Apple A8X: the Graphics in the zone of special attention

In 2013, when the iPhone and iPad, the difference in number of pixels, to put it mildly, more than significant, a special version of the Apple A7 for a large tablet was not. And nothing bad happened – the processor just broke up, and it was enough. But this time it was the opposite.

On the contrary, because the number of pixels the screen of the iPhone 6 Plus different from the iPad Air 2 is less than iPhone 6, and “tablet” version of the processor – came out. I say, blame the competitors, the pressure on Apple has increased, and now the company has created the Apple A8X.

According to Phil Schiller, in a new system-on-chip the number of transistors has increased 1.5 times, compared to Apple A8 system-on-chip in the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Compared to the previous iPad model (iPad Air) the performance of its CPU increased by 40%, and its graphics performance was superior to that of the ancestor in 2.5 times.

64-bit CPU of the second generation. In the Apple A7, respectively, of the first.

If we take as a starting point the original iPad, the CPU performance has increased 12 times, and graphics performance is 180. For four and a half years.

Even Phil Schiller revealed the name of the new system-on-chip: Apple A8X. And – all. More than anything, he about the heart of the iPad Air 2 didn’t.

About what’s inside the new SoC, prior to its release and the inevitable showdown, they had to guess. CPU performance in this case was caused by significantly fewer questions than the graphics – in 2014, the industry is already established, and so sharp jerks was not that incredible – but ordinary they were not already.

This continuation of the series Pro processors from Apple. Previous parts:

The first part: In the shadow of the Apple A4;
Second part: the birth of the “Apple” of the processor;
Part three: Returning to the beginning of beginnings: Apple A6/A6X (Swift);
The fourth part: the Cyclone comes to replace the Swift (Apple A7);
Fifth part: one “NeXT” or coprocessor for fitness (Apple M7);
Sixth part: turns into Typhoon Cyclone (Apple A8);
Seventh part: the Apple S1: riddle enclosed in a mystery.


According to experts, Apple should not have been refused PowerVR 6-series “rascal” series. First, this is a very good and productive GPU in the forefront among the counterparts. Secondly, 10% of the company Imagination Technologies owned by Apple.

The architecture of the 6-series called the Rogue, which translates as “rascal”, “rogue” or “rascal.” Because it is not the name paint the fruits of human labor.

In the price lists Imagination Technologies have found a suitable candidate: PowerVR GX6650 with 6 “cores” (which should have been called “clusters,” but they were called so).

After Phil Schiller called the Apple A8X CPU “64-bit processor second generation”, the experts began to call him “Cyclone 2”. The name “Typhoon” found in few “.plist”files, iOS 8, and could not be related to the code name of the CPU. By the way, the code name “Cyclone” is also never confirmed officially, and also as “Typhoon” was discovered in “.plist”files. In fact, it could be not Cyclone 2, and “Intellectual bream from the star system of Betelgeuse”.

Experts have suggested that the number of cores “Cyclone 2” or “Typhoon” in the Apple A8X has increased, most likely to three. The configuration is somewhat atypical, but no longer original.

If in 2014 someone off the Internet, we would never know what it really is.


Naturalists from Chipworks, cutting layer by layer processor (of course, killing him with it), found the most informative of its kind, and via did the the experts were able to distinguish the familiar fragments, and to draw conclusions.

Cores “Cyclone 2” in the Apple A8X and in fact there were three, but the greatest interest from the scientific public was caused by the graphics compartment. This definitely was not the PowerVR GX6650.

The notation with basic blocks:

Somewhere in the vastness of the unidentified system-on-chip “enclave safety”, we look at dozens of top secret modules without knowing it. Just knowing they are there.

It was a completely different GPU, 8-core. To directories Imagination Technologies this product was not. On a GPU with 8 and even 16 cores from this company already wrote a lot, it had to happen in the 7-series PоwerVR, but the picture was familiar nuclei (clusters) of two 4-core PowerVR GX6450.

In late 2013 and early 2014, Apple hired several experts in the GPU, not the first magnitude but known in the industry – putting two and two came to the conclusion that the GPU has been seriously redesigned Apple.

This is not the only version. 8-core GPU could be developed by Imagination Technologies at Apple, or shared Imagination Technologies and Apple.

The tests confirmed the claimed Phil Schiller a 2.5-fold increase in the performance of this GPU for the same period. Along the way, revealing another fact that I as a person have linked with Apple for three decades, warmed the soul.

In 2014 the world had only two outstanding GPU for large mobile devices, this GPU in the Apple A8X and NVIDIA Tegra K1.

In most publications in this role are mentioned only Tegra, but in most tests the PowerVR Series6XT GXA6850 (the name is unofficial, not confirmed neither Apple nor PowerVR – but as it should be, as they are called) even won, though by a small margin.


The processor was 3-core, kernel was very similar to core Cyclone Apple A7 and 2 core Cyclone Apple A8. Experts found differences from last year’s small.

In A8X processor was overclocked to a modest in 2014 at 1.5 GHz.

The first-level cache (for each of the CPU cores) was the size of 128 kilobytes, 64 kilobytes is used as the instruction cache, and the other is 64 kilobytes as the data cache), second level cache was the size of 2 Megabytes (two times larger than the Apple A8), it was a shared cache for the entire processor, and the cache of the third level used the entire SoC, as in the Apple A8 was the size of 4 Megabytes.

Reviewing the iPad Air 2 and preparing the system-on-chip to the autopsy, engineers from Chipworks found that the volume of RAM Air 2 – 2 GB.

With two sides from the system-on-chip housed the Elpida chips production volume of 1 Gigabyte each. For the first time in the iPad (and iOS devices), the amount of RAM increased to 2 GB.

The chip was produced by TSMC on 20nm technology.

And that in my opinion most importantly, the Apple A8 and Apple A8X claims, no one was. Anyway, I know nothing about them.

To be continued

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