says the company will not only be upgrading its video core, but also going to multiple cores, a feature that is designed into the SGX543 design. The most likely configuration of Apple's next custom chip is reportedly the SGX543MP2, which pairs two SGX543 cores to work as one, offering around four times the capability of the previous A4 in graphics and video tasks.



The SGX543 core is designed to parallel as many as 16 cores together, in a way that is transparent to higher level software, meaning that apps don't have to be rewritten specifically to benefit from the new speed boost. Imagination supplies intelligent core management that automatically determines the number of cores available and accelerates the graphic tasks by distributing them across the available cores.



Sony is rumored to be using the same multiple core SGX543 architecture in its forthcoming PlayStation Portable 2, potentially using four or eight cores, and likely driving the clock chip faster.



Multiple ARM Cortex-A9 cores



Outside of graphics, Apple will reportedly be using the multiple core ARM Cortex-A9 for general purpose processing.



RIM has drawn a lot of attention to its multiple core future as essential to deploying its new QNX-based PlayBook OS, first on a tablet device and eventually across the company's smartphones, although it couldn't give a timeframe of when that might happen. RIM's PlayBook is reported to use the TI OMAP 4 series SoC, which pairs a dual core Cortex-A9 with a PowerVR SGX540 series GPU.



Nvidia's Tegra 2 uses a similar dual core Cortex-A9 paired with the company's own ultra low power GeForce CPU core; that chip will be used used in the LG Optimus 2X, Motorola Xoom tablet and Atrix smartphone, and Asus Slider and Transformer netbooks, all of which are due later this year.



2010: Today's A4



Apple's existing A4 chip, used across all of its iOS products introduced in 2010 (iPad, iPhone 4, iPod touch fourth generation and Apple TV), pairs an ARM Cortex-A8 general purpose CPU core with an Imagination Technologies PowerVR 535 graphics and video processing core.







That chip appears to have been developed in cooperation with Samsung, using processor acceleration technology from Intrinsity, a company which Apple acquired last April.



Samsung sells its own chip with an identical ARM core and a similar overall design, under the model number S5PC110A01, also known as "Hummingbird." Samsung used this chip in the Samsung Wave smartphone, which uses the company's own Bada OS, as well as the similar Galaxy S line of Android models, including a range of smartphones sold as Captivate by AT&T, Vibrant by T-Mobile, Epic 4G by Sprint, Fascinate and Continuum by Verizon and marketed as the Google-branded Nexus S. The chip is also used in Samsung's Galaxy Tab and the forthcoming Galaxy Player.



Qualcomm' Snapdragon chips, used in HTC's Droid Incredible, and Texas Instruments' OMAP 3 series chips, used by Motorola's Droid series, the Palm Pre and Nokia's N95, both use nearly identical pairings of the Cortex-A8 and Power VR530 cores (Qualcomm uses it own Scorpion CPU core and its own GPU core named Adreno). Intel's mobile Atom processor also uses Power VR530 graphics core, pairing it with an x86-compaitible CPU.



Wild reports of the future of mobile silicon



It's important to note that the core specifications of a chip are not always directly proportional to its actual performance, and that what Apple does in software is often just as important than the hardware itself.



Nvidia's original Tegra chip was expected to blow the iPod touch out of the water when it appeared in Microsoft's Zune HD and subsequently the KIN, but that didn't happen.



On the other hand, over-exuberant reports also accompanied the A4. Last year, a report made prior to the A4's introduction, by the "Bright Side of News" blog, imagined that it might include a Cortex-A9 MPCore and an ARM-designed Mali 50-series GPU core. Jon Stokes of Ars Technica correctly described the A4 as being a single Cortex-A8 CPU and a PowerVR SGX GPU.



However, Stokes also added that it "isn't anything to write home about," and predicted that the A4 would skip on power by omitting camera processing features, making it unsuitable for use in a smartphone.



Another report, appearing in The New York Times last February, stated that Apple, Nvidia and Qualcomm were all working to develop their own ARM-based chips before noting that "it can cost these companies about $1 billion to create a smartphone chip from scratch." Developing an SoC based on licensed ARM designs is not "creating a chip from scratch," and does not cost $1 billion, but the article set off a flurry of reports that said Apple has spent $1 billion on the A4.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 145
    undedunded Posts: 43member
    Maybe I'll get the an iPad 2
  • Reply 2 of 145
    1024 x 768 to 2048x1536 is a quadrupling of pixels (more than the 27" ACD?). Could the chip take that from its specs (using the specs from the current chip vs actual performance as a guide)?



    (4:3 XGA to 4:3 QXGA) If it could, would certainly be big enough to take the 16:9 1080p's 1920x1080.

    (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ve...Standards2.svg). Outputting 1080p would be a big deal. But how to output HDMI (1.3?) - and how to deal with HDCP etc?



    What's the upper limit on the 30 pin connector for what it could put out?

    Could going to USB3 help that?

    What maximum data rate could you see using AirPlay? Not like something like IEEE 802.11 VHT is coming out just yet.

    Also, what's the OpenCL capabilities like? How much of a performance gain could be seen by GCD, OpenCL? Will we see GCD if the cores are displayed as 1 more powerful core?
  • Reply 3 of 145
    archosarchos Posts: 152member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by t0mat0 View Post


    1024 x 768 to 2048x1536 is a quadrupling of pixels (more than the 27" ACD?). Could the chip take that from its specs (using the specs from the current chip vs actual performance as a guide)?



    (4:3 XGA to 4:3 QXGA) If it could, would certainly be big enough to take the 16:9 1080p's 1920x1080.

    (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ve...Standards2.svg). Outputting 1080p would be a big deal. But how to output HDMI (1.3?) - and how to deal with HDCP etc?



    What's the upper limit on the 30 pin connector for what it could put out?

    Could going to USB3 help that?

    What maximum data rate could you see using AirPlay? Not like something like IEEE 802.11 VHT is coming out just yet.

    Also, what's the OpenCL capabilities like? How much of a performance gain could be seen by GCD, OpenCL? Will we see GCD if the cores are displayed as 1 more powerful core?



    Apple could add a mini HMDI port like everyone else has.
  • Reply 4 of 145
    eriamjheriamjh Posts: 1,055member
    Bring it on.



    Bring it on!



    BRING IT ON!!!
  • Reply 5 of 145
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    Faster video processing could also enable Apple to upgrade the iPad and iPhone 4 from VGA-style component video output to the more modern HDMI, which is already used by the new iOS-based Apple TV. Some high end smartphones and tablet devices already support HDMI output, although not flawlessly.



    Upgrade from? This doesn’t make sense. Apple could have offered an HDMI-out adapter/cable if they wanted to. They could have easily made it 720p. VGA was chosen due to projector needs, not because VGA was the best video output they could muster from that HW. Even when the device can output High-Profile 1080p60 I can still a need for the VGA adapter out for projectors. While it would be great if they were all using a more modern connector and/or offered AirPlay streaming that is not the case.
  • Reply 6 of 145
    OK, couple of things. While it would be awesome to have both a dual core Cortex A9 and SGX543, that's not going to happen. There is no way Apple can squeeze that much silicon into the iPhone 5 and maintain battery life like we expect or stop heat generation from melting the phone.



    Also, correct the part about Qualcomm Snapdragons. They don't use SGX530s, rather they use Adreno 200-series. The TI OMAP-3s do use 530s.



    Still, if this is all true iPhone 5=Most badass phone in history
  • Reply 7 of 145
    Great post - informative and interesting. Where can one find further details of all these chips, though?
  • Reply 8 of 145
    One thing that I haven't heard mentioned yet is that the new resolution could allow the iPad 2 to function as 2K display. It could be really popular for film and video production because someone can prep a bunch of iPads with dailies (raw footage) in 2K. The pixel density would be a lot closer to film than any other digital medium, and the pinch-to-zoom would allow users to hone in on fine detail.



    As a pixel density enthusiast, I'm all for this.
  • Reply 9 of 145
    drdoppiodrdoppio Posts: 1,132member
    Is anyone here going to refrain from upgrading unless the iPad 2 has a dual core GPU and doubles the screen resolution?
  • Reply 10 of 145
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by GRevolution View Post


    OK, couple of things. While it would be awesome to have both a dual core Cortex A9 and SGX543, that's not going to happen. There is no way Apple can squeeze that much silicon into the iPhone 5 and maintain battery life like we expect or stop heat generation from melting the phone.



    Also, correct the part about Qualcomm Snapdragons. They don't use SGX530s, rather they use Adreno 200-series. The TI OMAP-3s do use 530s.



    Still, if this is all true iPhone 5=Most badass phone in history



    That paragraph is confusing. Also, I don?t think the Nokia N95 is an old device that uses an old (ARMv6) ARM11 CPU, not Cortex-A8.
  • Reply 11 of 145
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Archos View Post


    Apple could add a mini HMDI port like everyone else has.



    Zero point and completely undermines the point of AirPlay and purchasing an Apple TV. Not happening.
  • Reply 12 of 145
    asdasdasdasd Posts: 5,066member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by GRevolution View Post


    OK, couple of things. While it would be awesome to have both a dual core Cortex A9 and SGX543, that's not going to happen. There is no way Apple can squeeze that much silicon into the iPhone 5 and maintain battery life like we expect or stop heat generation from melting the phone.



    Also, correct the part about Qualcomm Snapdragons. They don't use SGX530s, rather they use Adreno 200-series. The TI OMAP-3s do use 530s.



    Still, if this is all true iPhone 5=Most badass phone in history



    They may also have some cooling system. Who knows? It could be used in the iPad which has more room.
  • Reply 13 of 145
    asdasdasdasd Posts: 5,066member
  • Reply 14 of 145
    pmzpmz Posts: 3,433member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by GRevolution View Post


    OK, couple of things. While it would be awesome to have both a dual core Cortex A9 and SGX543, that's not going to happen. There is no way Apple can squeeze that much silicon into the iPhone 5 and maintain battery life like we expect or stop heat generation from melting the phone.



    Because you have any idea what you're talking about? No.
  • Reply 15 of 145
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    Qualcomm' Snapdragon chips, used in HTC's Droid Incredible, and Texas Instruments' OMAP 3 series chips, used by Motorola's Droid series, the Palm Pre and Nokia's N95, both use nearly identical pairings of the Cortex-A8 and Power VR530 cores.[ View this article at AppleInsider.com ][/url][/c]



    This is incorrect, the Snapdragon does not use the A8, it uses the Scorpion core which is not designed by ARM and was done in house. It uses the same ARM7 instruction set but is more equivalent to the A9 as it out-of-order. The graphics on the Snapdragon are based on ATI Imageon, which they bought the unit off AMD when they were selling it off.
  • Reply 16 of 145
    asdasdasdasd Posts: 5,066member
    OpenCL is a difficult API, and iOS has - to a large extent - too many API. Posix layer, C Layer, Objective C, Acceleration Framework. People use a fraction of what they could.



    But- the OS could use it, and OS X does. It means some OS tasks, not just graphics related tasks could be sloughed off tot he GPU.
  • Reply 17 of 145
    No contest. Playbook, Android, Microsoft & WebOS, let's go home.
  • Reply 18 of 145
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    A 15? Thinkpad QXGA IPS dispaly panel on eBay for $900.
    In 2007 LG announced a 20.8? QXGA IPS display for medical uses. Can?t find a price or shipping product.
    Late last year HP finally started offering their EliteBook with an IPS display upgrade option. This is only 1920x1200 resolution and costs and additional $550. To put it into perspective, this rumoured QXGA has about 50% more pixels to push.
    OEM Apple iPad 2 LCD Screen for $218 from Global Direct Parts
  • Reply 19 of 145
    asdasdasdasd Posts: 5,066member
  • Reply 20 of 145
    asdasdasdasd Posts: 5,066member
    Apparantly the SGX543 can have up to 16 cores. There's your upgrade path.



    http://www.imgtec.com/news/release/index.asp?newsid=449
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