The A6 GPU: PowerVR SGX 543MP3?

Apple made a similar "up to 2x" claim for GPU performance. It didn't share any benchmarks, but there are four options here:

1) PowerVR SGX 543MP2 (same as in A5) at 2x the clock speed
 
2) PowerVR SGX 543MP4 at the same clock as the MP2 in the A5
 
3) Marginally higher clocked PowerVR SGX 543MP3
 
4) Next-gen PowerVR Rogue GPU
 
It's too early for #4. The first option makes sense but you run into the same issues as on the CPU side with higher voltages used to ramp clocks up (also possible that you drop voltages in the move to the new process technology). 
 
The second option trades voltage for die area, which based on the A5X Apple is clearly willing to spend where necessary.
 
The third is sort of the best of both worlds. You don't take a huge die area penalty and at the same time don't run at a significantly higher frequency, and you can get to that same 2x value.

The third option is the most elegant and likely what Apple chose here. Remember that overall die size is dictated by the amount of IO you have around the chip. The A5X had four 32-bit LPDDR2 memory controllers, which gave Apple a huge die area to work with. The move to a smaller manufacturing process cuts down the total die area, which means Apple would either have to add a ton of compute (to fill empty space, no sense in shipping a big chip with a bunch of unused area) or reduce the memory interface to compensate. Pair that knowledge with the fact that Apple doesn't have the same memory bandwidth requirements on the iPhone 5 (0.7MP vs. 3.1MP display) and it makes sense that Apple would go for a narrower memory interface with the A6 compared to the A5X.
 
How much narrower? Phil Schiller mentioned the A6 was 22% smaller than the A5. We can assume this is compared to the 45nm A5 and not the 32nm A5r2, which would mean that we don't have any more memory channels compared to the A5. In other words, it's quite likely the A6 has a 2x32-bit LPDDR2 memory interface once again.
 

Final Words

 
There's not much more to add for now. We'll have a device in a week and I suspect the first reviews will be out a day or two before then. Then the real work begins on finding out exactly what Apple has done inside the A6. If anyone has been dying to put together some good low level iOS benchmarks, now is the time to start.
 
This is a huge deal for Apple. It puts the company in another league when it comes to vertical integration. The risks are higher (ARM's own designs are tested and proven across tons of different devices/platforms) but the payoff is potentially much greater. As Qualcomm discovered, it's far easier to differentiate (and dominate?) if you're shipping IP that's truly unique from what everyone else has.
 
Now we get to see just how good Apple's CPU team really is.
The A6's CPU
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  • tru_th - Monday, September 17, 2012 - link

    For those of you referencing the Geekbench 2 Results where the iPhone5 beats the Galaxy S3, you have been given the incorrect link. The link that shows the Galaxy S3 test with a lower score than an iPhone5 is because you were linked to the wrong test. The test you were linked to is under android tests which is the incorrect score. If you go to the same website and go to the popular results:
    http://browser.primatelabs.com/geekbench2/popular

    You'll notice that the iPhone5 Scores1601, and the Galaxy S3 scores 2059. I also noticed that the Galaxy S3 they were testing only registered ~800mb of RAM when in actuality the S3 has 2GB. . The Galaxy S3's hardware is superior to the iPhone5, and Apple isn't going to release another phone for who knows, a year? They dropped the ball with this one in my opinion.

    What hardware is better in the S3 than the iPhone5? Better front facing camera (1.9MP), NFC chip, Larger & Removable battery, additional memory via SD card (up to 64GB), larger & full 720p resolution screen, and there's more, just take a look at Samsung's ad:
    http://www.macobserver.com/tmo/article/samsung-gal...
    Reply
  • darkcrayon - Monday, September 17, 2012 - link

    Direct comparison of geekbench scores between the iPhone 5 and SGS3 isn't very meaningful. However assuming the direct comparison with the iPhone 4S and 3rd gen iPad is more or less valid, then the iPhone 5 is going to have a *ton* of performance headroom and plenty to last until the 5S or 6. And this doesn't even say anything about graphics performance which is going to be the top for a smartphone by quite a large margin if it's 2 times the 4S.

    The iPhone 4S keeps up perceptually with a Galaxy S III. So we're expecting the 5 to surpass it from a general use perspective.

    Also, size is a tradeoff. Saying "because it's bigger!" is not an advantage- or the iPad totally destroys the galaxy S3, right? The SGS3 is better because it's bigger. And the iPhone is better because it's smaller.
    Reply
  • tru_th - Monday, September 17, 2012 - link

    I believe the comparison between the S3 and the iPhone 5 is valid because they are both at the top of their markets, don't get into tablets that is a completely different subject. The iPhone 5 didn't improve the screen from the 4S, they added height to the top and the screen is not even 720p capable. The S3 is, and many other top of the line androids are. The iPhone 5 finally includes real 4G, while Android has had it for over a year. My point is that Apple is not innovating. You can say its better because its smaller, but because Android is open source, there are many companies like Samsung, HTC, LG, etc all making smartphones there will be smaller Android phones that still are superior to the iPhone 5. Like I said, Apple releases their phones after usually about a year so by the time the 5S comes out Android will be even further ahead, I imagine quad core phones will be the regular by then since the S3 is already a quad core phone. Android might even be optimized for 4 cores by then as well. Apple needs to stop innovation with their ridiculously broad patents and release some quality features for their phones. Keeping up with the hardware standard should be the first thing they improve on. The only thing I was actually impressed with on the iPhone 5 was the 5 microphones for better sound quality, although I'm not even sure it improves it I think it is a good idea. The screen, the processor, the 1 gig ram, the "different" plug that improves nothing at all, and the camera are all areas where there was no significant improvement compared to similar priced phones. Apple has in the past been at least up to standard with their releases, which holds the iPhone users at bay until the next release, but like I said I don't think they achieved that with this phone. I find that even Apple fans are a little let down that Apple only slightly changed the 4S to the 5. Reply
  • tru_th - Monday, September 17, 2012 - link

    Opps, I meant "apple needs to stop stifling innovation with their ridiculously broad patents and stick to releasing some quality features for their phones" Reply
  • darkcrayon - Monday, September 17, 2012 - link

    I mentioned tablets as a point of comparison, as conceptually they are similar. The reason I said the iPhone 5 and Galaxy S3 comparison wasn't particularly valid was in terms of the Geekbench score- it might not be fair to one side or another because the operating system is different. In the real world, comparing the devices next to each other for *actual* performance is valid. And considering a 4S keeps up or exceeds a SGS3 on doing mundane things like tapping to zoom in a web browser, the iPhone 5 is really going to shine- again- in comparison. And of course iOS still has the most CPU/GPU demanding apps to even take advantage of such a processor (polished, feature rich first party apps - pro audio apps, and then high end games that are not yet available for other mobiles)

    Apple _is_ innovating- the evidence is this very article. Trying to dodge that with complaints about "patents" is completely beside the point. The only thing that would put Android "ahead" here really is that you can fit a larger, hotter chip inside of a larger device. Hence again my comparison to the iPad.
    Reply
  • tru_th - Tuesday, September 18, 2012 - link

    I understand the geekbench score not being valid. But until a reputable source tests them both side by side, both running the latest firmware (JellyBean vs iOS), the tests are all we have. The operating systems are indeed way different and its hard to compare them. In terms of hardware, you cannot deny that the S3 is superior. A very large amount of the iPhone 5's parts (processor, memory, screen) are manufactured by Samsung (up to 25% of the phone). As for iOS having the most CPU/GPU demanding apps. where are you getting this information? There really isn't much difference between apps. A large majority of apps are available on both the Google Play store and the App store.

    Apple is no longer innovating. The new iPhone5 has nothing new to bring to the table aside from having 5 microphones on the phone. All the other additions were just old technology that Apple had yet to add to the phone (4G, larger screen), or expected improvements such as the processor.

    Anyways. My main point is that Apple did release a better phone but they did not improve enough. The S3 and iPhone5 are both top of the line phones and it can be argued by either side which one is faster. But the S3 came out before the iPhone5 did and the Android phone makers (Samsung, HTC, Motorolla, LG) all release phones and technology improvements faster than Apple. We might see a couple of new top of the line smartphones from each of the top companies before we will see the iPhone5, and I think by that point Apple is going to be further behind. As for the comment below me that Samsung is "scared", I hope you realize that they sell two phones for every Apple phone sold in addition to making up to 25% of the iPhone and iPad's. I think they're okay.
    Reply
  • techconc - Monday, September 17, 2012 - link

    There are a couple things to note.

    First, we have more data points for the GS3 then we do for the iPhone 5.

    Second, the Geekbench tests are multi-threaded. Essentially, showing a best case scenario for quad core machines. In real life, it's debatable how often you'd ever see that advantage. Remember, the iPhone 5 is getting this performance with half the number of cores (and running at a 40% slower clock speed), which means each core is significantly faster on Apple's chip.

    Third, the iPhone 4s "feels" faster than a GS3. That might be due to poor Android GUI optimizations or reflect upon the 4s' superior GPU performance. Either way, the iPhone 5 doubles the 4s's performance (in GPU also). Which by extension means that the iPhone 5 will feel faster than the GS3 for most tasks.

    As for Samsung's ad, these are the actions of someone who is scared.
    Reply
  • techconc - Monday, September 17, 2012 - link

    One thing I find troubling is the type of benchmarks Apple chose to use. They seem to be more disk i/o bound than CPU specific. Loading applications, saving files, etc... Reply
  • Lucian Armasu - Monday, September 17, 2012 - link

    Why is it so hard for people to notice this? Geekbench also tests memory performance, and Anand has already said it has vastly improved memory (which btw, could be a newer memory bought from Samsung).

    So why the hell is all the focus on the CPU? Even if iPhone 5 has 1600 score and GS3 has 1560, that does NOT mean that it has a faster processor.

    Again - the test measures BOTH memory and CPU performance, and it obviously means iPhone 5 has faster memory than GS3, which would give it a higher score for that...which is how the iPhone 5 compensates for actually having a SLOWER CPU.
    Reply
  • tru_th - Tuesday, September 18, 2012 - link

    I did notice that the Geekbench also tested the memory performance. But I don't trust these scores because of a few things. The tested the S3 a few different times if you look on http://browser.primatelabs.com/geekbench2/popular
    The Galaxy S3 scored 1781 and 2059, and the iPhone 1601.
    Opening the tests it showed that the iPhone exceeded the S3 in memory tests and the S3 had a faster processor. What was wrong though is looking at the test it listed the memory of the s3 to be 800MB when in fact it has 2GB of ram. Something there is wrong. As you mentioned, Samsung makes the memory for the iPhones, so why would they not use better memory on their own phones and let Apple use it?
    Reply

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