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Discussion in 'iPad' started by reckless2k2, Sep 24, 2010.
Anyone think we are going to see an A5 chip in 2011 maybe in the new iPad?
I thought they were talking A9? anyways I'm sure it will be faster but that is up to apple right now.
Let it ride..
I think they will let the A4 chip they made ride for at least another year. They might upgrade it a little for 2011 products, but I don't think they would go through the trouble of spending all that money to modify the chip for just one year. I don't think there will be a new one til 2012 at least. A4 next year, just improved a little.
This is all nicely confusing!
Cortex-A8 and Cortex-A9 are the names of the latest versions of ARM's CPU core. A4 is separate and is the name that Apple have given to it's ARM based chip that is now in all the latest iOS devices.
Most people think that the Apple A4 uses a Cortex-A8 core internally, and a logical guess would be that a future Apple A5 would use a Cortex-A9 core. Whether that arrives with the next iPad is unknown but it seems possible as we are starting to see the Cortex-A9 core turn up in other devices.
Who knows, certainly not me, but for what it's worth my opinion differs. My guess is that there will be a major new revision for 2011 and the timing will probably be like this year when the first use was in the spring iPad.
The A4 was Apple's first attempt at an in-house SoC so I suspect they were quite conservative, certainly a lot of people were disappointed that it was based on the ARM A8 rather than A9 core and I really think that if Apple shipped an A8-based system in 2011 they would be laughed at.
Also, it doesn't really cost them much extra money to modify the chip each year. They already have a huge design team on staff, Apple have purchased two entire chip design companies in the last 18 months, so those people are already on the payroll and their computers and software purchased so they might as well do something. Apple don't fabricate the chip themselves so manufacturing is just a case of putting a new design out to tender.
Finally, don't forget that they aren't designing new CPU architectures from scratch, so far they've modified existing ARM-based designed, so it's entirely possible to refresh the designs significantly every year and this is what I believe that we will see.
I think the A4's breakaway success (faster than any other iOS device at launch and crazy-efficient) will cause them to focus in other directions: FaceTime and Retina Display. Tweak the form factor and you've got a pretty compelling refresh.
They waited 2 whole years to increase the speed of the iPhone (then bumped it again with the A4 in the iPhone 4) and that actually was conspiciously slow. So since speed isn't high on the wish-list, I can see them waiting another year and doing something a bit more dramatic, as suggested above.
I broadly agree with your thoughts about speed but that isn't the end of the story. If they could put out an A5 that had twice the performance per watt compared to the A4 then that doesn't necessarily mean that we would get a new iPad that is twice as fast, it would give Apple the option of down clocking it significantly in order to give a big increase in battery life. Admittedly that is probably more of an issue for the iPhone than the iPad right now but it is still an issue for the iPad because the other thing they could use the greater efficiency for is to reduce the size and weight of the battery while preserving the same or better battery life and performance characteristics so I believe that one of the things you mention, namely tweaking the form factor, needs a new chip if they want that tweaking to include lighter and/or thinner.
I guess we'll all know in 5 months or so. Personally I don't think we'll see the next iPad announced so far in advance of launch as the first one was. The first iPhone was announced well in advance of launch and then subsequent years the gap was much smaller; I think that the same pattern will repeat with the iPad.
I really hope they dont let the A4 ride another year when all the competition will have dual core cortex A9 chips in their tablets from the beginning of 2011. These will have 1080p video support, HDMI out, 5x the graphics power etc. I couldn't buy an ipad that didn't take advantage of the best tech available which is why I'm waiting on the 2nd gen.
The A4 is essentially a reworking of the same chips in the 3GS its 2 year old technology. Considering apple was the first with A8 I would hope they would blaze a trail with the A9. These SOCs are upgraded yearly. Just because it's their first one is no excuse to be behind the competition. It's not like it would cost them any more, samsung makes the chips and as the next one will essentially be the orion that samsung are going to start producing soon, it would be a no brainer.
And I, sir, am compelled to agree with you. I'll spare you the attempt to correlate Steve's weight issues with a company-wide obsession with thinness, but I know if they could trim 4-5oz without diminishing battery performance (or better yet, boost it 10-20%) then that's probably what they'd do. My feeling (having owned all 3 processor variants of iPhones) is that they already defied industry norms with the performance/efficiency in the A4 somehow (correct me if I'm wrong, but do other highly-functional devices give 10 hours irrespective of usage patterns?) I'd be surprised if they could squeeze so much more.. pleasantly surprised!
As for the 'waiters' who obsess over specs and what's under the hood, just wait, one of these months the Android copycats will actually release something, and it's be technically superior on paper, usable enough to fuel a hundred 'iPad killer' blog entries, and then they'll be humiliated, annually, as Apple releases new iPads and knocks everyone's socks off... again. Vanity, chasing after the wind.
For me waiting is to get the device which will stand the test of time far greater not what runs fine enough now. Also why shouldn't you get the best specs possible at the time of purchase when the device is as expensive as an ipad. I know apple provides the better software hardware combo but that doesn't mean they should get behind on the hardware.
I don't get why so many people on the forums always say it's alright if apple didn't want to provide the best hardware value because they provide a bit better software value than the competition. The software doesn't run that much better than android it just has a much better app ecosystem. Better specs would only improve the apps!
The only way apple could blow socks off the competition would be to make improvements under the hood. A retina display would only ever be possible on an ipad with a much improved graphics processor for example.
The iphone 3g was being sold as new a year and 2 months ago but provides a horrendous experience with iOS4. I want a device I don't have to replace because apple ruins it with iOS6. I imagine current ipads will feel the same pinch in a couple of years especially because of the ram!
Well a phone processor + two huge batteries provides the battery life it's pretty simple. You are right though no one provides this because no one else makes a device in the same category with the same or similar chips. The galaxy tab is smaller, so less battery room, and uses a very similar chip with a better graphics chip and they are saying about 7 hours.
Already out, Samsung's Hummingbird, which Samsung designed in collaboration with Intrinsity before Apple bought Intrinsity, way back in 2009. Link
Also, the graphics part of the A4 is PowerVR SGX 535, while the Hummingbird uses PowerVR SGX 540. It is about 30-45% faster than the SGX 535. Link
Yup, which is all the more reason why Apple can't afford to stand still. Also, they paid $278 million for PA Semi and an undisclosed (I think) amount for Intrinsity so they've already made a huge investment in the design engineers to innovate in-house and I just don't see them not firing their opening shots in 2011. For me the A4 hardly counts, it was the first release while the design teams and procedures were still being assimilated into Apple. They're firing on all cylinders now and I'm hoping for some exciting stuff in the next few years.
I love it how you guys talk about a new design of silicon like it is a matter of just drawing it on paper. Designing Micro controllers take time, in top of that you need to add testing and certifications, I don't doubt that new designs are on the works (more internal memory, faster buses, faster peripherals with less leakage current) but that will take at least 1 more generation of products.
Regardless of what happens I think they will do something to it I would be disappointed if they didn't change the A4 somehow, but for the iPad I think they would make it as fast as possible. The beta on iPad the multitasking is awesome and fluent, but there is always rom for improvment. I will be highly anticipating the net model.
Yes but the lead time on development is years
Hummingbird essentially Apples A4
announced 6 months before ipad announcement
Orion expected to be the equivalent of apples next,
announced a few weeks ago, 6 months before an ipad 2 announcement in march?
Intrinsity designed the A4 and hummingbird with samsung and apple. Apple bought intrinsity so one would expect intrinisty to have already started designing their next chip. It's not like they design the A4 then when its released start on the new one. They design chips concurrently but the A4 was probably finalised last summer. Also do not forget that the A4 is just an improvement of the processor in the 3gs so they've already done the minor upgrade. They're ready for the big step now.
For what it's worth, I've spent about 10 years of my career working extensively with the EDA industry so I have a pretty good idea of what is involved in semiconductor design of CPUs, DRAM and various other digital devices. I also sat approximately 20 feet away from the two people who designed the original ARM and the team that did the synthesis, layout, verification and testing were on the floor below me.
So far Apple aren't designing CPUs from scratch, they're modifying other people's designs. I agree that designing a CPU from scratch, right down to the pipeline, register and cache cells, ALU and FPUs, etc is a huge job but that is not what I'm personally expecting for the A5. I really hope we're going to see some of PA Semi's and other power saving tricks being applied, probably now to a Cortex A9 core, and maybe a move to new process and geometry. I do however believe (hope) that Apple now have a big and well-resourced enough team of designers for them to be able to run multiple projects at once so a multi-year totally new design might be underway somewhere in Cupertino (or more likely Austin) but that won't see the light of day in 2011.
Don't misinterpret my earlier comment "it doesn't really cost them much extra money to modify the chip each year". The key here was "extra" that maybe I didn't explain enough. I was refering to the extra variable costs on top of the significant fixed costs that are already being carried. The costs of maintaining a serious design team are enormous but they're mostly fixed costs (assuming you're not downsizing the team) so once you've got your 300 or so design engineers in place, installed a 3000+ CPU server farm and the necessary desktop workstations and EDA software, then you have that fixed cost base to service anyhow and the cost difference between them producing a design revision every year or every two years are not huge, it's a matter of taping out a couple of times for prototypes and production. Physical certification needs to be redone for each new device anyhow, regardless of whether the CPU has changed.
Finally, amplifying what Sarky just said, I would be dismayed if Apple were starting any A5 work now, they would probably have taped out a pretty clean A4 in late 2009 so they would have been mostly concentrating on the successor for almost a year now so it's not unreasonable to hope that they'll be taping out A5 later this year.