updated 08:15 am EDT, Tue May 10, 2011
iPad 2 benches as fast as Cray 2 from 1985
Apple's iPad 2 is as fast as a Cray 2 supercomputer from a quarter-century ago, Top 500 and Linpack co-manager Dr. Jack Dongarra said late Monday. At 1.5 to 1.65 gigaflops of computing power, Apple's tablet would compete with the eight-processor, 1985-era system despite being just a sliver of the size. Where the Cray 2 was the size of a washing machine, the NYT said, the iPad 2 can manage the same performance in the space of a large notepad.
Apple's performance would have been enough to keep it in the Top 500 supercomputer charts up to and including 1994, Dr. Dongarra said.
The tablet also requires much less power and cooling. Cray's system was power-hungry enough to require a 3M-developed liquid, Flourinert, just to stay cool. An iPad 2's ARM processor uses less than 10W of power and requires no fans.
He added that the iPad 2 was even much faster than the original iPad. Its performance was about ten times faster, owing not just to the second core but to the switch to the newer ARM Cortex-A9 architecture. The newer PowerVR graphics could also play a role.
Unlike most supercomputers, though, the iPad 2 can't be clustered due to Apple's iOS limitations. Jailbreaking might make it possible, though, and it could be a "power-friendly" cluster even if the devices all had to talk to each other over Wi-Fi, Dr. Dongarra said.