The Impact of Larger Memory

Apple doubled memory capacity on the new iPad to 1GB, marking the first time in recent history that Apple's flagship product offers a similar amount of memory to the current crop of high-end Android devices. Apple's iOS can do a relatively good job with limited system memory as it will conservatively unload applications from memory in the event that it needs to free up more space. iOS does not support paging to flash, making DRAM size a hard limit for developers looking to really push the platform.

Apple has always been conservative on DRAM sizing because it's a great way of reducing the BOM (Bill of Materials) cost. If Apple can make up for having less DRAM by being more aggressive in software (read: kicking apps out of memory), it's a tradeoff that makes sense. It's really Apple's foray into gaming that has added pressure to increase memory sizes.

With the move to the Retina Display, the amount of memory needed to store a single frame increases by 4x—from 3MB to 12MB. Assuming two buffered frames you're looking at 24MB of RAM just to smoothly display what you're seeing on the screen.

The bigger problem isn't the frame buffer, but rather all of the other data you need (e.g. level data, textures, etc...). The higher the screen resolution, the more important it is to have higher quality assets in your game. Texture compression can go a long way, but at some point there's simply more data to deal with as game complexity increases. It's not just about the increase in resolution either. As GPU horsepower increases, so will the complexity of what game developers try to build.

While the frame buffer size increased thanks to the Retina Display, total system memory increased by a much larger amount. With 1GB of memory, game developers are now less constrained.

A more immediate benefit is apps and web pages will remain resident in memory longer as you open open up and switch to other apps. For example, on the iPad 2 if I open four tabs in Safari (AT, Engadget, Reddit, and Tech Report), open iPhoto, run Infinity Blade 2 and GTA 3, switching between the latter two will always require a full game reload (as in you see the intro and everything before you pick up where you left off). On the new iPad, with the same setup, I can switch between Infinity Blade 2 and GTA 3 and automatically resume where I last left off thanks to the extra DRAM. You can still create a scenario where even 1GB isn't enough, it's just that the limit is now higher than it was on the iPad 2.

A Word on Packaging & Looking Forward GPU Performance
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  • BSMonitor - Thursday, March 29, 2012 - link

    Common might have been the wrong word. But for the masses of users(mostly consumer space), internet browsing is probably the most frequent task. But overall time spent on the devices, I would guess movies/videos are #1. Reply
  • mavere - Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - link

    The iPad's h.264 decoder has always been especially efficient.

    If Apple's battery life claim is 10 hours, I'd expect 11-12 hours non-streaming video playback.
    Reply
  • Openmindeo - Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - link

    In the second page it says that the ipad 1 has a memory of 256GB .

    The entire article was fine.
    Regards.
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - link

    Thanks for the correction!

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • isoJ - Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - link

    Good points about the future and a clear demand for low-power bandwidth. Isn't PS Vita already shipping with Wide-IO? Reply
  • BSMonitor - Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - link

    I only have an iphone so I have not played around with the home sharing and all that in iTunes.

    Can they communicate locally via WiFi for Movies, Music, etc(without a PC or iCloud)?? My impression is that they must be connected to iTunes or iCloud to access/transfer media content.

    i.e. I have a 64GB iPhone 4, and load it with 20 movies and GB's of music. And say a 16GB iPad. Can I transfer a movie from the iPhone to iPad with it going to the PC/Mac or iCloud first?
    Reply
  • darkcrayon - Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - link

    You can transfer movies if you have a movie player app that supports it, several apps support file transfers over wifi (for example GoodReader can copy any of its files to GoodReader running on another device). You could use GoodReader and similar apps instead of Music to play songs, though it's not as well integrated into the OS (but songs will still play and switch in the background, etc).

    You can not transfer things you've previously loaded into the Music or Videos (ie the built in "Apple apps") between two iPads though.
    Reply
  • BSMonitor - Thursday, March 29, 2012 - link

    Thanks. I figured as much. Reply
  • ltcommanderdata - Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - link

    On page 11 you say:
    "Perhaps this is why Apple forbids the application from running on a first generation iPad, with only one CPU core."

    I don't think the single CPU core is the primary reason why iPhoto isn't supported on the first gen iPad. Afterall, the same single core A4 iPhone 4 support iPhoto. What's more, the iPhone 4's A4 is clocked lower than the first gen iPad so CPU performance isn't the primary reason. RAM appears to be the main concern with iPhoto since every supported device has at least 512MB of RAM.
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - link

    Very good point, updated :)

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply

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