Thoughts on the iPad 2 Specs

Just like the original iPad before it, the iPad 2 is charged with ushering in Apple’s next-generation silicon. Touting speed and graphics that are nine times faster than before, Apple is going straight for the heart of the recently announced slew of Tegra 2-based Android tablets.

Below are some opinions from two forum members who have proven their knowledge of hardware and technical specifications in the past. According to them, the device will be extremely powerful, and it is no small accomplishment that Apple has been able to cram everything in such a small space, while keeping battery life equal to the last generation.


Apple has clearly taken a new turn in 2011 when it comes to the perforamce of its products. Normally the internals of Apple hardware is either on par with or below those of its competitors, but this year, there’s has been a stark change. Whether it is about MacBooks or the brand new iPad 2, Apple has used blazing fast processors and graphics chips in its products. For example, no one saw quad core MacBooks coming.

As for the iPad 2, this upgrade is more than a simple, “spec bump.” Previously I thought that the upgrade from 2nd generation devices to 3rd generation devices was big, but what Apple did here completely dwarves that update by several magnitudes.

In terms of internal hardware:

Processor: Nothing groundbreaking here in terms of how it compares with other tablets. All of them use a dual core 1.0 GHz ARM Cortex-A9 chip, but it is a huge upgrade over the iPad 1. Apple’s 2X faster estimate is conservative at best. I wouldn’t be surprised if the figure was actually more like 2.5X or 3X faster. Why? Benchmarks on Android of devices using a single core A9 show it to be 20-30% faster than the last gen processors at the same MHz. So when two cores are used, you can expect well over just double the performance. Imagine a 10 second boot time for iOS.

Want a visual? A simple graph I made.

Graphics: This is where the iPad 2 shines. With over 9X the performance compared to the original iPad, this is by far the most powerful device available on the market. Sure devices coming late this year or 2012 like Sony’s NGP will make the A5 look measly, but the A5 is the top dog for now. For most of 2011 Android devices will use nVidia’a Tegra 2 core or Qualcomm’s dual core Snapdragon. And they can not match the graphics capabilities of the iPad 2. What the A5 brings to the table is insane. Given full developer support, it is very likely that we will see games with graphics like those on our home consoles. What Apple has given us is at least twice as fast as the Tegra 2 and 40-50% faster than Qualcomm’s next gen Adreno graphics. Why? Apple was the first to ever use a multicore graphics chip on a mobile device. When you have two cores dedicated to 3D rendering running at 200 MHz, your capabilties are virtually limitless. I would go as far to say that the iPad is more powerful than most 2 year old laptops.

Now if you want it in plain English and visuals…here you are:

It’s a simple graph I made to put everything into perspective. (Y-Axis is frame rate)

Now the numbers you see here may not be exactly how they are in the real world, as they are derived from calculations that assume perfect scaling and conditions, but it would be similar to this.

Now THAT is what you can do with an A5. See how the bar for the A5 is much higher than anything else? Yep. That’s how awesome this thing is.

You may want to ask, “But can it run Crysis?”

Answer: I have no idea. Wouldn’t be surprised if it could.

Memory: This is THE deciding factor for the iPad 2. Developers like Firemint are optimizing their games to look extra-amazing on the iPad 2 and anticipate being able to output these games at native 1080P resolution. Real Racing 2 HD (with even better graphics than now) on your TV.

But they are assuming the iPad has a lot of RAM. For 1080P output you will need at least 768MB if not 1GB. It would be very petty of Apple to keep the old 256MB so I’d say we can expect at least 512MB of super fast eDDR2 RAM. Although I wouldn’t be too shocked to see 1GB.

For now I’d say 512MB is most likely and after that 1GB. 256MB is next to impossible.

Next up, bahamutspirit:

So some thoughts on the performance figures shown for the iPad 2.

Picture reference from Engadget:

Pretty simple slide, but it hides some significant details.

“Dual-core processors” is a plural term. And “processors” is very general. Normally, if it’s just the CPU, it should just be… “dual-core CPU” because Apple knows very well the difference between “CPU” and “processor”. The next line verifies that. They say it’s “2x faster CPU”. But… it specifically says “dual-core processors” here. Now, does that means… it has more than one dual-core processor? Or is this just a typo? It sounds like they are hinting that there is something else that is dual-core in the A5 other than the CPU, the Central Processing Unit. And the next line kind of revealed the second dual-core processor:

“Up to 9x faster graphics performance”

So… normally, Apple wouldn’t mention the GPU because the iPad is intended to be a consumer product. Your average consumer wouldn’t know what a GPU is, and for those who forgot, it’s the short form of Graphics Processing Unit, or in other words, the processor that is responsible for your graphics performance. Such a reference would only make sense to someone who already know what it is, and those people aren’t what Apple normally target with these devices. So that should explain why it sounded so ambiguous. But what’s interesting here is not the terminology Apple used, but how they used them to subtly suggest things to the crowd who would like to dig deeper.

Now, back track to the Anandtech SoC benchmark that defamed the iPad and iPhone 4. I’m certain those who care that much about specifications would have seen these charts:


No matter what magic Apple did to the iPhone 4, or how smooth Infinity Blade run on the iPad, it’s undeniable that the graphics processor in the A4 chip didn’t stand a chance against those monsters on the top of the chart. The PowerVR SGX 540 chip in the Nexus S scored about 2.5x to 3.5x the performance of the graphics processors in the iPhone 4 and iPad. Even the iPhone 3GS with the same SGX 535 processor and its lower resolution was hopelessly outclassed.

So it’s clear that in real performance situations, the PowerVR SGX 540 chip would be almost 4x faster than the graphics processor of the first iPad. Now hold that thought.

For those of us who still remembered when iOS 4.3 beta was first out, I’m certain you would also remember that someone found a driver for a more powerful chip than the PowerVR SGX 540 in the new firmware: the PowerVR SGX 543. This new chip is special, since it can come in multi-core configurations, SGX543MP2 for dual-core, SGX543MP4 for quad-core, and SGX543MP8 for octo-core. But a single PowerVR SGX 543 would just be slightly faster than the PowerVR SGX 540.

Back to Apple’s claim, you’ll conveniently realize that Apple claims 9x faster graphics performance. No matter how you look at it, even the PowerVR SGX 540 isn’t enough for that claim to become reality. A single PowerVR SGX 543 may be a bit faster, probably matching that 4x faster performance over the A4 graphics chip, but it still isn’t enough for 9x. But 2 (two) PowerVR SGX 543 might just be able to pull that off. And that should be in line with what Apple hinted to be the other “dual-core processor”. So at this point, it’s safe to say the A5 may house a dual-core graphics processor, SGX543MP2.

But that’s quite a significant step-up from the last generation. If you’d look outside, you’ll see the army of nVidia Tegra 2 tablets emerging in the distance. Tegra 2 boasts a very high performance graphics processor, one that is technically superior to the PowerVR SGX 540. Problem is… it’s a single processor. Next problem is… it’s only marginally faster than the SGX 540.…ormance-update

So if you’re one who cares about specs, that one slide from Apple is suggesting that the A5 would mope the floor with the competition quite easily in terms of graphics processing power. At 9x the performance of the last generation, the iPad 2 would pack almost twice the graphics performance of the competition. That’s just crazy if you consider that the competition is barely just out of the door.

Apple seems very determined to beat the competition this time. That much is clear. They did try to jab Motorola, Google and Samsung in their presentation today, after all.

But hey, here’s one more thing: how much RAM does the iPad 2 have? This one is significant, and it wasn’t revealed or hinted in the slides.

One significant feature of the iPad 2 is the ability to mirror its output to an HDTV via HDMI at 1080p resolution. If you’ll recall, the PlayStation 3, and the XBox 360, both consoles with 512MB of total RAM, can’t output all of their contents to a single 1080p display all the time, yet Apple said that their mirror output on the iPad 2 would work with ALL APPS.

That’s a crazy claim. Sony and Microsoft couldn’t do it for all of their games, yet Apple can? On 256MB of RAM? I don’t buy that. Even if Apple’s codes are insanely efficient, they still can’t deny the laws of physics. So the iPad 2 must have at least 512MB of RAM for this to work (as proven by Sony and Microsoft). Ideally 1024MB of RAM if this is to work right. And if you’d consider that the iPad 2 will have iMovie, you’ll find that it’s a crazy idea to have a movie editing app run on 512MB of RAM. Especially one that can do HD movies.

Before you say iPhone 4 and iMovie for iPhone, well, there is a big difference. iMovie on iPad can do so much more, so it’s only natural to think that Apple must have fitted in more RAM, but you never know. At least I’m very certain that with what Apple announced, 256MB simply isn’t enough.

Thanks to both iPwn and Bahamutspirit for contributing!

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This entry was posted in News. Originally submitted by bahamutspirit. 93 comments