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Report: iPad 2 to use fast graphics chip

The iPad 2 and iPhone 5 will use new processor hardware, as both devices compete against high-performance products from Motorola and RIM, among others.

The iPad 2 will sport powerful, new graphics hardware, along with a higher-resolution display, according to a report.

That graphics chip would be Imagination's SGX543, according to Apple Insider.

If this rumor is on the money, it is, indeed, a potent graphics technology. Imagination describes the POWERVR SGX543MP as allowing "up to 16 a high-performance, multiprocessor graphics solution without performance or silicon area compromises." This graphics tech would be used in conjunction with a dual-core ARM processor, as CNET previously reported.

And Apple's next-gen iPhone 5 would also feature this chip design--the so-called Apple A5 processor.

"This makes sense," said Linley Gwennap, principal analyst at the Linley Group, a chip consulting firm. "The A5 processor must have at least dual Cortex-A9 CPUs (central processing units) to be competitive with [Nvidia's] Tegra 2 and other current smartphone CPUs," Gwennap said in response to an e-mail query. The Cortex-A9 is a design being used by most major ARM chip suppliers, such as Texas Instruments, Samsung, and Nvidia.

Gwennap continued. "The single-core SGX543 does not have enough graphics performance to keep up with Tegra 2, but a dual-core SGX543 should be within the same range. Even a dual-core SGX543 would fall well behind the graphics performance of Marvell's new Armada 628, which should be in phones in 2H11," he said. (Imagination also has the SGX545.)

Not surprisingly, graphics chips--needed for handling high-resolution images, video, and games--are becoming a major focus for next-generation tablets and smartphones. Look no further than Motorola's Xoom tablet and upcoming Droid smartphones. Those devices use a version of the ARM processor from graphics-chip supplier Nvidia, which integrates 8 cores into its GeForce GPU (graphics processing unit), according to Nvidia's Tegra 2 spec page.

And RIM's PlayBook is expected to boast stellar graphics, based on Texas Instrument's OMAP 4 ARM chip, which uses Imagination's PowerVR SGX540.

The iPad 2 is also rumored to have a high-resolution display, though it's not clear if this would be similar to the Retina Display used on the iPhone 4, or another technology.