April 5th, 2010 ~ by admin

Apple iPad Round up: Inside and Out The Processors of Apple’s Latest

Apple Officially has launched the iPad, essentially a scaled up iPhone, and judging by the model number, it started development several years ago around the time of the first iPod Touch. Many of the components are similar to the iPhone, if not the same. Obviously the biggest processor ews is the Apple A4 ARM processor at its heart. Its developed by Apple, and built by Samsung. a multi-die package, it includes the ARM processor, and PowerVR Graphics on one die, and then two 128MB DRAM dies as well.

iPad Motherboard - A4 CPU by Samsung

What is interesting about the A4? It has a 64bit memory bus, rather then the more standard 32bit but found on most ARM devices. This likely for faster memory access to support faster graphics.

Wifi, Bluetooth, and FM functions are handled by a Broadcom BCM4329 which includes two processors of its own (the documentation of this part does not state what architecture they are, but MIPS or XA-RISC is likely)

The screen controller is the Broadcom BCM5973/5974 which has been used by Apple for several years. The Baseband processor in the 3G version is the Infineon X-Gold 608 which contains a 312MHz ARM926 processor, a 2007 design, so probably saved Apple some money.

So all told the iPad 3G contains at least 4 seperate processors.

Instrinsity: ARM Processor Design House

In related news rumors are flying about Apple acquiring Intrinsity. Instrinsity is a processor design house which specializes in, you guessed it, ARM processors. Its likely they have helped Apple more on the A4 then P.A. Semi (another Apple acquisition) This is further supported by the fact that Intrinsity has worked a lot lately with Samsung in developing a 1GHz ARM CPU (the Hummingbird). Who fab’s the A4? Yah, Samsung.

EE Times: Inside the iPad
EE TImes: Inside the iPad: Broadcom/Samsung
iFixit: Teardown
ars technica: Apple buys Instrinsity

February 1st, 2010 ~ by admin

The Brains of the iPad – The Apple A4 Processor

Much buzz and attention has been given to the Apple iPad, while the jury may still be out as to what Apples tablet is or isn’t useful for, one thing is true, it packs apples first self-branded processor.  Apple touted the processor of the iPad as a new creation and the most advanced yet, which is a bit of a stretch.

Apple A4

Apple A4

The Apple A4 is a ARM Cortex-A9 based SoC, it uses the ARM Mali graphics core (which is fairly robust). It was Created by P.A. Semiconductor who Apple purchased a couple years back. P.A. use to be a PowerPC company, apparently not any more. It makes sense for Apple to use an ARM based processor in the iPad as that is what powers the iPhone and iPod.  The Mali graphics core is a bit of a mystery, as Apple holds a license to its competitor, made by PowerVR, and alas the iPhone uses a PowerVR core and not a Mali core.

Essentially the Apple A4 (based on what we currently know about it) is an off the shelf design. It is not any thing revolutionary, or in fact new at all. The Nvidia Tegra 2 is also a 1GHz ARM Cortex-A9 processor. TI has a 1GHz OMAP, Qualcomm the 1GHz Snapdragon (soon to be 1.5GHz), ST has the Nomadic, and Marvel has a 1.2GHz ARM.

Perhaps then, the iPad is a ‘version 2’ product, much like the very first iPhone, Apple has lots of room to make it better, to make it outperform, and not merely match the competition. Time will tell.

UPDATE: It has been confirmed that the A4 uses PowerVR graphic (same as the iPhone) and not a Cortex-A9 but a older Cortex-A8. An even less revolutionary design. I would imagine the work APple did on the A4 involved disabling/removing various features not needed by the iPad in order to cut the power consumption even more.

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