Tuesday, November 6, 2012

4th gen iPad’s A6X chip runs quad-core PowerVR SGX 554MP4 graphics

Apple introduced the new A6X with the fourth-generation iPad on October 23. It’s an improved version of the A6 silicon powering the iPhone 5 by increasing clock frequency for the CPU (1.5GHz) and GPU (500MHz) part in order to achieve Apple’s claim of twice the CPU and GPU performance.

Though the A6X still runs two ARM Cortex-A15 cores with a heavily customized, Apple’s own ARMv7 based processor design (called Swift), the company has improved graphics performance compared to the A6′s three PowerVR-based GPU cores by moving to a newer GPU core: the PowerVR SGX 554 from UK’s fabless semiconductor maker Imagination Technologies, where Apple has an ownership stake…

AnandTech analyzed benchamrks performed by Kishonti Informatics and concluded that Imagination Technologies’ quad-core PowerVR SGX 554MP4 graphics powers the A6X package, itself fabbed on Samsung’s 32-nanometer process.

The A5X package found inside the original and now phased-out iPad 3 model had two ARM Cortex A9 cores running at 1GHz paired with four PowerVR SGX 543 cores running at 250MHz.

The A6X retains the 128-bit wide memory interface of the A5X (and it keeps the memory controller interface adjacent to the GPU cores and not the CPU cores as is the case in the A5/A6). It also integrates two of Apple’s new Swift cores running at up to 1.4GHz (a slight increase from the 1.3GHz cores in the iPhone 5′s A6). The big news today is what happens on the GPU side.

Imagination provides little data about the 554 but Chipworks was able to determine that “each GPU core is sub-divided into 9 sub-cores: 2 sets of 4 identical sub-cores plus a central core”.

Because of this doubling of the per-core count (two sets of four identical sub-cores plus a central core) and the increase in clock frequency, the A6X fares substantially better in GLBenchmark than its A5X counterpart, fulfilling Apple’s “twice as much” performance claim.

Claimed unlocked iPhone 5 prices show up on Apple’s website

While Apple offers unlocked iPhone 5s in Canada and other countries, it has yet to give buyers inside the US that option. So unless you go through a third party vendor, you can’t get an unlocked iPhone 5 here in the States.

That could be changing in the near future though. Purported prices for unlocked versions of the new handset have been discovered hidden on Apple’s US website, which could mean that they’re preparing to roll them out…

AppleInsider reports:

“While not listed anywhere else on the site, a query for “iPhone 5 factory unlocked” in the search bar reveals “Apple Store Results” as seen above. The units are priced at $649 for the 16GB version, $749 for the 32GB model, and $849 for the 64GB iteration.”

Though not shown in the above screenshot, all prices for both GSM and CDMA models can be found this way by adding the storage size. So searching for “iPhone 5 factory unlocked 32GB” will return results for both models.

It’s unknown how long these search results have been on Apple’s website, so there’s no way to know when or if we’ll see unlocked iPhone 5s in the US. Last year, though, Apple started selling unlocked 4S models on November 11.

It’s also worth noting that back in September, we discovered that the Verizon version of the iPhone 5 comes with an unlocked SIM card slot, meaning it will work on GSM networks. Something to keep in mind if you’re in the market.

The HiLO Lens: an angled camera lens for your iPhone

A friend of mine asked me the other day what I thought about add-on camera lenses for the iPhone. I told him the Olloclip was pretty popular, but I hadn’t ever owned any myself so I probably wasn’t the best person to ask.

You see, I’ve never really seen the point to these clip-on lenses. They just never seem to improve picture quality enough to justify the cost and hassle. But this new HiLO Lens might actually be worth taking a look at…

The HiLO is an angled, innovative camera lens for your iPhone. It fits over the handset’s rear iSight lens, and attaches via a sticky pad. Don’t worry, it won’t leave residue on your device and can be cleaned with soap and water. The casing of the lens is made from machined aluminum, and inside you’ll find custom designed optics, made with three lenses and a prism. This essentially gives you a pariscope-like setup, so you can take angled photos.

If you’re interested in the HiLO, you might consider heading over to its Kickstarter page and backing the project. With 14 days left, they’re at $21,000 of their $27,500 goal. A $60 pledge scores you an early version of the lens.

The team says the HiLO will start shipping in February of next year, and will be compatible with the iPhone 4, 4S and 5. It’s an interesting product, for sure, and will make a nice addition to any iPhoneographer’s lens kit.

What do you think of the HiLO? Cool idea, or expensive novelty?

Angry Birds Star Wars gameplay video debuts ahead of Thursday release

I’m sure you know Angry Birds Star Wars is due on iOS, Android and a bunch of other platforms this coming Thursday. Rovio’s been promoting the hell out of this game and today the Finnish developer posted the official video that reveals much more in terms of gameplay than half a dozen previously released clips. Angry Birds Star Wars better be darn good. Otherwise, I’m gonna be hating everything Star Wars till the grave. I’ve also included a nice Darth Vader & Han Solo video after the break…

And here’s the Obi Wan & Darth Vader clip. I know who’s gonna be playing it like there’s no tomorrow – my mom.

Ever since inheriting my iPad 2, she can’t get enough of Angry Birds and constantly keeps asking me about content updates.

I don’t think there has ever been a mobile game franchise like this.

I was – and still am – a big fan of the series but am nonetheless surprised that the game hasn’t run its course yet.


Friday, November 2, 2012

The iPad mini launching in 34 countries, here are launch videos

On Friday the new 7.9-inch iPad and a retooled fourth-generation iPad with Retina display both went on sale in what goes down in history as Apple’s broadest and deepest iPad launch ever. The initial pre-order stock was sold out within hours a week ago, with expectation that the smaller iPad will move 1.5 million units during the weekend.

According to first reports, the launch drew shorter lines than for previous iPad launches, with places like Sydney experiencing the familiar lines that stretch for several blocks. Though the turnout wasn’t as big as for a new iPhone, you had to stand in line if you wanted to buy the iPad mini at an Apple store. We’ve got some pretty nice launch videos right below the fold…

The iPad mini first hit New Zealand hours ago. The gizmo represents, according to Brian White of Topeka Capital Markets, Apple’s “broadest and deepest iPad launch ever, just in time for the holidays”.

This is the line outside Apple’s Amsterdam store.

No jokes about the “mini” lines, please.

In comparison, the iPad 3 launched in just twelve countries back in March. The iPad 2 and the original model were available only in the United States at launch, later rolling out worldwide.

In addition to the United States, United Kingdom and Canada, the iPad mini launched today in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Singapore, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

Hong Kong




It’s available in black & slate and white & silver and the usual storage tiers: 16/32/64GB for $329/$429/$529. The Wi-Fi + Cellular model is a $130 extra and will ship a week from today. Apple will announce additional countries getting the iPad mini in due time.

Our own Jeff Benjamin already has his unit and will be posting the unboxing video. The iDB will be right here, reporting throughout the day about the launch festivities, posting hands-on videos, our impressions and everything else we find out about the device so stay tuned.

Did you stand in line for your iPad mini?

Lockscreen music controls in iOS 6.1

Apple released iOS 6.1 beta to developers earlier today and we’ve been on the hunt for new interesting features ever since. iDB reader Darryl R. sent us an interesting find that isn’t life changing, but still deserves a little attention.

When playing a song from the Music app, if you are on the Lockscreen and double tap the Home button, you will notice the new music controls and layout that are now consistent with the controls you find inside the Music app itself…

As I said above, it’s probably not going to change your life, but it will certainly make your Music experience that much more pleasant.

As always, please make sure to let us know if you find anything interesting in iOS 6.1.

Teardown of 4th gen iPad reveals LG Retina display and more

With the newly-unveiled fourth generation iPad now on sale in some parts of the globe, the inevitable teardowns have begun. As usual, iFixit was first on scene, and has posted a detailed breakdown of the tablet’s innards.

As you might expect, there aren’t many internal differences between the new iPad and the one Apple launched 6 months ago. But it does have a new processor, and a few other changes, so it’s certainly worth taking a look at…

The biggest change in the iPad 4 is obviously the A6X. Apple has given its latest tablet its newest processor, giving it double the speed of its predecessor. We’ll likely hear more about this customized chipset as time goes on.

Of course, the 4th gen iPad also has an upgraded FaceTime camera, which iFixit says is noticeably thicker than the previous model, and it has Apple’s new Lightning plug. But perhaps the most interesting discovery is in the display.

The Retina screen in the 10-inch tablet isn’t made by Samsung this time around, at least in iFixit’s unit, it’s made by LG. Apple likely split display orders for the iPad 4 between different manufacturers, but it’s worth mentioning.

We’ve heard a number of reports that the relationship between Apple and Samsung is decaying due to their ongoing legal battle, and that Apple is looking to move away from Samsung as a parts supplier. We’ll probably hear more about this in the coming weeks as well.

At any rate, if you want to check out the full teardown, you can find it on iFixit’s website here. And if you missed yesterday’s iPad mini gutting, we have links to that too.

Also, we should have our hands on both tablets shortly, so stay tuned for our unboxings and first impressions.