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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  • vision33r - Saturday, September 15, 2012 - link

    At the end of the day majority of the iPhone users buy it for it's simplicity and usefulness without having to spend a ton of swipes to make things work.

    That's the beauty of simplicity that you get things done without having to use a lot of resource.

    Android is a very stubborn OS because it has to cater to those who use it for more than just a simple smartphone. That's why a bigger screen matters to Android users.

    If I were to use an iPhone I would prefer one as small as my watch. I really wish SIRI can do everything for me without me ever lifting a finger.
    Reply
  • doobydoo - Sunday, September 16, 2012 - link

    There's no useful end use that you can't achieve on iOS that you can on Android.

    There are just guys who think they are tech geeks who haven't worked out how to do something on an iPhone.
    Reply
  • solomonshv - Sunday, September 16, 2012 - link

    "Imagine if every time you bought a new car the controls were in a different place. Sometimes the brake is on the left, sometimes it's on the right; sometimes it's on the steering wheel, sometimes on the armrest."

    stupid example, should have farted out a better one.

    first, you went a little too far with that. that's like saying you bought a phone where the microphone is above the screen and the speaker is below that.

    second, it seems to me like you have only owned 1 car in your entire life. i'm on my third SUV from the same japanese maker. things like cruise control, wind shield wiper controls, audio controls always seem to move around.

    hell, even the controls for the transfer case changed from a lever to a knob and moved about 8 inches further away from the gear stick. .
    Reply
  • solomonshv - Sunday, September 16, 2012 - link

    -"Do you need live widgets on there?"
    Yes.

    -"Well I'd argue most people don't."
    Who died and made you god? i'm sure they will decide for themselves when they see widgets in action. You should see the reactions on iPhone/BB user's faces when they play with my GS3 and see the gmail and calendar widgets, and the disappointment that follows when i tell them that only android does that.

    -"Apple iOS is already well established."
    You mean well advertised. The Apple logo is flashed in the viewer eyes in movies, CW soap operas, rap videos, bill boards, etc. They work really hard to put that Apple in the center of the screen. no other company advertises anything so aggressively. when was the last time you saw the Toyota symbol flashed in your face every 5 minutes in a TV show? Characters on prime time shows like Vampire diaries and gossip girls always walk around with the Apple products and the Apple logo appears on the screen so much that it may as well be the protagonist.

    go to youtube, enter "First Look: iPhone 5 jimmy kimmel" in the search box, hit enter and open the first video. (don't click the ads above the actual video).

    -"Do you yell at Windows 7 and wish it was more evolved?"
    No. Windows 7 has all the functionality anyone could possibly desire. thanks to the registry editor, there isn't a single function or menu that can't be modified, removed or added. and the instructions for any modification are readily available to anyone who knows how to use google.

    -"So again, it would have to be a whole new redesign, and again don't think that's warranted whatsoever."
    Of course not. Steve took a zillion surveys that demonstrated that his method was perfect.

    -"It's all about the apps that will round out the OS"
    how about removable storage? and the ability to add songs to your music library on the go without being changed to iTunes and the horrible quality AAC? Maybe a notification LED in the front (i know you can use iPhone's flash as an indicator light, but it is way too bright and will burn the entire battery in a few hours).
    Reply
  • doobydoo - Sunday, September 16, 2012 - link

    Widgets may impress as an immediate gimmick, but in day to day use it's an irrelevance, which simply drains battery life.

    iOS isn't advertised at all, really. Samsung spends far more on marketing than Apple does and when Apple DOES advertise it's for product features - not iOS itself. It's unarguable that iOS is better established than Android - it's plain obvious given Apples consistency and consistent support of legacy devices.

    Jimmy Kimmel youtube video is funny - but proves nothing. Take any modern smartphone and you'll be able to capture similar responses. They no doubt edited out the people who said 'it looks the same'. It's a measure of American stupidity - not stupidity specific to Apple.

    Rants on Windows 7 don't belong on a smartphone discussion.

    As for removable storage - that's hardware, not software - so it's nothing to do with iOS. You can buy an adapter for a couple of dollars to allow you to read SD cards on your iPhone - most don't, because internal storage plus cloud = plenty. SD card storage is slow to read.

    You don't need iTunes, full stop, to do anything - especially not to manage music - you just seem to not have a clue about that.

    Seems like you don't really have a clue what iOS is like these days - you're living in the past while the rest of the world has moved on.
    Reply
  • EnzoFX - Sunday, September 16, 2012 - link

    First you misunderstood completely. Second your argument is contradictory and not to mention rather ignorant, shows the blind bias really. Lastly all it goes to prove is that you are not the 99% that the phone is catered to. Failing to realize this is the most ignorant thing you can do when trying to make any comparison argument here.

    You couldn't even acknowledge that iOS is well established lol. Let alone realize its the better app scene.
    Reply
  • Scannall - Sunday, September 16, 2012 - link

    How exactly is iOS a piece of crap? It's a lot more efficient and faster than Android. Runs apps better and faster. Is a lot better at multi-core support. Less likely to have battery sucking apps in the background. Has a much better SDK. A better eco-system. Runs smoother and always has.

    Is it because it looks the same? Windows has had pretty much the same look since Windows 95. Just a slow evolution. Yet, with Windows 8 coming, and a drastic change you have people screaming from the rooftops over it.
    Reply
  • Penti - Saturday, September 15, 2012 - link

    It doesn't really mean it's not A9 does it? It might only mean that the Old Intrinsity team and Samsung in Texas designed a A9-based chip from synthesizable RTL, changing out the FPU. It does however mean that they don't use any hard-macros or such from Samsung though, but they are still probably involved. Interesting to see either way especially if it's their own custom ARM-compatible processor but I doubt there is any performance enhancements in the pipeline except for the added VFPv4.

    Remember even the A5X had roughly double the GPU power of the A5 or previous smartphone / iPhone SoC's/processors. It's not twice as fast gpu as A5X here.

    If it is their own architecture actually then it's the old PA-Semi team that has designed it probably, not anyone in Texas, but if so why was it so adamant to buy the Intrinsity team that designed the A4 (and Hummingbird) with Samsung in Texas?

    32nm mean at least that it is not Krait. But do we really know who's involved here? 28nm and another gpu vendor would mean it is a rebadged Qualcomm chip, but shouldn't the drivers leave any marks if so?

    You at least forgetting there are three ways to implement ARM, one to design your own ARMv7/8 compatible architecture, two to implement and adapt a synthesizable Cortex-core from ARM which means you can adapt it for certain processes, power enhancements, fabrication and so on, or three to license a hard-macro from ARM/the fab and combine that with other logic IP.

    As VFPv3 is optional (or at least configurable Tegra 2 with VFPv3-D16 is an example) on the Cortex A9 it's not totally alien to fathom that they also could replace it if they work with ARM here or work with say Samsung's fab which has a full license for ARM cores. Any way they seem to intentionally be very quiet about the subject.
    Reply
  • ltcommanderdata - Saturday, September 15, 2012 - link

    "If it is their own architecture actually then it's the old PA-Semi team that has designed it probably, not anyone in Texas, but if so why was it so adamant to buy the Intrinsity team that designed the A4 (and Hummingbird) with Samsung in Texas?"

    PA-Semi's contribution would likely be on the architecture while Intrinsity's specialty is in laying out the transistors to maximize performance and lower power consumption.
    Reply
  • Freakie - Sunday, September 16, 2012 - link

    I agree that there is probably more here than even Anand is acknowledging could be (also Anand seems to be trying to throw as much good light as he can at Apple for this). Apple already has used ARM ISA designs in the past, and even went further and tweaked the Samsung's to make it just a bit more like how they want (or rather, PA Semi did that I believe... highly doubt there are any engineers actually at Apple that can do that stuff when they already own companies that do it). I doubt that this situation is any different than that previous situation, where they have just taken an already customized package and customized it some more. Of course, I think we wont know that for-sure until we get die-shots of the thing, like how we were able to tell that their previous one was almost exactly a Samsung processor. Reply

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