Inside the iPad 2: Chip brings 50% browsing boost

The iPad 2 has changed probably more inside than outside compared with its predecessor, the original iPad. A new dual-core processor and enhanced graphics chip offer some pretty big performance spikes.

Brooke Crothers Former CNET contributor
Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.
Brooke Crothers
2 min read

Wondering what makes that iPad 2 you just got tick and how much faster it is than the original iPad? Anandtech, iFixit, iosnoops, and UBM TechInsights have provided some answers.

Processor performance: Let's address this first--for obvious reasons. Apple has already been very public about the dual-core 1GHz A5 processor--a step up from the single-core chip in the original iPad--and the chip's "up to 9X faster" graphics" (Apple's ad copy).

And the verdict from an independent review? "CPU [Central Processing Unit] performance...we found to be a healthy 50 percent faster than the A4 in the original iPad--at least in Web browsing," said Anandtech in a "performance preview" of the iPad 2. (More detailed benchmarks here.)

But a boost in raw "clock" speed is not the reason, according to iosnoops. "The new Apple A5 processor...may offer twice as many cores as the Apple A4 processor featured in the first generation iPad [but] it appears that each processing core is actually clocked at a slower speed," said the review site.

iosnoops continues. "While doing some early iPad 2 benchmarks, the team discovered by chance an interesting tidbit: the A5 doesn't run at 1GHz like the Apple A4, but is instead clocked around 890MHz (the speed of the A5 does not seem to be constant, and varies depending on the apps running on the iPad 2)."

Whatever the case, the iPad 2's performance is considerably better than the original iPad. "The iPad 2 is much faster. Web pages load quicker, the OS is more responsive, and applications even launch faster," said Anand Shimpi, who heads up Anandtech, responding to an e-mail query.

That said, it should be noted that the Motorola Xoom (with an Nvidia processor and graphics) surpasses the iPad 2 in some browser benchmarks, according to Anandtech.

Graphics-specific performance: And the new Imagination Technologies' PowerVR SGX 543MP2 graphics processor? On certain benchmarks, an increase ranging from 3X to 5X, according to Anandtech. Here's what that review site said about one benchmark--the so-called "fragment lit triangle test": "While the PowerVR SGX 535 in the A4 (original iPad) could barely break 4 million triangles per second in this test, the PowerVR SGX 543MP2 in the A5 manages just under 20 million. There's just no competition here." Gamers rejoice!

Apple's A5 processor is paired with 512MB of system memory from Samsung--which also makes the A5 chip, according to UMB TechInsights. On the right is the Toshiba 16GB flash memory chip.
Apple's A5 processor is paired with 512MB of system memory from Samsung--which also makes the A5 chip, according to UMB TechInsights. On the right is the Toshiba 16GB flash memory chip. iFixit

Chip manufacturer: And who makes the chip? The A5 "is definitely manufactured by Samsung using their 45nm (nanometer) process," said UBM TechInsights.

System Memory: The iPad 2 has 512MB of memory--not 1GB like Motorola's Xoom. That said, this is twice the amount of the original iPad, which had only 256MB of system memory.

Flash Memory (storage): IFixit shows a Toshiba TH58NVG7D2FLA89 16GB NAND Flash memory module.

Other silicon:

  • Broadcom BCM43291HKUBC Wi-Fi/Bluetooth/FM tuner combo chip
  • ST Micro AGD8 2103 gyroscope
  • ST Micro LIS331DLH accelerometer
  • Broadcom BCM5974 CKFBGH capacitive touch-screen controller