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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  • Fx1 - Sunday, September 16, 2012 - link

    Its 20% cheaper in the UK and the specs u get in the S3 are way higher! Reply
  • Torrijos - Sunday, September 16, 2012 - link

    "specs u get in the S3 are way higher"

    Unfortunately the specs won't be enough to call this one, we'll have to wait next week for Anandtech benchmarks to see where Apple's CPU/GPU puts them, compered to the USA SIII or the international SIII.

    Then there is the question of design...

    I find it pretty bold from Apple to stick to their notion that a phone screen should be only as wide as to be operated with a single thumb.
    The work on the aluminium too seems amazing.

    Still as an iPhone 4 user no need to upgrade just yet (since I still get updates from Apple), I'll wait for the 6 hoping that by then x265 is implemented as well as the last OpenGL and OpenCL.
    Reply
  • DesDizzy - Monday, September 17, 2012 - link

    Yeah and you get a plastic phone pretending to be a high end phone. Reply
  • secretmanofagent - Sunday, September 16, 2012 - link

    Ignore them, and keep doing the good job you guys are doing. Reply
  • lemonadesoda - Saturday, September 15, 2012 - link

    In other news... Apple patents Apple Core, and sues ARM for infringement. Reply
  • xeizo - Saturday, September 15, 2012 - link

    In other news... Apple patents Apple Core, and sues ARM for infringement.


    That doesn't seem unlikely, also, the chips are squarish in shape so - sue!!!!
    Reply
  • altman - Saturday, September 15, 2012 - link

    Not going to happen, but remember that Apple co-founded ARM back in the 80's. They later sold off their holding when they needed the money, but they obviously saw the potential of the architecture early. Reply
  • meloz - Sunday, September 16, 2012 - link

    >but they obviously saw the potential of the architecture early.

    The ARM products used by Apple in recent years have nothing do with what they had in 80s and early 90s. If nothing else, the manufacturing process alone has changed so much. No one in the industry -not Apple, Intel, AMD or ARM itself- could have predicted how things have turned out over this period.

    They saw f#ck all in ARM. But do go ahead and rewrite history, I am sure St. Steve had a vision and saw potential where none other did.
    Reply
  • lilmoe - Sunday, September 16, 2012 - link

    "St Steve"

    Lol, epic...
    Reply
  • Penti - Tuesday, October 09, 2012 - link

    Steve wasn't at Apple when they where investing in Acorn, VLSI joint venture to produce low-power RISC-chips. NeXT still used 68000 and i960 which they dropped for a multiplatform OS support with Intel, PA-RISC and SPARC before taking over Apple. StrongARM was also a DEC product/architecture. Intel were one of the players behind the ARM arch moving into the mobile space. Without Acorn (who already had the early ARM-bits, kinda like IBM had Power before the AIM-alliance) and VLSI it would never have been successful. And all the licensee's which licensed and develop their own architectures from that base of course. The foundation of the modern Apple company still tried to build workstations on Unix at the time. At Jobs NeXT of course. That it runs on ARM is because players like Intel/DEC, Samsung, TI, Freescale and so on had made it successful by that time. They didn't go back to the Newton which Jobs killed as fast as he could. They really don't care if it is PPC, MIPS, SuperH, ARC, 88000, 68k/Coldfire and so on. OS X ran at PPC and Intel at the time, earlier also on PA-RISC and Sparc. Others had already used the build tools (GCC at the time) to build smartphones and smart devices at ARM so support was there across the board.

    Microsoft helped MIPS along the way for that matter. They still choose PPC for their gaming consoles.
    Reply

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