The CPU

TI was one of the earliest partners with ARM on the Cortex A15 and silicon just came back from the fab at the beginning of this year. Even if Apple were similarly instrumental in the definition of the Cortex A15 architecture, it would be Q3 at the earliest before it could have working silicon available in volume. With no A15 design ready and presumably no desire to jump into the custom-designed ARM CPU market quite yet, Apple once again turned to the Cortex A9 for the A5X.

Apple confirmed that there are only two Cortex A9 cores on the A5X and it neglected to mention operating frequency. I suspect the lack of talk about CPU clocks indicates that they perhaps haven't changed. We could still be looking at a 1GHz max operating frequency.

Although we've speculated that Apple moved to a 32nm design with the A5X, it is entirely possible that we're still dealing with mature 45nm silicon here. It would explain the relatively conservative GPU clocks, although the additional GPU cores would balloon die size to 150 - 160mm^2 (roughly twice the size of Tegra 3). If A5X is 32nm, assuming a relatively conservative 80% scaling factor Apple would be able to maintain a die size of around 125mm^2, similar to the previous generation A5.

A quad-core CPU design does make some sense on a tablet, but only one that is either running heavily threaded workloads or is subjected to pretty intense multitasking. As we found in our iPhone 4S review, many iOS apps are still not very well threaded and have a difficult time utilizing two cores, much less four. On the multitasking front, Apple has enabled task switching but there's still no way to run two applications side-by-side. The most CPU intensive workloads on iOS still require that the app is active in the foreground for user interaction. Apps can work in the background but it's not all that constant/common, and again, they aren't pegging multiple cores. Apple built a very efficient, low overhead platform with iOS - it had to thanks to the hardware specs of the original iPhone. A result of iOS' low-overhead, very efficient design is expectedly low CPU utilization for most tasks. This is not to say that CPU performance isn't important under iOS, just that it's hard to find apps that regularly require more than a single core and definitely hard to find those that can benefit from more than two cores.

I will say though, Apple could easily add more cores if it wanted to spend the die area without a significant impact on power consumption. Remember that idle cores can be fully power gated, effectively reducing their power consumption while idle to zero. Apple could also assume a fairly conservative CPU governor and only wake up the third and fourth cores when absolutely necessary (similar to what we see happening with Tegra 3 on Android).

What about the Next iPhone?

Apple has traditionally used the iPad SoC in the subsequent iPhone release that followed later in the same year. It would make sense to assume that we'll see a smartphone version of the A5X SoC (at lower clocks) later this year. The A6? That'll probably debut next year with the 4th generation iPad.

Memory Capacity

Apple wouldn't let us run any third party applications on the new iPad so we couldn't confirm the actual memory capacity of the new model. On stage at the event, Epic mentioned that the new iPad has more memory and a higher output resolution than the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3. The Xbox 360 has 512MB of memory, and Apple's A5/A5X has a dual-channel LPDDR2 memory controller. Each channel needs to be populated evenly in order to maintain peak bandwidth, which greatly narrows the options for memory capacity on the new iPad. 768MB would imply 512MB on one channel and 256MB on the other, delivering peak performance for apps and data in the first 512MB but lower performance for the upper 256MB. Given the low cost of DRAM these days, I think it's safe to assume that Apple simply went with two 512MB DRAM devices in a PoP configuration on the A5X for a total of 1GB of LPDDR2 memory in the new iPad.

4G LTE Support

Brian did an excellent analysis on the LTE baseband in the new iPad here. Qualcomm's MDM9600, a 40nm design appears to be used by Apple instead of the 28nm MDM9615. In hindsight, speculating the use of a 28nm LTE baseband for the new iPad was likely short sighted. Apple had to be in the mass production phase for the new iPad somewhere in the January/February timeframe. Although 28nm silicon is shipping to customers today, that was likely too aggressive of a schedule to make it work for an early-March launch.

Apple iPad Pricing
  16GB 32GB 64GB
WiFi $499 $599 $699
WiFi + 4G $629 $729 $829

Apple offers carrier specific iPad 4G models on AT&T and Verizon, although both versions can roam on 3G networks around the world. Apparently the iPad 4G isn't SIM locked, so you'll be able to toss in a SIM from other carriers with compatible networks. LTE data plans are available from AT&T and Verizon with no long-term contract:

iPad LTE Plan Pricing (Monthly)
  $14.99 $20 $30 $50
AT&T 250MB - 3GB 5GB
Verizon - 1GB 2GB 5GB

 

The Name

Apple surprised many by referring to the 3rd generation iPad simply as "the new iPad". The naming seems awkward today, but it's clearly a step towards what Apple does across many of its product lines. The MacBook Air, MacBook Pro and iPod all receive the same simple branding treatment; newer models are differentiated by a quietly spoken year or generation marker.

I still remember back several years ago when PC OEMs were intrigued by the idea of selling desktops based on model year and not on specs. Apple has effectively attained the holy grail here.

The GPU A Much Larger Battery
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  • steven75 - Sunday, March 11, 2012 - link

    Yes when you see actual usage stats (website hits, etc), it's quite clear that the majority of iPhone owners use their phone as a smartphone and the majority of Android owner use their phone as a replacement for their dumbphone. In other words, Android is the new dumbphone for whatever reason.

    Also it's been TWO YEARS since the original iPad cam out, and still Android fans say Android tablets are "eventually" going to overtake iPads in sales.

    Didn't happen so far and there are no signs of that changing anytime soon. There still are barely any Antroid tablet apps!
    Reply
  • iSayuSay - Sunday, March 11, 2012 - link

    I don't have problems with competition. In fact, competition is what makes iOS and Android being progressive as fast as they are today.

    Like I said earlier, I'm aware that Apple needs suppliers, and Samsung is one of them.

    But I really hate the way company like Samsung compete with Apple. No, I'm not talking about copying, it's an old story. But let's just see

    After the new iPad announced last week and turns out it has 2048x1536 resolution (and ready to sell it of course), oh yes Samsung come with another bluff that they will release (it's still prototype of course) another tablet with 2560x1600.. REALLY?

    I thought Android has made 16:9 aspect ratio as standard for their tablet? Why go with 16:10? I know why! Because Samsung want to make things just bigger than iPad, 2560x1440 (16:9) ratio will be perceived that horizontal lines still worse than iPad (1536 vs. 1440). Samsung want everything LOOKS bigger than Apple, albeit it does not always better.

    Company like Samsung is so ambitious about taking down Apple, they don't think that much anymore in terms of ergonomic, a careful design choice and comfortability, NO. As long as it looks bigger/more powerful than iToys, they'll sell it and boast it around. LOOK, our Galaxy Note or S2 have bigger screen, and it has 720p! nothing like a small/inferior iPhone. REALLY? Their design will make it to the market as long as it makes iToys looks puny (while the fact is it still sell extremely well no matter what Samsung do), other design considerations are not really that important.
    Reply
  • doobydoo - Monday, March 12, 2012 - link

    'But how on Earth is that better for customers? '

    He didn't say it was. 'Straw man'!!! lol

    I do agree with you that it's better for customers to keep Samsung and others trying to compete with Apple - but the original post never said anything which contradicts this.

    iOS to Android is not 1 to 3, either. It's about 3:5 (iOS has 30% ish, Android has 48.6%). Google even admits it gets more search revenue from iOS users, and the iOS app store is many times more profitable than Android.
    Reply
  • doobydoo - Monday, March 12, 2012 - link

    Nice Apple-hating, dude?

    And good addressing of the points made.

    The obvious fact is that Apple is way ahead of both Samsung and Asus. The response is always 'but a new device out in x months will compete' - the point is that's too late. Everyone else is playing catchup right now.
    Reply
  • Penti - Saturday, March 10, 2012 - link

    Won't happen, Apple uses off the shelf parts. The same parts as any one else, the tech does allow you to create a 9.7" 2048x1536 display, just like they did that resolution on the same tech in lower end/last gen older fabs ten years ago at 15" laptops. It's a standard resolution, one normally supported by CRT monitors and VGA-cards via the analog connections. At least since we had 300MHz RAMDAC. Which ends you up back in the 90's. Much higher then our current resolutions won't be supported on laptops though, so you can forget about 2880x1800 resolution on Macbooks (the is no reason to go 4 times the resolution here, laptops hasn't been stuck at a specific resolution and held back for that matter) as the integrated Intel graphics won't have the bandwidth to drive that resolution at 60Hz (or above) and GCN is the first architecture that has the bandwidth to drive 4k displays over DP/HDMI or anything over 2560x1600 @ 60Hz for that matter. You will need enough LVDS, TMDS or Displayport bandwidth to transmit a resolution like that as well as video card support. Others have showed up a range of other resolutions up to 1920x1200 because that's what is out in the supplychain or what they custom order, they of course has other considerations then to market it as as much pixels the eye can see. While Apple was intentionally not upgrading it's 1024x768 display others where doing 1280x800 way down to 7.7" on the same display tech, planning on going 1920x1200 on displays that is far less prototypes then the devices showing them, but major product updates and releases won't come at any time, so you would have to wait until they replace their top products. Just as you would have to wait for Apples release cycle to put out new stuff. Of course Apple uses parts from these companies that is "babbling", like displays, memories, NAND-storage, batteries, SSDs, harddrives, gpus, wireless hardware, mobile graphics vendors and so on. The PowerVR SGX 543MP4(+) is already out in consumer products like PS Vita for example.

    Samsung is one of the major manufacturers of these new iPad LCD-panels. It's Samsung's, LG Display's or Sharp's own tech.
    Reply
  • vFunct - Friday, March 9, 2012 - link

    It's entirely possible for Apple to add an ARM cpu to a Macbook Air and allow for iOS operations to happen in a separate window.

    Actually, this could be a function of the monitor itself.
    Reply
  • tipoo - Friday, March 9, 2012 - link

    Intels own SoCs can use binary compatibility for any ARM apps, so two chips would be unnecessary. They could do it for power savings though with an instant on iOS mode or something, but I doubt they would since they already worked on instant on with SSDs. Reply
  • macs - Friday, March 9, 2012 - link

    The sad part is that probably we won't see an A15 iPhone for the next 18 months... Reply
  • tipoo - Saturday, March 10, 2012 - link

    Cortex A15 wasn't due for another year anyways. Reply
  • Subzero0000 - Friday, March 9, 2012 - link

    Does it really look that bad ?

    'cus I tried really hard looking at my iPad 2 screen and the Safari icon looks nothing like the image on this article.
    Maybe it's a good thing that I can't tell the difference...

    Texts are a bit blurry, that's true though.
    Reply

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