The State Of Mobile Processors (Part 1)

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Apple whipped the mobile industry into a frenzy with its 64-bit A7 chip last year. Since then, the consensus is that 64-bit SoCs will go mainstream this year. We think most of the battles that are to come in the next 12 months will be fought on the GPU front instead. Here’s why.

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Apple’s 64-bit SoCs – World’s first and only smartphone

Apple’s Forward Thinking Moves

Since the inception of the App Store, gaming - or should we say, mobile gaming - has been a focus for Apple on iOS. It’s not rocket science to figure out why: A quick glance at the top downloaded and top grossing charts will tell you that games likely form the majority of the 40 billion apps downloaded so far. Take that a step further, and it’s no hyperbole to declare Apple the world’s largest mobile game distributor.

Short of setting up its own game studio, Apple’s focus on gaming has been gaining momentum recently, both on the software and hardware sides of things. The company’s most recent move to consolidate its leadership in this space came last September when it announced MFi (Made For iOS) controller support as part of iOS 7. And in the few months since, we already have actual iOS 7 controllers that we can buy from the likes of Moga, Logitech, and SteelSeries.


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With an all-new design and all-new features,
iOS 7 is the world's most advanced mobile OS

On the less consumer-facing front, there’s also the new Sprite Kit, a graphics framework for iOS and OS X game developers to create high- performing 2D games. A native physics engine, an efficient OpenGL-based renderer, a particle creator in Xcode - all these goodies are now made free out of the box for developers. It’s not hard to see why indie game developers are all over it.

Of course, history will fondly remember the September 10, 2013 event as the one where Apple introduced the iPhone 5S and its 64-bit A7 chip. Much had been discussed about the A7’s CPU performance, which in short can be summarized as superb, thanks to the move to a 64-bit architecture, the availability of more register space, and software written to take advantage of all these. What’s less celebrated is the also incredible performance of the A7’s GPU, which AnandTech theorizes to be a variant of Imagination Technologies’ PowerVR Series 6 G6430 4-cluster GPU. We’ll skip the technical mumbo jumbo here other than this fact: The A7’s GPU performance is at least 2x better than what the A6-based iPhone 5 offered. Looking back, it’s no wonder why Apple afforded Epic Games a good chunk of time to demo Infinity Blade III.


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It’s not just a product of what’s technologically possible. But what’s technologically useful. It’s not just what’s next. But what should be next.

Naturally, the iPhone isn’t the only iOS device Apple makes. In a shrewd move, Apple has also put the same A7 silicon (albeit with slightly different CPU frequencies) in the 9.7-inch iPad Air and 7.9-inch iPad Mini (both sporting a 2,048x1,536-pixel ‘Retina’ display) that were announced a month after the iPhone 5S. Unsurprisingly, compared to their respective predecessor (heck, compared to all previous iPads), the performance gains are substantial. While the performance gap between the three A7 devices is small, for advanced users running heavy workloads, the iPad Air is the one to get; its more thermal headroom makes it the highest performing iOS device to date.



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