Apple is a cyclical creature, like bears, unicorns and ladyfolk. iPods in September; iPhones in June; and likely, iPads in April. April is not so far away! So, unsurprisingly, we’re starting to hear what the next iPad looks like.
The brains - While one generation of devices does not a trend make—three’s a trend, in journo-land—Apple is less mystical and more economical than most internet denizens would suspect. The A4 chip that first showed up in the iPad also made its way into the iPhone 4, iPod touch and re-designed Apple TV. It too, is not all that mysteriousical: It’s a custom system-on-a-chip built around ARM’s Cortex A8 processor that’s clocked at 1GHz with a PowerVR SGX 535 graphics chip (also found in the iPhone 3GS). It’s not crazy that the next generation of Apple’s system on a chip, which Engadget has pegged as the A5, will follow the same pattern, as their sources indicate: It’ll show up in the next iPad, followed by the iPhone 5 (and its iPod touch equivalent, though this goes without saying), and a new Apple TV.
Full size – What’s in this next-gen Apple chip? Well, quite logically (and according to sources), the heart of the A5 (or whatever it’s called) is the next-generation ARM chip. The multi-core ARM Cortex A9 (PDF), already seen in dual-core configurations up to 1.5GHz. A 1GHz dual-core A9 is also the heart of Nvidia’s Tegra 2, which is powering like a bajillion Android 3.0 tablets and steroidal smartphones (Motorola’s Xoom, Atrix 4G and Droid Bionic), and the TI OMAP 4430, powering the BlackBerry PlayBook. Oh, and Samsung’s next CPUs—codenamed Orion—which we can expect to be heart of the next wave of Galaxy phones, tablets and toasters. (Image: Apple’s A4, from Chipworks/iFixit)
The BlackBerry PlayBook is not a bad place to start thinking about the kind of performance we’ll see in the next iPad. It can simultaneously play back 1080p video and run Quake III. Without choking. The TI OMAP 4430 inside not only uses a dual-core 1GHz A9 processor, but a PowerVR SGX540 graphics core. According to AppleInsider’s sources, and driver bundles found in iOS 4.3, the A5 will include a PowerVR SGX543 graphics chip—quite possibly a dual-core version, resulting in 4x the graphics power of the current iPad and iPhone 4′s chips. If the PlayBook can do what it does, imagine what a more powerful, dual-core graphics chip can do. 1080p video is just a start.