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Apple claims that the iPad 3 is "four times faster than Tegra 3"... does that claim hold up?

Apple, Inc. (AAPL), as usual, astounded the world with its latest product launch.  The company who made tablets a hot commodity a week ago pulled the wraps off its third generation tablet.  Featuring a high-definition "Retina" screen from LG Electronics Inc. (KS:066570) and an LTE modem, the new tablet kicked off a crazed frenzy of pre-orders.  

I. Same Results, Different CPU

Apple now has stated it will be out of stock of the popular tablet for several weeks, following the sales of its small-quantity of in-store stock. So what are buyers getting?  Well the first benchmarks have leaked out from Vietnamese forums site, and, if accurate, the picture is not as rosy as some fans had hoped.  

Using the Benchmark from GeekBench that measures integer, floating point performance, stream processing, and memory, the tester reveals that the computing power on the unspecified 1.0 GHz ARMv7 instruction set purported A5X dual-core CPU remains unchanged.

GeekBench iPad 3

[Source: Tienhte]

II. Better Graphics

The results would hint that when Apple said that its system-on-a-chip was "four times faster than Tegra 3", it was referring to the graphics processing unit, not the ARM central-processing unit. The GPU core is expected to be a quad-core variant of Kings Langley, UK-based Imagination Technologies Plc's (LON:IMG) PowerVR SGX543MP2, dubbed the SGX543MP4.

The SGX543MP4 is expected to pack a theoretical 134 MPolygon/s and 4 GPixel/s fill rate.  AnandTech's benchmarking of the iPad 2 vs. NVIDIA Corp.'s (NVDA) Tegra in GPU-centric GLBenchmark showed the last generation iPad to be anywhere from 30 to 80 percent faster than Tegra 3 in different benchmarks, versus Apple's claim that it was twice as fast.  Thus it could be expected that the new core in some cases would be 2x as fast as Tegra 3, or perhaps a bit better.

Given that Tegra 3 has a higher clock, perhaps it would be fair to say that to some extent in clock-per-clock Apple's GPU could be close to legitimately delivering 4x performance speed-up vs. Tegra 3, which is quite impressive (but again, the credit here goes first to Imagination Technologies for making the GPU, and second to Apple for securing the stock).

iPad 2 v. Tegra
[Source: Anandtech]

III. Rivals Prepare Counterstrike

NVIDIA is reportedly rushing its Tegra 4 counterpunch to market.  Named "Wayne", in honor of the DC Comics' fictional billionaire Bruce Wayne (aka Batman), NVIDIA's fourth gen. system-on-a-chip will be built on Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Comp., Ltd.'s (TPE:2330new 28 nm process.  

Tegra 4 will pack a significantly increased core count and faster clock speeds, but NVIDIA hopes to keep power consumption and die size low, thanks to the die shrink and new circuit technologies.

A modified Tegra 4, code-named "Grey", after the iconic Jean Grey of X-Men fame, is packing an on-die 4G LTE radio from Icera Inc.  The shipping date has been accelerated to an earlier 2012 release, but is unclear whether designs sporting the chips will appear in time for the holidays.

"Grey" will be followed by a chip code-named after her at times flame "Logan" (aka "Wolverine").  Logan will pack a greatly improved GPU, and will launch in 2013.

If not, Apple's main competition will likely be the Qualcomm, Inc.'s (QCOMSnapdragon 4, which is expected to see deep pickup in the smartphone and tablet space, as well as in Windows 8 laptops.  Qualcomm is a close ally of Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) who recorded it by making it the exclusive CPU supplier of the Windows Phone platform at launch.

The Qualcomm CPU may prove a threat to Apple's tablet dominance as AnandTech’s described its performance as "insane".

IV. Samsung Truce Could Guarantee Steady Component Supply for iPad 3

AnandTech has published some additional info on the CPU, stating that it's Cortex-A9 MPCore, which indicates that Apple may have purchased an IP core from ARM Technologies Plc. (LON:ARM) and then modified it.  Our sources had previously hinted that the iPad 3 might carry Apple's first in-house designed CPU, but this claim has been difficult to verify due to Apple's extreme secrecy.

Regardless, both AnandTech’s analysis, the GeekBench metrics, and our own sources indicate that while the CPU may be an advance for Apple in terms of internalizing its design, it is hardly a step forward -- let alone a leap forward -- in terms of performance.

The GeekBench benchmark did confirm (as previously leaked by mobile engine developer Epic Games during its iPad 3-related press comments) that the new iPad 3 has 1 GB of RAM -- twice the memory of its predecessor.  That should help keep those hungry graphics GPU cores (which use the DRAM for slow-storage) fed.  

The core -- like the last generation model -- is expected to be printed by Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (KS:005930) at its Texas facility, a mere miles away from one of Apple's top call centers.  Samsung -- reportedly the sole remaining profitable DRAM supplier -- is also expected to supply the design and process of the on-die DDR2 RAM (memory).  

Samsung Austin Texas
Samsung's CPU supplying plant is located in Austin, Tex. near Texas Instruments and Apple.
[Image Source: Let's Go Digital]

Samsung and Apple are reportedly negotiating and uneasy licensing truce, a testament to their deep mutual dependence from a supplier-client perspective, that runs counter to their heated market competition and legal rivalry [1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8].

V. The Beefy Battery

According to AnandTech’s math, the iPad 3 would last a mere 6 hours with a 25 watt-hour battery, based on the fact that Apple claims 10 hours of battery life on the new 42.5 watt-hour battery.  The new Apple tablet adds several power hungry components -- an LTE modem, a more intense, higher resolution screen, and the aforementioned higher-core GPU.

Apple's iPad 3 is a hungry monster necessitating a fatter battery. [Image Source: Apple]

No benchmarks on the LTE performance (surely network dependent) or battery life have been published yet, to our knowledge.  It remains to be seen whether the larger battery delivers better or worse results than Apple's promised 10 hours, in the real world.  

AnandTech founder Anand Shimpi, a veteran iPad user considered the larger battery a necessary evil, but complained, "The new iPad isn't as heavy as the original model, but it's clearly heavier than the iPad 2. I don't believe the added weight is a deal breaker, but it is a step backwards."

VI. LTE -- Fast and Dangerous

In addition to the $130 USD "LTE tax" you'll pay Apple to trade up from Wi-Fi, AnandTech reports that data plans will remain relatively pricey and capped at lower limits -- the highest of which is 5 GB.  The U.S. plans are available from Verizon Wireless, a joint venture between Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) and Vodafone Group Plc. (LON:VOD), and AT&T, Inc. (T) -- America's top two wireless carriers in terms of subscribers.

iPad 3 LTE
[Source: Anandtech]

AT&T has the faster network, according to past tests.  However, Verizon Wireless's LTE network covers a much wider geographic range, covering an estimated 200+ million Americans to date.  That range should balloon if Verizon latest big spectrum purchase is given the greenlight by the U.S. Federal Communication Commission.  However, customers on both networks should be wary of hitting their caps and being smacked with fees -- those 10 second app downloads might be a dangerous privilege for some.

On the plus side AnandTech reports that the new tablet is not SIM-locked.  Apple's decision to open up on the SIM side means an easier path to international roaming, as you can just pop in different cards to hop on different subscribed-to networks.

Sources: Tinhte [Vietnamese], AnandTech, AP

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RE: Correct me if I am wrong...
By nafhan on 3/13/2012 4:12:24 PM , Rating: 3
Agree with your first paragraph (pretty clear Apple was talking GPU's), but your second paragraph doesn't make a lot of sense. You can't benchmark silicon. You can only compare the implementations of the silicon. In this case, Tegra 3 is shipping with 1.3-1.4Ghz clock speed. So, it absolutely makes sense to compare it at that speed - UNLESS there is good reason to believe that 1.3Ghz will be atypical for the Tegra 3. I don't think that's the case, though.

RE: Correct me if I am wrong...
By messele on 3/13/2012 4:46:33 PM , Rating: 3
Apple compared processors, not end products. If the Prime was a 1GHz machine it would be fair to compare the silicon as it's used in the end product.

Why do you think the graphics benchmarks are standardised at 720p drawn to a frame buffer (i.e. not to screen)?

RE: Correct me if I am wrong...
By Camikazi on 3/13/2012 5:25:39 PM , Rating: 2
You can't gimp a GPU just to prove another is 4 times better, you test GPU at shipping specs against each other. Just look around, you will rarely see CPU or even GPU comparisons at the same speeds, they test them at shipping specs to see how they perform. If Apple was thinking of a clocked down Tegra then they were just BSing trying to make themselves looks better then they actually are.

RE: Correct me if I am wrong...
By retrospooty on 3/14/2012 7:34:33 AM , Rating: 3
"You can't gimp a GPU just to prove another is 4 times better, you test GPU at shipping specs against each other. "

You cant expect Apple fanboys to A) understand anything about properly benchmarking or B) Not skew things toward Apple.

"If Apple was thinking of a clocked down Tegra then they were just BSing trying to make themselves looks better then they actually are."

Yes, Apple has a LONG history of that type of deceitful behavior. Remeber when they claimed that their powerPC architecture way way faster than Intels chips? They would release benchmarks that showed a few particular types of tests that showed them in a good light. Then when tested fully it wasnt true. When tested in the exact same light, it was later found that Apple purposely used an old down level compiler for the Intel tests that croppled its speed. Straight up lies. They continued this crap until the day they announced they went with Intel chips.

"Our chips are better , faster and far superior..." Until they switched, then Intels chips were better faster and far superior. Apple is a lying sack of crap now, and has always been.

RE: Correct me if I am wrong...
By testerguy on 3/14/2012 5:19:46 PM , Rating: 1
I don't think anything is being 'gimped' here. The claims Apple made are not, I believe, clock-for-clock.

They are a comparison of shipped frequency, running the Tegra 3 at it's normal and native speed.

Numerous tests performed by Anandtech have shown that the GPU in the iPad 2 is at least 180% the speed of the Tegra 3 in some benchmarks, meaning the new iPad should hit at least 360% of the performance at its native speed.

To try and belittle a GPU which is over 3x faster, sometimes more, than the Tegra 3, is beyond weak, the recourse of the Android fanboy.

RE: Correct me if I am wrong...
By nafhan on 3/13/2012 5:32:10 PM , Rating: 2
Slowing down the Nvidia chip in order to benchmark would show you how the A5X does against an Nvidia chip that doesn't exist. You may learn something about the chip architecture, etc., but from an end user perspective, it would be pointless.
Why do you think the graphics benchmarks are standardised at 720p drawn to a frame buffer (i.e. not to screen)?
This is pretty different as the chips themselves are all being asked to perform the same tasks - screen resolution is just being removed from the equation. It's also a little bit more useful as many tablets have TV out capabilities. For most end users, it's still not very helpful, and most GPU benchmarks (for tablets) are run at the tablets native resolution.

By theapparition on 3/14/2012 9:39:23 AM , Rating: 2
Can you please point me towards one respectable benchmark that "gimped" a Pentium review to compete with a much lower clocked Athlon from years ago.

They may have done a few to gauge architecture differences, but comparisons were always done on a latest product vs latest product basis.

"There is a single light of science, and to brighten it anywhere is to brighten it everywhere." -- Isaac Asimov

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