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Apple Hardware

Apple A4 Processor Teardown 79

Posted by timothy
from the coring-the-thing dept.
Plocmstart writes "Here's what EETimes.com is claiming to be the first teardown of the A4 processor. 'Apple's iPad chip is a single-core ARM A8 made by Samsung. Through various benchmarking testing, UBM TechInsights was able to find out the details of the A4 processor.'"
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Apple A4 Processor Teardown

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  • Interesting (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Pojut (1027544) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @03:53PM (#32199838) Homepage

    Anyone know what Google is planning on stuffing in their new tablet [gizmodo.com]?

  • No Way (Score:5, Funny)

    by LordBmore (1794002) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @04:02PM (#32199990)
    This can't be right... TFA doesn't make a single reference to magic.
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      As anyone who's dabble in electronics will tell you, opening or frying an IC lets the pixies escape.

      • Re:No Way (Score:5, Insightful)

        by edittard (805475) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @04:16PM (#32200192)
        Are you saying this isn't so much a teardown as a lookat, a thinkabout or a getdrunkandspeculatewildly?
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Ah, yes. I once accidentally reversed the 5 V and 12 V leads on a harddrive and saw the magical blue smoke escape from controller chip. Electronics work only so long as that smoke stays inside the chips! (I wonder how they get in it in there in the factories...)

        • I wonder how they get in it in there in the factories...

          Oh, it's the same way they get the coke in the coke bottles, the factory is actually filled with smoke.

    • also, multicore? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by poetmatt (793785)

      also, I thought the world claimed it was multi-core? [tipb.com] This teardown summary says it's single core.

      A4 is a System-on-a-Chip, or SOC, that integrates the main processor [ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore i.e. Multi-Processing Core, identical to ones used in nVidia Tegra and Qualcomm Snapdragon]

      meanwhile, from the summary:

      number of ARM cores: 1

      hmm.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by atrus (73476)
        Multicore was wild speculation. It was pretty much obvious that it was a Cortex-A8 once the first units hit the market.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      MOV r0, 'Magical' ;
      LDR r1, r0 ;


      There you go, all better ;-)
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by marcansoft (727665)

        Does not assemble. Try this:

        get_magic:
                        ADR r0, magic
                        BX lr

        magic: .ascii "Magical\0"

    • by leuk_he (194174) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @04:27PM (#32200354) Homepage Journal

      It does have Neon [arm.com] but no powerpc. Strange that this information did not came from someone with a compiler. Does apple withhold information what code can be generated? Are devs so spooked by the apps license?

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by ShakaUVM (157947)

        >>Does apple withhold information what code can be generated?

        The only officially approved code generation method for the iPad is to send a nicely worded letter to Apple, along with X dollars. In Y months your app will be compiled for you and put up on the app store, for which you'll receive no royalties.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          I wish it were that easy! In the real world, developers go through all this and have to worry about their app being rejected.

      • by sznupi (719324)

        Neon, which...pretty much every ARM Cortex has, I believe.

    • This can't be right... TFA doesn't make a single reference to magic.

      It's a given. All electronic components operate via the Magic Smoke they contain. That's why it's such a big concern when see smoke rising from a device--once the Magic Smoke has leaked out, they stop working.

      • I have a feeling a vast majority of people do think of computers and electricity as not necessarily the dictionary's definition of magic, but something very similar.
        • I have a feeling a vast majority of people do think of computers and electricity as not necessarily the dictionary's definition of magic, but something very similar.

          Indeed. The obligatory Arthur C. Clarke quote:

          "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

          definitely applies. Even when you know something about the technology, it can still seem like magic.

          • by blueZ3 (744446)

            IMO, that's true of pretty much any "technology" these days.

            Even something as "simple" as a car--ask your average person about how their car runs and they'll probably be able to tell you that the engine uses gasoline and that's pretty much it. You put the key in the ignition, turn it, and the magical transportation fairies start working.

            A big part of this is due to specialization. Most folks have some particular thing that they're good at/focused on. But ask for details about how something works that's outs

    • This can't be right... TFA doesn't make a single reference to magic.

      I wish we had the original diagrams, maybe we could at least find the revolution generators..

      (why parent post is funny [apple.com])

  • by BitZtream (692029) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @04:03PM (#32200008)

    http://www.eetimes.com/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=224701036&printable=true&printable=true [eetimes.com]

    Next time guys, save us the effort and use the link that doesn't require us to click next 4 times to read an article that fits on half a page.

    Oh ... timothy, nevermind.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 13, 2010 @04:40PM (#32200574)

    They show that power usage is:
    0.5 Watts at idle with the display disconnected
    1.75 Watts at idle with display at min brightness
    4.25 Watts at idle with display at max brightness

    They estimate that the A4 CPU uses 0.5 to 0.8 Watts when browsing the web over WiFi.

    Conclusion, FTA:

    Until display technologies make big moves downward in power consumption the consumer experience of battery life may be driven as much or more by the LED drivers, opto-mechanical design of the back-lighting, display settings and wireless connectivity employed versus the CPU itself.

    • by sznupi (719324)

      Goof thing Pixel Qi is finally ramping up production to appreciable levels, with several upcoming products using their screen (also tablets)

      Sure, they are "cheating" by turning the backlight down in bright ambient light situations...so? The effect is what counts.

    • by afidel (530433)
      PixelQI fixes this today, the cost needs to be worked on, but the technology is a solved problem.
    • by quenda (644621)

      Considering its a cellphone CPU attached to a laptop screen: No shit!

  • by veg_all (22581) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @04:52PM (#32200728)

    tfa:

    With further analysis, including chip-level reverse engineering, we may be able to identify whether innovations such as Intrinsity’s patented cell libraries were used to optimize the critical paths in the ARM core itself.

    IOW, "It looks kinda neat, wonder what's inside!"

  • L2 Cache! (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Did you see the size of the L2 cache? It ought to be enough for everybody!

  • Next steps (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Yvan256 (722131) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @06:06PM (#32201642) Homepage Journal

    A4 for iPad
    A4 for next iPhone
    A4 for next iPod touch
    A4 for next AppleTV, possibly let it play games too.

  • "Here's what EETimes.com is claiming to be the first teardown of the A4 processor

    Oh really? [ifixit.com]

  • I think we can all agree that the iPad isn't magical. I've got one and it doesn't support any kind of magical function that I can find. But the claim that it's revolutionary or world-changing seems to gain some support from the subject of this article. If it's nothing special, why is a detailed analysis of its CPU important or interesting?
  • The question has been asked: how is the iPad so much faster than the iPhone 3GS [arstechnica.com], despite having the same processor (sometimes more than double the speed)? The simple answer is: double the memory bandwidth!

    iPhone 3GS: 32-bit memory bus, 600 MHz core
    iPad: 64-bit memory bus, 1000 MHz core.

    And this is assuming the memory technologies / clock speeds did not change. If they also increased the memory clock, the bandwidth increase could be 3x or more. And since rich web media craves memory, bandwidth is a key li

    • by edxwelch (600979)

      There's a huge flaw in that Arstechnica artical: they are using Safari to benchmark. Who's to say that Safari itself hasn't been optimised for the iPad? They should have tested using a custom benchmark app.

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