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


View All Comments

  • doobydoo - Sunday, September 16, 2012 - link

    'If you own a second device, the device will have a microUSB port most probably'

    Um, no? There are thousands of devices which don't. And why does that matter anyway? I get a lightning cable,

    'If you visit a friend and forgot your cable, it's very likely that he has a microUSB cable because it's the standard, unlike the lightning cable.'

    Given how many iPhones sell, I doubt this anyway - but it's irrelevant. An iPhone has far longer battery life than say, the Samsung Galaxy S3 - so charging is less of an issue. I can't say I've EVER been caught at a friends without battery life and no-one there had an iPhone charger - it just doesn't happen.

    And no - uses of the adapter aren't limited to just connecting to the PC - that's a primitive uneducated response. There could be all kinds of after market accessories which utilise a potentially faster connection - or advances in USB technology which surpass micro USB.
  • doobydoo - Sunday, September 16, 2012 - link

    And we haven't even considered power requirements, size & space requirements, CPU utilisation etc.

    All in all you're just posting uneducated claims about a connector you know nothing about.
  • doobydoo - Monday, September 17, 2012 - link

    Another factor is how robust the connection is.

    I believe MicroUSB can be quite brittle when attached to a long device.

    Which MicroUSB variant are you pushing anyway, there's the 3.0 version which is ugly and has an extra piece on the side, or there's the 2.0 version which is as slow as USB 2.0 - can't even do 3.0 speeds.
  • repoman27 - Sunday, September 16, 2012 - link

    USB 2.0 has one pair for signaling and one for voltage. USB 3.0 retains those pairs and adds 2 more signaling pairs for SuperSpeed USB. None of these can be repurposed within the confines of the standard.

    Lighting is a general purpose connector which provides 8 pairs. This allows for much greater flexibility as Apple can now accommodate digital audio in/out, USB 2.0, USB 3.0, DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort, and SDIO, or a combination thereof, over a single connector simply by using different cables. Other legacy connections such as analog audio and video are possible through the use of active adapters containing DACs.

    By the end of the month there will be over 10 million Lightning cables in the wild, so I don't imagine they'll be too hard to come by in the near future. Arguably, until not that long ago, chargers with Apple's 30-pin dock connector were easier to come by than those sporting Micro USB.

    The iPhones sold in the EU will be required to ship with a Lightning to Micro USB adapter anyway, so they will also be available for those who choose to buy them stateside. I currently have a Micro USB charger in my car with a 30-pin dock connector to Micro USB adapter so I can accommodate most folks who happen to be riding with. I picked up an official Apple model for $7 on Amazon, and I don't imagine the case will be much different for the Lightning version before too long.
  • Death666Angel - Sunday, September 16, 2012 - link

    There is MHL for your digital connection needs. I have a camera that has a micro-USB port which has some added height for a special cable that gets me analog video and audio out. My old Touch Pro 2 had a modified micro-USB plug that was also used for the ear plugs. I'm pretty sure they could have gotten all the wanted from a micro-USB port with some modification. Minus the symmetry. They just don't care. Which is one of the reasons I don't like Apple. Reply
  • repoman27 - Sunday, September 16, 2012 - link

    No, they care a lot. Lightning has the potential to be far more flexible than simply providing A/V support. MHL is connector agnostic, so technically Lightning could qualify as an MHL connector.

    And as you said, "I have a camera that has a micro-USB port which has some added height for a special cable..." The whole point of Lightning is to make a multi-purpose connector that needs no additional increase in dimension to support functionality beyond USB sync / charge.
  • Fx1 - Sunday, September 16, 2012 - link

    Apple screwed the pooch on this one nicely for Samsung. Lets hope Samsung puts DDR3 and A15 Exynox in the next superphone. At this rate ill never need a HTPC i just use my phone! Reply
  • darkcrayon - Sunday, September 16, 2012 - link

    Yes, by designing and implementing their own SoC and CPU cores with double the performance as the last, with better battery life, they really screwed up.


  • Fx1 - Sunday, September 16, 2012 - link

    Wont be as powerful as the Exynos 5 and Samsung will have a much more powerful and open Smartphone from which to do things that Apple cant do and wont let you do. Win/Win Reply
  • mavere - Sunday, September 16, 2012 - link

    Previous iPhone released occured when there were already competitors with faster CPUs and more RAM. In practical terms, this greatly weakened Apple by

    yea, I couldn't think of anything either.

    The introduction of a new custom ARM design is an exciting thing for true geeks, no matter which platforms they prefer. If you can't handle it, go somewhere else.

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