The hype behind Apple’s A4, fair or foul?

Wed, Jun 9, 2010


Devin Clodewey argues that the excitement behind Apple’s A4 chip completely misses the point:

I really don’t understand what the big deal is about the A4. ARM designed the chip, Apple customized it, and Samsung built it. How is that any different from any other phone or device manufacturer? The A4 variant (an unfortunate name considering the A* naming convention in ARM chips) is just an A8-based chip with a setup specific to the iPhone or iPad’s PCB layout and processing needs. Apple doesn’t have fairy dust to sprinkle on it to make it anything more than that.

A commenter disagrees:

Well, as someone that lives and breathes this stuff, I think you’re missing some key points here. I don’t really know what’s in the A4, but it is absolutely NOT just an ARM A8. And to say that the fact it has A8 in it makes it identical to all other A8 SoCs is kinda like saying all Android phones are created equal.

Sure, A8 is an excellent, highly popular ARM core used all over the place (the TI OMAP 3 which is used in the Palm Pre and Moto Droid uses it, for instance). But the A8 IS NOT THE CHIP. It is just the processing core — there are many other critical components inside that thing that hugely affect its performance, power dissipation, and feature set.


2 Comments For This Post

  1. AndrewK Says:

    OK, honestly, you’re quoting a commenter who basically preambles his statement with “I don’t know what I’m talking about, but…”

    Devin Clodewey is right. ARM processors tend to be a core with a few peripherals hanging off the side. The performance and efficiency is still anchored on the ARM8. Apple has simply picked their own peripheral set. I’ve seen no indication that they’ve done anything particularly interesting or innovative with the actual silicon. It’s not like they’ve come up with a new ARM core, or some new process that makes better ICs. The only thing unique about A4 is the fact that it’s become a topic discussed by the consumer.

  2. Mark Hernandez Says:

    Since Apple manufactures it’s own chips and has brilliant ARM engineers working for them it paid big bucks for, it gves them the unique opportunity that other mobile manufacturers probably don’t – to optimize the A4 for iOS for incredible performance, such as using Grand Central Dispatch and utilizing the GPU with OpenCL and other advanced Snow Leopard technologies that are now in iOS for iPhone and iPad. Why, oh why would a company like Apple not take advantage of the ability to optimize it’s CPU/GPU for it’s own system?

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