Wednesday, 2 February 2011

The Apple A4 CPU - a cheap replica

What is it and what devices use it?
    The Apple A4 is a package on package system-on-a-chip (SoC) designed by Apple and manufactured by Samsung. It combines an ARM Cortex-A8 CPU architecture with a PowerVR GPU. The chip commercially debuted with the release of Apple's iPad tablet; followed shortly by the iPhone 4 smartphone, the 4th generation iPod Touch and the 2nd generation Apple TV.

Why is it a "replica"?
    The A4 is based on Samsung's S5PC110A01 SoC "Hummingbird" used in the Galaxy S, however it's missing features such as the FM module and others that are subtle and so far undisclosed, compared to the original. Check below to see the performance degradation.

Why is it cheap?
    Some recent tests have proven it's not only missing some features, but the modifications brought to the original design, by Apple, also degrade performance. Apple has so far avoided any benchmarking tools, but one of the most commonly spread can be neither hidden nor denied: Javascript
The "next" generation Apple CPU is up to 40% weaker than the original Hummingbird CPU.

    If you invested in a Galaxy S you can lay back as it will surely take you to 2012 blazing fast. However the 60% performance degradation seen in iPhone 4 makes it an outdated device in less than 7 months of it's release.


    To make things clearer I also added the SunSpider benchmarks that only rely on the CPU. However iOS has the advantage of also using the GPU for processing, thus having an advantage.

    Most games may look better on iPhone 4 thanks to the Pixel and Vertex Shaders that the 3GS GPU doesn't have, but the degraded CPU performace is obvious when comparing 3GS with iPhone 4.

    But what better way can t be, to make this point undeniable, than simply comparing the performance in iPhone 4 with the one in iPad? A4 vs. underclocked A4:

The performance loss in iPhone 4 over the iPad exceeds 25%

Source: GSM Arena, Apple Insider