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Apple's New A6X iPad Chip Adopts PowerVR SGX 554MP4 Graphics

AnandTech reports on an examination of the A6X chip found in the fourth-generation iPad. The work, performed by Kishonti Informatics, reveals that Apple has adopted Imagination Technologies' quad-core PowerVR SGX 554MP4 graphics in the new chip.
The A6X retains the 128-bit wide memory interface of the A5X (and it keeps the memory controller interface adjacent to the GPU cores and not the CPU cores as is the case in the A5/A6). It also integrates two of Apple's new Swift cores running at up to 1.4GHz (a slight increase from the 1.3GHz cores in the iPhone 5's A6). The big news today is what happens on the GPU side. A quick look at the GLBenchmark results for the new iPad 4 tells us all we need to know. The A6X moves to a newer GPU core: the PowerVR SGX 554.
Unsurprisingly, the SGX 554MP4 represents a significant improvement over the quad-core SGX 543MP4 used in the A5X chip of the third-generation iPad and the triple-core SGX 543MP3 used in the A6 chip of the iPhone 5.


A full suite of graphics benchmarks reveals improvements of 15-100% compared to the third-generation iPad, with frame rates in the Egypt HD benchmark jumping from 25 frames per second (fps) on the third-generation iPad to nearly 52 fps on the fourth-generation iPad.
Ultimately it looks like the A6X is the SoC that the iPad needed to really deliver good gaming performance at its native resolution. I would not be surprised to see more game developers default to 2048 x 1536 on the new iPad rather than picking a lower resolution and enabling anti-aliasing. The bar has been set for this generation and we've seen what ARM's latest GPU can do, now the question is whether or not NVIDIA will finally be able to challenge Imagination Technologies when it releases Wayne/Tegra 4 next year.
The A6X is one of several enhancements to the fourth-generation iPad, including a new FaceTime HD camera and Apple's new Lightning connector, although the device appears nearly identical to its predecessor from the outside.

Related roundup: iPad Air

Top Rated Comments

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19 months ago

iPad 3 owners tears coming in 3...2...


I've owned an iPad 3rd gen since launch and think this is awesome news.

I like what they've done to update the iPad, and it doesn't mean mine will suddenly stop working.
Rating: 39 Positives
19 months ago
iPad 3 owners tears coming in 3...2...
Rating: 29 Positives
19 months ago
Wow, Angry Birds is going to be blinding on this model!
Rating: 21 Positives
19 months ago
1..
Rating: 20 Positives
19 months ago
Considering this is one of the fastest Apple products to be discontinued...they should offer a $100 trade-in upgrade program for the 4th gen iPad or SOMETHING. It would create goodwill among the hardcore base, and then they could take customers' iPad 3's which are in perfectly good condition and slap them on the refurb store. It would such easy money lining Apple's pockets, I don't know why they don't do this.
Rating: 8 Positives
19 months ago

What about iPhone 5 owners?

I might hold on to my 4s a little longer.


Why would iPhone 5 users be crying? The 5 is noticeably, noticeably faster than the 4S. The iPad 3 wasn't at all noticeably faster than the iPad 2 (heck, I didn't think it was at all faster). It comes as no surprise that Apple would refresh it.

The iPhone 5's GPU doesn't need to be anywhere near the speed of iPad 4's, since it's not pushing anywhere near that number of pixels.
Rating: 8 Positives
19 months ago

It would be very interesting to see a side by side comparison of how the A6X compares to the new Samsung Exynos 5250

Anand's comparison already includes the Nexus 10 with Exynos 5250 and Mali-T604. The A6X and SGX554MP4 are ahead decisively.
Rating: 7 Positives
19 months ago
More to the point, look where the Nexus 10 sits on all these charts. I appreciate that it's pushing a lot of pixels but the experience it delivers is consistently worse than the new iPad, the iPhone and, more often than not, the 3rd gen iPad too. Plus its battery was woeful on the Engadget review.

People might be knocking Apple but their products are still at the bleeding edge performance wise.
Rating: 7 Positives
19 months ago

I wonder what the constraints are concerning power. Also, if, having 2x 543 cores gives 19.2 GFLOPS of compute GPU power, why didn't Apple opted for a single core 554 that has the same specs as two 543s in their A6 chip? There are no differences in core count, bandwidth, compute, or anything else. Eliminate a core, deliver greater performance no?

Anand's chart is kind of misleading because he is focusing on ALU performance which incidentally is the main thing that changes between the SGX554MP and SGX543MP. When you go from a SGX543MP2 to a SGX543MP4 everything doubles including the ALU, TMU and ROP count. Going from the SGX543MP to SGX554MP only the ALU count doubles. As such, the 2x performance increase from A5X to A6X is very nuanced. Due to doubled ALU count and a small clock speed increase, the theoretical ALU increase for shaders is actually greater than 2x. However, the ROP count has not increased and so fill rate has only increased modestly due to clock speed only, which means that on a raw pixel pushing measure, the iPad 4 still hasn't fully accounted for the 4x increase in pixel count over the iPad 2. And so compared to the iPad 3, developers can't just double everything but will have to be more selective over how and what graphical effects they increase.

For the iPhone 5, since the resolution didn't increase significantly over the previous iPhones, Apple probably could have used a SGX554MP2 to double ALU performance over the iPhone 4S and use a small clock speed bump for a modest increase in fill rate to account for the increased resolution. However, risk may have been an issue. The iPhone 5 had to ship this fall and with an already new CPU architecture, going with a tried and true SGX543MP design was the safer option. The iPad 4 was already a bit of a surprise and didn't necessarily have to ship this year since there several iDevices that continue to use the 30-pin connector anyways, so Apple had some flexibility to take additional risk with the SGX554MP in the A6X.
Rating: 7 Positives
19 months ago
And someone posted here that he bought an iPad 3, because of the rumour that the iPad 4 graphics would be slower...
Rating: 6 Positives

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