Apple iPad 2: the A5 chip core and a winning balance

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Everybody’s talking about the brand new iPad 2, launched last night by Steve Jobs himself in San Francisco. A dual-core A5 processing chip sits at the centre of the new gadget, Jobs told his audience – so what does this mean?

Basically, the dual-core device can do two things at once, making everything run really quick and smooth. Running at 1.2 gigahertz, the A5 processor is twice as fast as its predecessor, the A4 found in the first iPad and the iPhone 4. The impressive thing is that this improvement comes without further draining the battery; the iPad 2 still has 10 hours of battery life.

“We get up to twice as fast on CPU (central processing unit) performance,” Steve Jobs told attendees at the iPad 2 launch. The new processor also packs a wallop in terms of graphics capabilities – these are now nine times that of the first iPad, Jobs said. But he reassured onlookers: “Same low power as A4. We don’t want to give up any of that legendary battery life.”

Fine line

The iPad has to walk a fine line between numerous demands: fast processing but long battery life, efficient systems but light weight, cutting edge but cost-conscious. Analysts this morning are talking about the device in terms of “good enough” performance – meaning the hardware specs of the device may not be at the utmost cutting edge, but they are sufficient.

This compromise is necessary because other concerns are involved too. The iPad could be faster, but that would make it heavier, more expensive and so on. Still, a doubling of the CPU is nothing to frown at, and the graphics capabilities of the iPad are especially solid. We should expect to see more games developed for the device as a result of this news.

Understanding desire
While the performance of the A5 processor sounds impressive, others have already broken this ground: Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processor have a dual-core and can match the processing speeds of the A5, ditto Nvidia’s Tegra 2 chips. But this is the first time a processor this powerful has been used in a tablet computer – and this is the real issue here, commented Carolina Milanesi of technology research house Gartner:

“Competitors are making the same mistake that mobile vendors made with their response to iPhone: they are making the battle about hardware, and with tablets this is even less the case than it was for smartphones. What you are empowered to do with your tablet makes the difference.”

In other words, it’s not that Apple’s technology is miles ahead of anyone else on the planet, it’s that Apple has a unique way of presenting it. Apple puts the pieces together in its own unique way, and although it may have been done before, we still go gaga over the result.

ShinyJess

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