Apple's 64-bit A7 chip not quad-core, says chip expert

Apple's A7 appears to be a dual-core design, bucking a quad-core trend in the Android world. But two cores provide plenty of horsepower, says Anandtech.

Brooke Crothers
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.
2 min read

Smartphones with quad-core processors are the future, right? Well, not so fast.

Apple's spanking-new 64-bit A7 is dual-core, according to Anandtech, a widely-read chip review site.

It's seems that Apple is bucking a trend here.

"The tools that count cores query the [operating system] and the OS returns the number of logical CPUs and they only returned two," said Anand in a brief phone interview, referring to the central processing unit.

And he contends that there are more ways to skin the performance cat. "The quad-core card was kind of forced," Anand said. "It's definitely not the only way to arrive at the ideal performance-power for a phone."

He continued. "These days outside of the Apple space, it's kind of difficult to sell a flagship phone without four cores."

But Apple has seemed to pull it off without a hitch.

In CNET's review of the iPhone 5S, there was nothing slow about the A7.

"Based on every benchmark we could find, the iPhone 5S and its new A7 processor seem at least twice as fast as the 5 and its A6," CNET said.

"The dual-core A7 is now the fastest [system-on-a-chip] we've tested under SunSpider, even outpacing Qualcomm's Snapdragon 800 and ARM's Cortex A15," wrote Anand.

He expanded on the dual-core vs. quad-core argument in his iPhone 5S review.

As we saw in our Moto X review however, two faster cores are still better for most uses than four cores running at lower frequencies. Nvidia forced everyone's hand in moving to 4 cores earlier than they would've liked.

And remember, the A7 is the first 64-bit ARM-based design for smartphones. That should help in games and other apps that have been optimized for 64-bit.

But Apple also has other tricks to make it faster, including an improved graphics engine.

Anandtech believes Apple's A7 "is the first shipping mobile silicon to integrate [Imagination Technology's] PowerVR Series 6 GPU or graphics processing unit.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

iPhone 5S benchmarks. The A7 screams.
iPhone 5S benchmarks. The A7 screams. CNET