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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 Tinhte.vn, 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: Maybe I'm wrong but...
By michael2k on 3/13/2012 5:14:36 PM , Rating: 2
But even so it will be faster than a Tegra 3...


RE: Maybe I'm wrong but...
By Dribble on 3/14/2012 5:41:43 AM , Rating: 2
With half the processors running at lower clock speeds? It won't be faster then tegra 3 in any cpu bound tasks, which is most of them.


RE: Maybe I'm wrong but...
By testerguy on 3/14/2012 7:03:00 AM , Rating: 3
Most tasks aren't CPU bound - certainly not those which require great performance (eg Games).

iOS is hardware accelerated so it benefits from the better GPU just about everywhere.

Every day tasks like browsing the internet, watching movies, viewing photos, sending emails, don't require a great amount of CPU power, any increase in the speed of CPU above that of the iPad would result in an imperceptible speed difference, since the much larger delay is, for example, in waiting for the page to download. Animations, switching between apps, slide-interfaces, multi-touch pinch/zoom is mostly handled by the GPU and that's where you need the grunt.

It's very rare to find an Android tablet, even ones which have a 'faster' CPU, which feel as smooth as the iPad range.


RE: Maybe I'm wrong but...
By theapparition on 3/14/2012 9:31:53 AM , Rating: 3
quote:
It's very rare to find an Android tablet, even ones which have a 'faster' CPU, which feel as smooth as the iPad range.

Maybe because none of them had hardware accelerated UI, until ICS.

Take a look at reviews on ICS on tablets and you'll see how improved it is.


RE: Maybe I'm wrong but...
By Dribble on 3/14/2012 10:05:38 AM , Rating: 2
I bet when the iPad 4 or whatever they call it comes out with some uber A15 based cpu (much faster) then apple (and you!) will be telling us all how important the cpu is.

If that's not true then whey are they bothering to develop A15 based cpu's - why not just stick with having a couple of A9's @ 1ghz for ever?


RE: Maybe I'm wrong but...
By michael2k on 3/14/2012 1:30:16 PM , Rating: 2
Because they are simultaneously working on iOS6 and iOS7?


RE: Maybe I'm wrong but...
By MrMilli on 3/15/2012 5:59:49 AM , Rating: 3
That's what i've been saying for years. Apple tells people what's important and people just repeat after them. It's pretty amazing.
In this case, how's cpu power not important? I would say that anything and everything is short on cpu power. Even a Core i7 that's >10x faster than a Cortex A9 is still not fast enough. The day when every task happens instantaneous then you're allowed to say that the cpu is fast enough.
Apple applied the same strategy in the past with the lack of multitasking, lack of good camera, ...
Apple always manages to convince people that when they introduce it, is the right time. Nothing short of amazing.


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