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Old Nov 2, 2012, 01:14 PM   #1
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Apple's New A6X iPad Chip Adopts PowerVR SGX 554MP4 Graphics




AnandTech reports on an examination of the A6X chip found in the fourth-generation iPad. The work, performed by Kishonti Informatics, reveals that Apple has adopted Imagination Technologies' quad-core PowerVR SGX 554MP4 graphics in the new chip.
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The A6X retains the 128-bit wide memory interface of the A5X (and it keeps the memory controller interface adjacent to the GPU cores and not the CPU cores as is the case in the A5/A6). It also integrates two of Apple's new Swift cores running at up to 1.4GHz (a slight increase from the 1.3GHz cores in the iPhone 5's A6). The big news today is what happens on the GPU side. A quick look at the GLBenchmark results for the new iPad 4 tells us all we need to know. The A6X moves to a newer GPU core: the PowerVR SGX 554.
Unsurprisingly, the SGX 554MP4 represents a significant improvement over the quad-core SGX 543MP4 used in the A5X chip of the third-generation iPad and the triple-core SGX 543MP3 used in the A6 chip of the iPhone 5.

A full suite of graphics benchmarks reveals improvements of 15-100% compared to the third-generation iPad, with frame rates in the Egypt HD benchmark jumping from 25 frames per second (fps) on the third-generation iPad to nearly 52 fps on the fourth-generation iPad.
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Ultimately it looks like the A6X is the SoC that the iPad needed to really deliver good gaming performance at its native resolution. I would not be surprised to see more game developers default to 2048 x 1536 on the new iPad rather than picking a lower resolution and enabling anti-aliasing. The bar has been set for this generation and we've seen what ARM's latest GPU can do, now the question is whether or not NVIDIA will finally be able to challenge Imagination Technologies when it releases Wayne/Tegra 4 next year.
The A6X is one of several enhancements to the fourth-generation iPad, including a new FaceTime HD camera and Apple's new Lightning connector, although the device appears nearly identical to its predecessor from the outside.

Article Link: Apple's New A6X iPad Chip Adopts PowerVR SGX 554MP4 Graphics
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Old Nov 2, 2012, 01:15 PM   #2
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iPad 3 owners tears coming in 3...2...
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Old Nov 2, 2012, 01:18 PM   #3
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Old Nov 2, 2012, 01:21 PM   #4
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I wonder what the constraints are concerning power. Also, if, having 2x 543 cores gives 19.2 GFLOPS of compute GPU power, why didn't Apple opted for a single core 554 that has the same specs as two 543s in their A6 chip? There are no differences in core count, bandwidth, compute, or anything else. Eliminate a core, deliver greater performance no?
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Old Nov 2, 2012, 01:24 PM   #5
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Wow, Angry Birds is going to be blinding on this model!
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Old Nov 2, 2012, 01:25 PM   #6
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Hopefully we'll see a similar performance upgrade in the 5th generation
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Old Nov 2, 2012, 01:25 PM   #7
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Hope games like Infinity Blade Dungeons got pushed back because they recognize the graphics potential of the ipad 4 (What ever you call it)
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Old Nov 3, 2012, 08:57 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by silverf1re View Post
Hope games like Infinity Blade Dungeons got pushed back because they recognize the graphics potential of the ipad 4 (What ever you call it)
It's funny how Apple seems to care about graphics on the iPad but not their Macintosh computers (e.g. the new Mac Mini).
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Old Nov 2, 2012, 01:26 PM   #9
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Incredible improvements in performance... From a gaming perspective, it'll be interesting to see how these compare with current-gen consoles, considering they're on ~10 year upgrade cycles and the iPad's last iteration lasted about 6 months.
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Old Nov 2, 2012, 01:55 PM   #10
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Incredible improvements in performance... From a gaming perspective, it'll be interesting to see how these compare with current-gen consoles, considering they're on ~10 year upgrade cycles and the iPad's last iteration lasted about 6 months.
they wont compare until apple offers an official proper controller cause the touch screen control are useless in most good games..
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Old Nov 2, 2012, 01:36 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by jav6454 View Post
I wonder what the constraints are concerning power. Also, if, having 2x 543 cores gives 19.2 GFLOPS of compute GPU power, why didn't Apple opted for a single core 554 that has the same specs as two 543s in their A6 chip? There are no differences in core count, bandwidth, compute, or anything else. Eliminate a core, deliver greater performance no?
Anand's chart is kind of misleading because he is focusing on ALU performance which incidentally is the main thing that changes between the SGX554MP and SGX543MP. When you go from a SGX543MP2 to a SGX543MP4 everything doubles including the ALU, TMU and ROP count. Going from the SGX543MP to SGX554MP only the ALU count doubles. As such, the 2x performance increase from A5X to A6X is very nuanced. Due to doubled ALU count and a small clock speed increase, the theoretical ALU increase for shaders is actually greater than 2x. However, the ROP count has not increased and so fill rate has only increased modestly due to clock speed only, which means that on a raw pixel pushing measure, the iPad 4 still hasn't fully accounted for the 4x increase in pixel count over the iPad 2. And so compared to the iPad 3, developers can't just double everything but will have to be more selective over how and what graphical effects they increase.

For the iPhone 5, since the resolution didn't increase significantly over the previous iPhones, Apple probably could have used a SGX554MP2 to double ALU performance over the iPhone 4S and use a small clock speed bump for a modest increase in fill rate to account for the increased resolution. However, risk may have been an issue. The iPhone 5 had to ship this fall and with an already new CPU architecture, going with a tried and true SGX543MP design was the safer option. The iPad 4 was already a bit of a surprise and didn't necessarily have to ship this year since there several iDevices that continue to use the 30-pin connector anyways, so Apple had some flexibility to take additional risk with the SGX554MP in the A6X.
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Old Nov 2, 2012, 01:41 PM   #12
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It would be very interesting to see a side by side comparison of how the A6X compares to the new Samsung Exynos 5250
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Old Nov 2, 2012, 03:01 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by commander.data View Post
Anand's chart is kind of misleading because he is focusing on ALU performance which incidentally is the main thing that changes between the SGX554MP and SGX543MP. When you go from a SGX543MP2 to a SGX543MP4 everything doubles including the ALU, TMU and ROP count. Going from the SGX543MP to SGX554MP only the ALU count doubles. As such, the 2x performance increase from A5X to A6X is very nuanced. Due to doubled ALU count and a small clock speed increase, the theoretical ALU increase for shaders is actually greater than 2x. However, the ROP count has not increased and so fill rate has only increased modestly due to clock speed only, which means that on a raw pixel pushing measure, the iPad 4 still hasn't fully accounted for the 4x increase in pixel count over the iPad 2. And so compared to the iPad 3, developers can't just double everything but will have to be more selective over how and what graphical effects they increase.
Now that I think of it, going from the SGX543 to the SGX554 there has to be an inherent architecture change which can also help in performance. However, the inherent argument of mine still stands, if the SGX554 (assuming no architecture change) is just double everything of the SGX543, why not use a single SGX554 in the iPhone 5 (assuming you want same performance but less space consumption hence lower TDP)?

However, assuming more performance with the extra core in the iPhone 5, why not simply clock the SGX554 higher? Same 20% higher to make up for the lost core.


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Originally Posted by commander.data View Post
For the iPhone 5, since the resolution didn't increase significantly over the previous iPhones, Apple probably could have used a SGX554MP2 to double ALU performance over the iPhone 4S and use a small clock speed bump for a modest increase in fill rate to account for the increased resolution. However, risk may have been an issue. The iPhone 5 had to ship this fall and with an already new CPU architecture, going with a tried and true SGX543MP design was the safer option. The iPad 4 was already a bit of a surprise and didn't necessarily have to ship this year since there several iDevices that continue to use the 30-pin connector anyways, so Apple had some flexibility to take additional risk with the SGX554MP in the A6X.

Could have, but the risk factor is not the issue. There was a risk factor with the A4, A5 and A6X chips since they are all new tech chips. The only safe bets have been the A5X and A6 (half a safe bet). Considering the iPhone 5 gave only a slight pixel increase (960x640 to 1136x640), the SGX543 MP2 still can easily handle such resolution. However, assuming Apple wanted that extra performance boost to keep up with game dynamics it makes since Apple added the extra core. I for one would have just used an SGX554 MP2 and give extra graphics processing and used the extra space in the A6 (since one core would have been missing) to lower the chip footprint. Perhaps even add a bit more L1 & L2 caches giving a enhanced CPU capacity. More RAM (1536 MB would have been nice; not that I'm complaining ay 1024MB) could have been added.
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Old Nov 2, 2012, 08:37 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by jav6454 View Post
I wonder what the constraints are concerning power. Also, if, having 2x 543 cores gives 19.2 GFLOPS of compute GPU power, why didn't Apple opted for a single core 554 that has the same specs as two 543s in their A6 chip? There are no differences in core count, bandwidth, compute, or anything else. Eliminate a core, deliver greater performance no?
Ask the chip engineers, until then you are just speculating.
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Old Nov 3, 2012, 12:33 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by jav6454 View Post
I wonder what the constraints are concerning power. Also, if, having 2x 543 cores gives 19.2 GFLOPS of compute GPU power, why didn't Apple opted for a single core 554 that has the same specs as two 543s in their A6 chip? There are no differences in core count, bandwidth, compute, or anything else. Eliminate a core, deliver greater performance no?
The number of "cores" is largely irrelevant, as they are on the same die as the CPU. The total number of MADs, to first order, describes the area and power needs of the GPU. You're probably right that a single 554 core would perform at least as well as two 543s, possibly better if they've enhanced the power efficiency. My guess is that the 554 wasn't available in the iPad 2 days, and now it probably costs less to license then a 554 with equivalent MADs.

iPad power constraint: typical long term iPad use needs to under 5 watts, with 4 watts driving the screen at typical brightness, and less than 1 watt for the CPU/GPUs. During peak use (aka iPad3 overheat), the CPU cores can reach 0.5 watts each, and the GPU cores can reach 1 watt each. But this pushes the iPad way over budget and can't be sustained.

----------

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Having said that, if I was running Apple, I probably would've never released iPad 3.
By that time, Android tablets were getting pretty good, and Apple needed to keep a clear lead in tablet hardware, so they released an under baked retina iPad. Not the greatest move, true, but if they had waited, and only now released a retina iPad, it would look like they were just playing catch up to Google, instead of Google trying to catch up to Apple.

To be fair, it was easy to see that the iPad 3 was unbalanced, meaning that an application running in high resolution on an iPad3 would run twice as slowly as the same application running in low res on an iPad 2. Now the iPad4 is as fast as the iPad2.
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Old Nov 2, 2012, 01:25 PM   #16
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Considering this is one of the fastest Apple products to be discontinued...they should offer a $100 trade-in upgrade program for the 4th gen iPad or SOMETHING. It would create goodwill among the hardcore base, and then they could take customers' iPad 3's which are in perfectly good condition and slap them on the refurb store. It would such easy money lining Apple's pockets, I don't know why they don't do this.
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Old Nov 2, 2012, 02:55 PM   #17
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Considering this is one of the fastest Apple products to be discontinued...they should offer a $100 trade-in upgrade program for the 4th gen iPad or SOMETHING. It would create goodwill among the hardcore base, and then they could take customers' iPad 3's which are in perfectly good condition and slap them on the refurb store. It would such easy money lining Apple's pockets, I don't know why they don't do this.
Sell your iPad 3 on eBay if you want to get the new one! It is still worth more than $399, which is what Apple is selling a brand new iPad 2 for.
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Old Nov 2, 2012, 03:50 PM   #18
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Comparison?

Anyone know how many gflops the PowerVR MBX Lite of the 1st generation iPod touch can do, just so I can cry a bit more?
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Old Nov 2, 2012, 03:15 PM   #19
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Considering this is one of the fastest Apple products to be discontinued...they should offer a $100 trade-in upgrade program for the 4th gen iPad or SOMETHING. It would create goodwill among the hardcore base, and then they could take customers' iPad 3's which are in perfectly good condition and slap them on the refurb store. It would such easy money lining Apple's pockets, I don't know why they don't do this.
Your iPad 3 didn't become slower just because they came out with a new one.
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Old Nov 2, 2012, 03:43 PM   #20
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Considering this is one of the fastest Apple products to be discontinued...they should offer a $100 trade-in upgrade program for the 4th gen iPad or SOMETHING. It would create goodwill among the hardcore base, and then they could take customers' iPad 3's which are in perfectly good condition and slap them on the refurb store. It would such easy money lining Apple's pockets, I don't know why they don't do this.
I agree. Apple did it in the past when they announced they started shifting around the iPhone product cycle; they offered the iPhone credit program that was proposed and implemented by SJ as a way to show that 'Apple understands customer loyalty' as a way to offset a new product cycle. This really should have been no different.
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Old Nov 2, 2012, 03:51 PM   #21
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I agree. Apple did it in the past when they announced they started shifting around the iPhone product cycle; they offered the iPhone credit program that was proposed and implemented by SJ as a way to show that 'Apple understands customer loyalty' as a way to offset a new product cycle. This really should have been no different.
This is nothing like the iPhone price drop and subsequent credit.
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Old Nov 2, 2012, 04:12 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by shoes222 View Post
Considering this is one of the fastest Apple products to be discontinued...they should offer a $100 trade-in upgrade program for the 4th gen iPad or SOMETHING. It would create goodwill among the hardcore base, and then they could take customers' iPad 3's which are in perfectly good condition and slap them on the refurb store. It would such easy money lining Apple's pockets, I don't know why they don't do this.
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Old Nov 2, 2012, 11:17 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by shoes222 View Post
Considering this is one of the fastest Apple products to be discontinued...they should offer a $100 trade-in upgrade program for the 4th gen iPad or SOMETHING. It would create goodwill among the hardcore base, and then they could take customers' iPad 3's which are in perfectly good condition and slap them on the refurb store. It would such easy money lining Apple's pockets, I don't know why they don't do this.
They don't need to do it because they are going on ebay for only $100 less than the equivalent iPad 4 anyway.
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Old Nov 2, 2012, 01:26 PM   #24
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iPad 3 owners tears coming in 3...2...
I've owned an iPad 3rd gen since launch and think this is awesome news.

I like what they've done to update the iPad, and it doesn't mean mine will suddenly stop working.
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Old Nov 2, 2012, 02:57 PM   #25
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Considering this is one of the fastest Apple products to be discontinued...
lol, what? Completely ignoring all of Apple's history and just looking at the last few years: early-2009 and late-2009 Mac mini, early-2009 iMac, early-2008 iPod touch, early-2008 and late-2008 and early-2009 iPod shuffle, late-2008 MacBook Air, late-2008 MacBook Pro, mid-2006 and early-2007 Mac Pro, and early-2006 and mid-2006 Cinema Displays all give you one big group "Hello."

And considering they're still selling two products in the same family that are less powerful, the 'discontinued' argument is weak to begin with.


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I've owned an iPad 3rd gen since launch and think this is awesome news.

I like what they've done to update the iPad, and it doesn't mean mine will suddenly stop working.
Exactly. It's great that they're moving to an update-when-ready schedule for themselves. Means you're always getting the best product possible at any given time. In fact, if they went even faster and moved to more of a once-every-6-months schedule, even better! Then when I'm looking to upgrade in a couple years, I'll have 4 generations worth of upgrades to enjoy!
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