Reports have appeared claiming that the processor at the heart of the A6 is based on Apple’s own designs, while geekbench results suggest that it is more powerful than the competition.
While Apple hasn’t revealed much about the A6 chip that powers the new iPhone, it did tell us that it is: “Up to twice as fast compared with the A5 chip.”
The company also didn’t hide the markings on the image of the A6 chip when it discussed the new processor at the 12 September event. Looking closely at the A6 chip reveals a Samsung part number, writes Anandtech. The part number is K3PE7E700F-XGC2. According to the report, the K3P tells us we’re looking at a dual-channel LPDDR2 package with 32-bit channels. The E7E7 gives us the density of each of the two DRAM die (512MB per die, 1GB total). The final two characters in the part number give us the cycle time/data rate, which in this case is 1066MHz.
However, despite the Samsung part number it would appear that Samsung is less involved in designing the chip than it was with the earlier A-series processors Apple used.
In addition, despite earlier rumours that the A6 features the Cortex A15 at its heart, AnandTech sources have confirmed that the A6 uses a custom design based on ARM’s armv7s architecture. The report states: “I’ve confirmed that Apple’s A6 SoC is based on Apple’s own ARM based CPU core and not the Cortex A15.” If true it marks a move away from Samsung’s processor designs.
“The A6 is the first Apple SoC to use its own ARMv7 based processor design. The CPU core(s) aren’t based on a vanilla A9 or A15 design from ARM IP, but instead are something of Apple’s own creation,” writes Anandtech.
An Arstechnica report speculates that Apple’s move towards its own processor design is made possible by its acquisitions of chip designers PA Semi and Intrinsity. Embedded chip design firm PA Semi was purchased in April 2008. Chip design firm Intrinsity was bought by Apple in 2010, just after the A4 chip – believed to be the work of Intrinsity – launched. The A4 chip was Apple’s first customised mobile processor.
Arstechnica writes that even with the news that the processor is custom built, the rumours that the A6 was powered by the Cortex A15 were flawed. That report suggests the Cortex A15 core design is targeted more towards low-power servers. It notes that: “Running two Cortex A15 cores inside a mobile device at the kind of clock speeds ARM is targeting would very likely run down the battery in just a couple of hours.” With such a battery drain, Apple wouldn’t be able to achieve the performance claimed and an eight-hour battery life for the iPhone 5.
iPhone 5 Benchmarks
It would appear that the iPhone 5 is just as powerful that Apple claims. Geekbench benchmark results for the A6 have appeared in PrimateLabs’ benchmark database.
If the Geekbench information is to be believed, along with a custom ARM core design, the iPhone also enjoys a dual-core CPU with increased RAM (1GB) and improved memory bandwidth, along with a faster 1GHz clock speed (compared to the iPhone 4S which had 800MHz).
The iPhone 5’s score of 1,601 on the Geekbench, is more than twice as much as the iPhone 4S’ score of 636 and the benchmark score of the New iPad’s 775. It also scores higher than various Android devices. The Samsung Galaxy S3 gets a score of 1,588, HTC One X scores 1,085, and the Google Nexus 7 scores 1,591.