All iPads iPad A7 Really A7X in Disguise?

Discussion in 'iPad' started by macduke, Oct 22, 2013.

  1. macduke macrumors 604

    macduke

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    #1
    Ok, please help me out on this one with filling in the blanks.

    I've gone back and looked at past keynotes. I know Apple's numbers are usually rounded to some pretty even number, but this isn't making sense. First, the numbers:

    The A6 in the iPhone 5 was 2x faster in CPU and GPU than the A5. This is an older claim that is harder to find than current info on Apple's site so I've provided a screenshot from last year's iPhone 5 event:

    [​IMG]

    The A7 in the iPhone 5S is 2x faster in CPU and GPU than the A6. Scroll down on this page for proof: http://www.apple.com/iphone-5s/features/

    The A7 in the iPad Mini Retina is 4x faster in CPU and 8x faster in GPU than the A5 in the first Mini. Scroll down on this page for proof: http://www.apple.com/ipad-mini/

    Apple also claims that the iPad Air is 2x faster in CPU and GPU than the iPad 4 A6X. Scroll down on this page for proof: http://www.apple.com/ipad-air/

    See the error in this logic? I know it says up to, but Apple is usually pretty conservative with these numbers. I also know that the iPad model—even back in the X-less A4 and A5 days was usually clocked faster than comparable iPhone versions. Usually the iPhone was around 800Mhz and the iPad 1Ghz. But this is comparing A5 iPad to A7 iPad in the Mini's current jump. Why an 8x increase in GPU when the A5 iPhone 4S GPU is only 4x slower (2x and 2x) than the A7 in the iPhone 5S? I'm willing to admit that rounding errors or other things could exist, but we're talking an order of magnitude, a doubling of performance where there shouldn't be any. Furthermore it states that there is a 2x increase in speed for the iPad Air with the A7 over the A6X. But according to an article I saw from Anandtech, the GPU output from the A7 in the iPhone and the A6X seemed rather similar. Does anyone have good off-screen benchmarks you could post to compare?

    This leads me to believe that the A7 in the new iPads just may, in fact, really be different chips than the A7 in the iPhone. Sure, they are likely clocked faster. But I think they may have a different graphics chip aboard and Apple is simply just calling them all A7 to simplify things.

    This also gives me hope that we may yet see 2GB of RAM in these new iPads just because they seem to be different based on Apple's past performance numbers compared across the board. They are perhaps packaged with different GPUs so it's not out of the question to have different RAM packages installed.

    TL;DR: They are basically saying that the iPhone 5S A7 GPU is 4x faster than the iPhone 4S A5 GPU, but that the iPad Mini A7 GPU is 8x faster than the iPad Mini A5 GPU, suggesting a different chip or an X chip that is named A7 to keep it simple.

    Am I missing something here, or am I on to something? Please give me your feedback so we can figure this out. Thanks!
     
  2. haruhiko macrumors 68040

    haruhiko

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    #2
    Good observation. Since Anandtech tested the A7 in the iPhone 5s and the A6X in iPad 4 and they found similar performance, if Apple can claim that there is a 2x performance gain in both CPU and GPU, I wonder if they really have the same CPU. But just being ~30% lighter than my iPad 4 is enough to have me switched to it. ;)
     
  3. smiddlehurst macrumors 65816

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    #3
    Benchmarks for the A7, especially on the GPU side, are tricky as it's a totally different architecture. They're about the same if you're looking at, say, Gflops but when you dive into actual performance the A7 regular beat the A6X. For example the Egypt HD Offscreen 1080p test came in at 47fps on the iPad and 57 fps on the 5S (though there have been updates to the software and anandtech didn't retest the iPad so it may have been a bit faster than that 47). Same with offscreen fill test - 2059 for the iPad, 3,304.5 for the 5S.

    Fundamentally we'll have to wait until review units find their way into the hands of the more geeky websites but I suspect what's happening is it's the same chip at a higher clock speed. That's always a tricky balancing act but they've got a 5.45 watt-hour battery in the 5S versus a 23.8 in the Retina mini. A lot of that will be for the screen but there might well be more headroom for the SoC too.
     
  4. SILen(e macrumors regular

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    #4
    I had the same thought and i too think, that the A7 in the iPad Air uses a different GPU.

    The A7 (iPhone) isn't using the best configuration of the PowerVR Rogue GPU, so the slide from the iPad Air presentation could mean they're using the best configuration in the Air.

    The iPad Mini on the other hand, will most likely use a regular (iPhone) A7 SoC, a cheaper and less power hungry SoC for a tablet that's cheaper and has a smaller battery.

    It will still manage to perform similar to the iPad 4 (and support OpenGL ES3), but not as good as the Air.
     
  5. Davidkoh macrumors 65816

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    #5
    There is something up with the GPU number yes. Either Apple is doing some sketchy marketing and claiming "up to 2X" from some benchmark they found and not something that will be reflected in real world usage, or they did something with the GPU/GPU-clocks. Normally Apples "up to 2X" can be seen in real world situations too and judging from Anandtechs tests of the iPhone 5S the A7 is just marginally faster than the A6X GPU-wise. CPU-wise it seems to be 2X from the start though.
     
  6. MartinAppleGuy macrumors 68020

    MartinAppleGuy

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    #6
    You are right. GPU wise; the iPhone 5S is 2X faster than iPhone 5(it is actually 2.67X);

    iPhone 5-28.8Gflops
    iPhone 5S-76.8Gflops
    iPad 4 -76.8Gflops
    iPad Air - 2X (probably 2.67X again though) faster than iPad 4

    If the GPU was the same in the iPad Air as in the iPhone 5S; there would be not increase in graphics perfeomce. This tells us that it either a much higher clocked G6430 or the G6630.

    ----------

    It is looking like the extra $100 from a mini 2 to an Air is for the extra 2inches, 2Gb of RAM instead of 1Gb and a higher end GPU.
     
  7. macduke thread starter macrumors 604

    macduke

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    #7
    Well if comparing across generations it seems like the A7 in the Mini Retina also has faster than expected graphics. 8x the A5 when it should be 4x. There is definitely something fishy going on with that. I do tend to agree that the Air will be clocked higher because it has more battery to work with. I've also read in the past that more ram can use up more battery. There was some good explanation on it that I can't remember. So that's another point in favor of the iPad Air getting more RAM over the Mini Retina. But I think they will have similar graphics chips.

    I'm starting to think that the A7X will be a quad-core chip in an iPad Pro with a good amount more ram—perhaps 4GB (now that we have 64-bit), and therefore to keep things simple, Apple is calling the two lower-end chips A7, even though one has more graphics power than the other, while the A7X is significantly faster than the difference between the iPhone A7 and iPad Air A7.

    Here is my dilemma, and the whole reason for this thread: I can go either way with an Air or Mini Retina, though I'm leaning towards the Mini. If one has 2GB of ram and a faster video chip, then I'll take that one as I want longevity. But if I wait for a teardown, it will probably be too late to get one as they will run out of stock and I'll have to wait yet another month. I've also got some buyers lining up for my iPad 2 and don't want to be without it for a long time. The Air would likely have the best specs, and ships sooner. So there's that—but I think the Mini would be slightly nicer for portability. I work on a large university campus and am always carrying around my iPad between meetings. I just wish Apple was as transparent with iPad specs as they are with MacBook Pro specs. Could you imagine trying to choose between a 13" and 15" MacBook Pro without knowing anything about their ram or video card? I know in this day and age people aren't supposed to care about speeds and feeds and all that nonsense, but the reality is that I'm a budget minded person who has saved up to buy this iPad and I want to get my money's worth out of it over the next few years. And I'm by no means poor—the reason I have money is because I'm good with it. I could buy an new iPad every year, but I think that's overkill for this product category. The only thing that would make me sell off an iPad Air next year is an iPad Pro.
     
  8. mariotr87 macrumors regular

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    Aug 12, 2011
    #8
    I assume both the iPad Mini and the iPad Air use the same chip. Whether they need to clock one lower than the other to consume less battery I don't know, but that would be the only reason to do so, they are clearly trying to match the mini's user experience with the big one this time around.

    I think the Air contains the same amount of RAM (1GB). Why would they add more on that one? They have to run the same apps, on a screen with the same resolution. If they were increasing the RAM on the Air just to differentiate it more from the Mini, then they wouldn't hide the fact that it's better (by having more RAM in this case). They would have clearly stated that size is not the only difference here (some people don't even know what RAM means!). There is no reason to have more on the Air.

    Bear in mind than even though the iPad Air's battery is bigger, the screen is too; pixels are bigger and it will consume more.

    I believe that, if anything, iPad Mini's A7 will be clocked lower, but that's all about it. The user experience will be the same. I also think that what some people is looking for (2GB, A8) is coming on a future iPad Pro, which will be probably bigger too. But when it comes to deciding between the Mini and the Air, it's all a matter of size. If you can get away without 2 extra inches you've just got yourself an iPad with a light, really nice form factor and amazing ppi.

    Anyway, lets wait for the tear down...
     
  9. TommyA6 macrumors 65816

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    #9
    Although A7 in iPhone 5s is as fast or faster than A6X in GPU it is not 2X faster, which probably means they used powervr 6630 in iPad's A7.
     
  10. mariotr87, Oct 23, 2013
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2013

    mariotr87 macrumors regular

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    #10
    It looks like -X chips have always had x2 GPU performance, keeping the CPU exactly as it was. This makes sense since they have to push more pixels.

    A5X duplicated GPU performance with respect to A5.
    A6X duplicated GPU performance with respect to A6.

    Now, following Apple claims, and normalizing the ratios taking the A5 as a base:

    iPhone 5S provides x4 CPU and x4 GPU power with respect to the A5.
    iPad Mini with retina display provides x4 CPU and x8 GPU with respect to the A5.
    iPad Air provides x4 CPU and x8 GPU power with respect to the A5.

    And there you go:rolleyes: x2 in GPU, just like A5-A5X and A6-A6X.

    It looks like
    -They dropped the X this time around.
    -iPad Mini 2 and iPad Air have the same chip.

    Something weird is going on yes.
     
  11. macguy360 macrumors 6502a

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    #11
    The iPad Air and iPad mini retina cannot be a higher clocked a7 due to the physical attributes of the devices. Consider this...

    If the iPad Air has shaved off nearly half a pound, but maintained the same battery life, there are only so many ways that this could have been done.

    1. Decrease size of device (only problem is that the battery weighs more than anything else and so decreasing the amount of aluminum wouldn't have that big of effect.

    2. Decrease the size of the battery (ding ding, this is the only possible way to decrease the weight of the device.

    But how did it maintain 10 hour battery life with a smaller battery?

    The processor decreased from 32nm to 28nm. This allowed the processor to use less power thus allowing to decrease the size of the device.

    If Apple had decided to use an a7x, it would be higher clocked requiring a larger battery. This would have required using the same battery as the iPad 4, thus not allowing Apple to decrease the size of the device.

    To be completely honest, the iPad Air is the lowest cost iPad that Apple has yet to produce given the decrease in cost of battery, aluminum, ram which is now cheaper than ever, and silicon.

    Apple could have gone above and beyond producing an a7x which would have given even higher performance, but they decided to innovate in terms of weight which was probably the right move considering iPad mini sales destroyed full size iPad sales last year. Now people might be more likely to buy iPad Airs given their decrease in weight and size.
     
  12. Pressure, Oct 23, 2013
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2013

    Pressure macrumors 68040

    Pressure

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    #12
    The ARMv8 superset is also made with better power optimizations in mind, so the underlying architecture is vastly more power efficient than its predecessors, shedding legacy support and new power gating options. The A7 also retains the 1.3 Ghz clock speed as the A6, so it helps maintain a low voltage.

    They probably also went to an IGZO screen, lowering the power requirement for the LED backlight, which in return also leads to maintaining the same battery-life with a smaller battery.
     
  13. MartinAppleGuy macrumors 68020

    MartinAppleGuy

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    #13
    Tear downs happen on the 29-30th. At least 2 days before release, and you can't pre order so you wouldn't be too late to find out. Anandtech posted the 5S one a few days before. Expect the tear downs to be in one week.

    I hope that the iPad Air gets 2Gb of RAM, as iOS 8 will leave a 1Gb device with 200mb I guess.

    ----------

    You are 100% right :)

    ----------

    It will just be to make things simple. It will be A7X in all but name.
     
  14. mrxak macrumors 68000

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    #14
    I absolutely believe that the A7 in the Air, and possibly the mini, is not the same A7 as in the iPhone 5s. It would go against Apple's history, and Apple's alleged benchmarks. Now, whether this is simply a beefier A7, somehow, or a legitimately different SOC simply being called an A7, we won't really know until there's teardowns and 3rd party benchmark analysis. But it certainly seems like something is different about the A7 in the iPads, if we look at everything logically.

    Apple might have any number of reasons to obscure things with their naming scheme, here, to which we can only speculate, but it wouldn't be the first time Apple's tried to obscure technical specs.
     
  15. macguy360 macrumors 6502a

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    #15
    Apple has already achieved the speed needed in the a7 processor. The improvement in the iPad air is only in weight and size, there will be no improvement in the processor speed because none is needed. If there was an a7x wouldn't apple advertise it? It would be beneficial for them to say "hey we have an even newer processor" like they always do. It makes no sense to upgrade the processor and not talk about it. The same thing goes with the ram, it will be 1gb of ram like it always has because they are not talking about it. If it was an upgrade, they would mention it.
     
  16. macduke thread starter macrumors 604

    macduke

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    #16
    I think this is probably true.

    This can't be true, look up above at the slide from last year's iPhone 5 event. They clearly state 2x graphics and 2x cpu over the A5 in the previous year's model. The iPad Air is claiming to be twice as fast as it's previous model, the A6X, and the graphics in the A6X are supposed to be only a little slower than the graphics in the A7 because (I think) they both have quad-core graphics chipsets, but the A7 chipset is more optimized. It's nowhere close to 2X as fast as the A6X.

    While it is certainly possible that it is not clocked higher, I'm looking at the history. The first gen iPad had a faster clocked A4 than the iPhone 4 had, the iPad 2 had a faster clocked A5 than the iPhone 4S had, the iPad 3 was an upgraded iPad 2 that could barely handle the retina display but was still clocked higher than the iPhone 4S A5 (and were only sold for 6 months, including one month at the same time as the iPhone 5 A6), then the A6 iPad 4 came out and was clocked higher than the iPhone 5's A6. So every iteration of iPad has always been clocked faster. A few weeks ago I looked back at the benchmarks and iPads always score around 10-15% faster than their equivalent iPhone for raw CPU power. So while it's possible that you are right given the incredible shrink—history states otherwise.



    Do teardowns usually happen that early? Usually I don't pay that much attention, but I thought they would pick up the New Zealand version and rip it apart so the time window was more narrow. The thing about that which sucks is for people like me who are trying to decide between a Mini and an Air. Since the Mini has some unspecified "November" date, we would have to wait to see what happens with that. The whole point of this discussion thread that I've started is to prove that there are some differences between the A7 in the iPad and the A7 in the iPhone. So since there are differences in graphics performance, and theoretically a higher-end chip, then there could potentially be more RAM as well as it simply isn't the same package as the 5S. If the iPad Air is determined to have 1GB of ram, then that means the Mini won't have anything better so I'll order a Mini in a smaller capacity than I had planned, perhaps 64GB because I don't see it having such a long lifespan but I definitely need more than my current iPad 2's 32GB.

    ----------

    We're not saying it needs the speed, we're saying that logically—when you look at the numbers—it doesn't add up. It seems to be faster. And if it is faster, then chances are it has a different graphics chip. And if it has a different graphics chip, there is a good chance other things could be different such as more RAM. It's speculation, but speculation based on the seed of truth that these numbers don't seem to add up. The A7 GPU in the iPhone 5S is not twice as fast as a quad-core A6X GPU from the iPad 4. Apple's page isn't saying the iPad Air graphics are twice as fast as the iPhone 5's A6, they are saying that the iPad Air graphics are twice as fast as the iPad 4's A6X. That is a very big, and important distinction. The A6X usually benchmarks around the top of all tablets in existence when it comes to raw graphics output. To double that is remarkable and beyond an iPhone 5S level A7.
     
  17. mariotr87 macrumors regular

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    #17
    Sorry, that was a typo, I meant iPhone 5S, not iPhone 5.
    So both the Air and the Mini 2 provide twice the GPU performance the iPhone 5S does, according to Apple's claims.
     
  18. macduke thread starter macrumors 604

    macduke

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    #18
    Oh, ok, so you were agreeing then? I got confused. :D

    This whole thing is weird. You'd think that would advertise that more. That's precisely why I think they are trying to position the A7 as a lower-end chip (or at least the iPad Air/Mini as lower-end devices that match the iPhone) to potentially drive sales towards pro machines with A7X chips sometime later next year. Because honestly—we're probably their target market just because we're the only ones talking about this stuff. We want higher-end tablets that can handle higher-end applications like pro apps for editing photos, sound, etc while also, perhaps, playing some higher-end ridiculous games with our new Apple certified controllers.
     
  19. mariotr87 macrumors regular

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    #19
    Yes, I was agreeing :p lol. Just tried to reach the same conclusion as you.

    I think there is definitely something bigger coming. I do however wonder why they didn't change "mini" for "air" too and appended the screen size just like they do with the MacBooks. They are the same: same internals (or pretty much at least), same form factor with the exception of width and length, and same everything.

    This might mean we won't see a more powerful iPad mini, they will just add an iPad pro to the lineup.

    I was like you yesterday, torn between iPad air and iPad mini, but I've pretty much made my mind, I'll go for the mini (wifi, still not sure about size, most likely 32, maybe 64). If the air had 2GB of RAM and there was real proof that performance is a lot better, then I might change my mind, but I don't think that's going to happen. That form factor and higher pixel density convinced me :)
     
  20. zbarvian macrumors 68010

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    #20
    It's really not that weird. They obviously packed in a better GPU in the iPad A7, for both the Air and the Mini. They really don't lie with their numbers. Why they aren't calling it A7X who knows, maybe to avoid confusion and simplify (one family of devices, same chip), or maybe they are making way for a bigger iPad Pro, but it's clear that this has an improved GPU when compared to the 5S.
     
  21. Aylan macrumors regular

    Aylan

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    #21
    I think that the iPhone 5S and the iPad Air/mini w/retina do in fact share the same SoC but the one in the iPad is optimized for the additional thermal envelope of the iPads. I am assumig they are achieving a higher GPU performace by having more dedicated RAM or higher clocks, though power gating. I recall reading in Anand's review of the A7 that the GPU could be upscaled if needed.

    Also, I feel the need to say that since we have a MacBook Air and a MacBook Pro, that the naming scheme is so that they can introduce an iPad Pro with the real A7X which would most likely be quad core, more RAM and an even bigger display. It is quite clear that slate computing is Apple's future.
     
  22. MartinAppleGuy macrumors 68020

    MartinAppleGuy

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    #22
    But what about people that have waited a year for an performance upgrade and have to wait even longer. As long as the iPad Air has 2Gb of RAM, it will be good enough :)

    ----------

    The get a review copy. That is how apple get the reviews out before the devices. Same goes for console games. Anandtech never "reared down" the iPhone 5S, he used benchmarking to determine the hardware (for example geekbench can tell the amount of RAM without an update for that device. So we will find out all in a weeks time (29-31st).
     
  23. MartinAppleGuy macrumors 68020

    MartinAppleGuy

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    #23
    I have also added up; and the A7 in the iPad is basically an A7X in all but name. An X variant was an increase in CPU clock speed as well as a GPU upgrade. The GPU is 2X as fast as the 5S, we have added that up.

    Here is the CPU increase;

    iPhone 5S's A7 is 2X faster than A6
    iPad Air's A7 is 2X faster than A6X

    Therefor, CPU wise and GPU wise, this is an A7X; just Apple never called it that for some reason.

    It is very likely we will see 2gb of RAM with it as well(2 years of iPad with 1gb, the leaked specs...).

    It appears that apple under sold the iPad Air (at least in terms of spec). They done the same with the iPhone 5S; they said 2X faster GPU, but in overall GPU performance, it was actually 2.67X. If we get this instead of the 2X, the iPad Air will output graphically 205Gflops. If it only gets a 2X(more likely 2.67 though), it will still be 155Gflops.

    Just for reference and a bit of fun; an Xbox 360's GPU outputs at 155 Gflops, and a PS3 at 174Gflops. So graphically, the iPad Air is as least as powerful as an Xbox 360's GPU, or more powerful than a PS3's, or some where in between/slightly over.
     
  24. macduke thread starter macrumors 604

    macduke

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    #24
    I've mentioned the Xbox comparison back when the A7 first launched—pointing out how close it is—and people shot me down for that remark saying that those systems are engineered for gaming. That might be so, but the A7 is no slouch with double the system ram and faster flash storage. What's going to be funny is when the A series catches up to the Xbox One and PS4 in a few more years and eventually surpasses them before they are replaced with faster versions. The new controller API combined with a newer version of AirPlay that perhaps runs over 802.11ac (less lag) would make for one crazy console on the go! Apple has been eating Nintendo's lunch lately, and I wouldn't be surprised if they start eating Microsoft and Sony's when it comes to console gaming. That's pretty crazy to think about. I think the controller API will bring on board more hardcore gamers and AAA titles. I'm not saying it will happen over night but give it 3-5 years and Apple will creep on into the console space. Mark my words!
     
  25. MartinAppleGuy macrumors 68020

    MartinAppleGuy

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    #25
    Totally argree; hope that happens too. Lets just hope 2Gb of RAM comes with it...
     

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