Previously, Apple’s iPhones and iPads used PowerVR GPUs from Imagination Technologies for graphics. Based on our analysis, Apple has created a custom GPU that powers the A8, A9, and 10 processors, shipping in the iPhone 6 and later models, and some iPads. Using public documents, we demonstrate that the programmable shader cores inside Apple’s GPU are different from Imagination Technologies’ PowerVR and offer superior 16-bit floating-point performance and data conversion functions. We further believe that Apple has also developed a custom shader compiler and graphics driver. The proprietary design enables Apple to deliver best-in-class performance for graphics, and other tasks that use the GPU, such as image processing and machine learning.
The iPad 3 was an influential and successful tablet, but an excellent example of an unbalanced system. In particular, the superb Retina display was not adequately matched by the GPU of the A5X, and represented a step backwards in terms of graphics capabilities. This article explores the challenges of designing innovative products given the underlying technical constraints, through the lens of the iPad 3 and its successors.
The new ARMv8 architecture is classically British; a clean and elegant 64-bit instruction set, with compatibility for 32-bit software. The 64-bit mode eliminates many complicated and awkward features and will foster a larger and more diverse ARM ecosystem with new licensees and applications.
Rumors aside, Apple will not switch their laptops to ARM any time soon. Despite Apple’s previous migrations, there are too many technical and business challenges and too few benefits. Moreover, Apple’s chip designers are better suited to enhancing the iPhone and iPad to fend off commodity Android systems. We look at the reasons Apple will stay with x86 notebooks for now, and how they might consider using ARM in the future.
David Kanter reports on several presentations from ISSCC 2007, including ones covering PA Semi, Intel’s Merom/Core 2 Duo, Niagara II and NEC.
This is the third article in a series covering the CELL microprocessor, co-developed by IBM, Sony and Toshiba.
David Wang initiates coverage of the Micro Processor Forum 2002 with the Power PC 970 announcement from IBM.
What is the number one selling 32-bit microprocessor? Probably not what you think. Paul DeMone looks at the very successful ARM processor in this months Silicon Insider.