Biting Into the iPad 3 Performance Riddle: Benchmarks Reveal Some Secrets
March 13, 2012 2:56 PM
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. (
) 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
from Vietnamese forums site Tinhte.vn, and, if accurate, the picture is not as rosy as some fans had hoped.
Using the Benchmark from
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.
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 (
) PowerVR SGX543MP2, dubbed the SGX543MP4.
The SGX543MP4 is expected to pack a theoretical 134 MPolygon/s and 4 GPixel/s fill rate.
of the iPad 2 vs. NVIDIA Corp.'s (
) Tegra in GPU-centric
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
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).
III. Rivals Prepare Counterstrike
NVIDIA is reportedly
its Tegra 4 counterpunch to market.
, 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 (
new 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 (
, 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. (
) 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
’s described its performance as
IV. Samsung Truce Could Guarantee Steady Component Supply for iPad 3
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. (
) 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.
’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. (
) 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'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 [
V. The Beefy Battery
’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.
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,
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. (
) and Vodafone Group Plc. (
), and AT&T, Inc. (
) -- America's
top two wireless carriers
in terms of subscribers.
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
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.
"Paying an extra $500 for a computer in this environment -- same piece of hardware -- paying $500 more to get a logo on it? I think that's a more challenging proposition for the average person than it used to be." -- Steve Ballmer
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