A6:The Fastest And Most Powerful Custom Microprocessor By Apple Is Here

With the latest sixth-generation iPhone 5, Apple has also introduced the latest A6 chip, which is the fastest and most powerful custom microprocessor designed by Apple.

With A6 chip, users of iPhone 5 will get everything faster as compared to those who have iPhone 4S with A5 chip- be it loading web pages, installing apps, surfing the web, or even playing the games. Apple has also worked on offering faster graphics performance with A6 chip.

According to the analysis of A6 chip by Anandtech, the geek site run by Anand Lal Shimpi, Apple’s latest system-on-a-chip (SOC) design does not use one of ARM’s newest cores, the ARM Cortex 15 or the currently available ARM Cortex 9.

ARM is the designer of processor architecture, who then licenses it out to chip makers. These chip makers can then take their own custom features and make entire semiconductor chips.

As Apple is a licensee of ARM, the easy thing for the firm would be to implement one of ARM’s cores. Apple has designed the A6 chip to be better than the ARM Cortex 9.

A6 chip was announced by Phil Schiller, senior vice president of worldwide marketing at Apple at the Apple event for the iPhone 5, where he talked about its details.

Apple’s previous A5 chip, was manufactured by Samsung and designed by Apple, used the ARM Cortex A9 core.

And with A6, Apple didn’t adopt ARM’s newest core, and created its own design based on the ARMv7 architecture. The iPhone 5 will ship running iOS 6.0, the new version of the operating system.

Developer code shipped this week includes support for the new architecture, called the ARMv7s. Apple has the required licenses from ARM to create chips based on specific cores as well as permission to create its own set of instructions for ARM chips.

By going a custom chip, Apple can make a low cost and performance enhanced chip with functions that Apple wants.

Initiating such an effort can be a lot more expensive as Apple will need more engineers and test the functions of the chip on its own. Apple revealed that A6 chip will have long battery life and twice the central processing unit (CPU) performance.

To achieve that, Apple has to move to a more advanced manufacturing process, which helps minimize circuits. A smaller circuit is faster because electrical signals have a shorter distance to cover. Schiller said the A6 is 22 percent smaller than the A5, which is built with a 45-nanometer manufacturing process.

But simply moving to more miniaturization in the manufacturing process (shifting to 32 nanometer circuitry) is not enough to hit the gains that Apple reported, Lal Shimpi said. Rather, Apple’s engineers had to design the circuitry to be more power and performance efficient. That’s a major effort. To figure out the exact performance and design efficiency, Lal Shimpi needs more details that aren’t available yet. The A6 chip has its own on-board processor, but it also has a graphics processing unit, the PowerVR SGX 543 MP3, from Imagination Technologies.

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