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Handhelds Apple Hardware Technology

A Close Look At Apple's A4 Chip 245

Posted by timothy
from the a-novel-in-five-parts dept.
PabloSandoval48 writes "Apple's A4 processor is heavily influenced by Apple's long-established relationship with Samsung and represents an evolution rather than a revolution in circuit design. A team of experts takes a look at the evidence on A4 in an attempt to determine its origins and the influence of recent Apple acquisitions in the area of chip design."
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A Close Look At Apple's A4 Chip

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  • by Estanislao Martínez (203477) on Thursday June 17, 2010 @12:50PM (#32604550) Homepage
    The A4 chip doesn't really seem to have any really fancy technologies in it. Mostly, it's just repackaging and combination of other components that already exist, but instead of combining them in the generic, general purpose manner they normally are, putting them all together in one chip allows a bunch of superfluous stuff to be eliminated.
  • Needed for TPM? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by thms (1339227) on Thursday June 17, 2010 @01:05PM (#32604698)

    Are there ARM designs yet which support the Trusted Platform Module specification? (Remember this fuzz years ago wrt. Microsoft and TCPA/NGSCB?)

    If I were a hardware company and want to sell DRM'ed content with a hardware dongle, this would be the way to go, having the encryption key which ties the media to the device stored directly inside the CPU would make my platform very attractive, maybe even a de-facto standard, for certain media control freaks. And you could make sure that only signed code runs it from the moment it boots, turning it into the ultimate closed system where the producing company stays in control.

  • by Zelgadiss (213127) on Thursday June 17, 2010 @01:08PM (#32604744)

    3. A forced 30% cut of all software sales for the iDevices.
    4. And now a 40% cut of ad sales in Apps(while conveniently banning Admob).

    So Apple reduces developer's profit, but they still continue to support them, helping along their growth in to a monopoly.***
    And if they do becoming a monopoly, they will have the power to cut of a developer's "oxygen supply" but banning them from their app store.

    ***Lets face it, iDevices are on the verge of being the "standard" platform for mobile applications.

    PS: I figured since my karma is already shot from criticising Apple in a previous story might as well let it going all the way down.

  • by Ixokai (443555) on Thursday June 17, 2010 @01:37PM (#32605124)

    Did you read the actual article? Do you know anything about how the ARM architecture works?

    Its sort of a "plug and play" architecture-- they license out the core design, the Cortex A8, but that design isn't set in stone. It includes options and modules that you can decide what to include or not, and there's all kinds of ways you can choose to optimize it and modify it to suit your needs.

    Some people take this design and market their own customized version of the architecture for various purposes -- Nvidia's Tegra is one such. Its an ARM chip, but not all ARM chips are created equal (and it depends greatly on the purpose one customized an ARM chip for).

    The A4 isn't some entirely new sort of chip-- its not as custom as Quallcomm's Snapdragon-- but its also not the same as any other chip on the market. They left some things out. They added some things in(or, more, changed some things). They tweaked its design to suit their purposes. Its not a general-purpose chip, needed for multiple vendors and different device types, so they left off some things to optimize it.

    Therefore... its not off-the-shelf. You can't buy one. If you're an ARM-licensee, you could make one if you really wanted if you peered close enough and figured out which modules all the various parts on the die are.

  • by lederhosen (612610) on Thursday June 17, 2010 @01:40PM (#32605166)

    Of course its not literally off-the-shelf.

    Neither is a Atom CPU with a different logo painted on it (and to be specific so that you do not misinterpret me, I do not claim that the only difference of the A4 is the logo).

    The parent of my post said was:
    "While the A4 is nothing revolutionary, it's not an off-the-shelf item either. Apple took a general purpose processor and re-designed it specifically for use in its mobile devices."

    I see no evidence for that Apple redesigned anything. Do you know any re-design that is made "specifically for use in its mobile devices"?

  • by supremebob (574732) <themejunkyNO@SPAMgeocities.com> on Thursday June 17, 2010 @01:42PM (#32605178) Journal

    IBM Eventually got the Power line of processors up to 6 GHz in their test labs. Apple just wasn't patient enough to wait for it, though.

  • by sznupi (719324) on Thursday June 17, 2010 @03:05PM (#32606122) Homepage

    It's unlikely the CPU core was modified much, they probably used some more efficient in comparison to what they had DSPs/etc., or throttling methods of those; so A8 part doesn't really come into consideration (and even if - then Apple has it just in time for A9 SoCs showing up, for example)

    Oh, and you overestimate how designing SoC can often look nowadays... [design-reuse.com] (screenshot; yes, even basically point'n'click CPU customisation)

  • by Ixokai (443555) on Thursday June 17, 2010 @11:28PM (#32609828)

    That, too, is not correct.

    LTE is actually something of a marketing plan and strategy as much as it is any certain technology. Its multiple technologies and something of a roadmap. Its a multi-stage process. It begins with sort of 3.9GPP; and that is what Verizon and then AT&T are rolling out first. This is not 4G. This is UMTS, HSPA+, and such. Its actually faster then Sprint's 4G, but its not 4G yet. This is what the iPhone4 supports: it will run fast on the new LTE networks that Verizon and AT&T are rolling out. /Then/ comes the next step, LTE Advanced, which is the true 4G, to come around in a couple years(+).

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