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Analyst: Tegra 2 inherently limited in fight with Apple's A5

updated 06:05 pm EDT, Fri April 1, 2011

RBS believes A5 may be large to beat Tegra video

The iPad 2's speed edge over the Xoom may have come from inherent freedoms for Apple in designing the A5 chip over NVIDIA's Tegra 2, RBS analyst Didier Scemama said. He pointed out that NVIDIA by necessity had to design the Tegra 2 to its customers' price, which he estimated at $15 to $20. Apple wasn't hindered by having to please someone else and could pay Samsung $25 per chip for the A5 if it meant getting the fastest chip possible.

The decision may have explained the reason for the A5's much larger 122mm2 chip die versus the Tegra 2's 49mm2. Both are superficially identical with 1080p video out and modern 3D graphics, but NVIDIA's lower-powered graphics might not have needed as much space. Apple's control over how the A5 would be used let it include much faster PowerVR SGX543 graphics and design devices around it, Scemama implied.

The variant Apple uses, the SGX543MP2, is a true dual-core design. Tegra 2 claims eight cores in its GeForce graphics but is closer to NVIDIA's regular graphics, where each core is only handling a limited number of tasks.

Any advantage could change in the next several months. NVIDIA's smaller chip size might become an advantage for Kal El (Tegra 3), its first quad-core mobile chip. Apple will almost certainly follow suit but will have to work with an already large design.

The analyst suspected future chips from rivals might become considerably larger as they lean more heavily on graphics and overall performance. [via Barron's]

By Electronista Staff


  1. azakel

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Mar 2011


    A quadcore tablet huh?

    I can't say that it wouldn't be nice having all that power under the hood, but what for? i wont be rendering 3D scenes in it, rendering movies with complex Hollywood effects or playing the latest realistic console game on it.

    It's a tablet, meant to replace some tasks that you used to have to need a laptop out for, like checkin email, watch a movie on netflix, play a game of something while you wait for someone, show a presentation etc.

    I don't know, some of you might feel different on this issue but i think bringing that many cores to a tablet is not necessary and might represent more battery consumption and more heating, so what's the point of having a tablet if i gotta charge it every 4 to 6 hours and can only use it for 3 before it turns too hot?

  1. SockRolid

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Jan 2010


    Intel is falling behind. Somebody tell Ballmer.

    Apple rejected Atom way back when. Apple rejected all off-the-shelf ARM designs and made their own. And now Intel's own ARM design simply isn't good enough to keep up.

    I wonder if Ballmer realizes this as he desperately tries to stuff Windows into a RISC-powered iPad clone. Inferior hardware + inferior software = YAMF. Yet Another Microsoft Fail.

  1. Athens

    Addicted to MacNN

    Joined: Jan 2003



    Graphics of any kind use up a good portion of the CPU power unless off loaded to dedicated Graphics. By including more powerful graphic chips in tablets its frees up the CPU for everything else such as the OS. Its easier and produces less hit this way vs powerful enough CPUs to do it all.

  1. facebook_James

    Via Facebook

    Joined: Apr 2011


    nVidia has lost to Apple

    Sure, nVidia can keep putting in more cores to try to compete against Apple.

    But that may not be enough to compete against Apple's A5 processor. After all, the A5 is already more than twice as fast as nVidia's Tegra 2.

    The key is that Apple has balanced and optimized its A5 processor for only its energy and power needs. And it can only get better for Apple. The A5's die size will shrink, reducing further its energy needs which allows it to be run at a faster speed. Apple doesn't have to please every other company - and thus can leave out many features out of the processor chip that it doesn't need.

    Custom built, in this instance, beats general purpose CPU-GPUs.

  1. samirsshah

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Oct 2010


    Go for "bottom up" design...

    (mobile graphics first) rather than "top down" (PCs graphics first). You will find your own answers. I know it is hard but it HAS TO BE DONE.

    Even Intel is in the same predicament, but IT HAS TO BE DONE.

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