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Apple working on enhanced A5 chip (A5X) AND completely new chip (A6)

Apple’s new iPad processor will likely offer improved gaming performance

Typically, when Apple’s product launched approaches, many industry watchers offer conflicting views on the features the new products might sport. Fifth-generation iPhone rumors mostly conflicted in terms of the product’s design, but industry watchers seemed to agree on features like an improved camera and a dual-core processor. With the upcoming iPad 3, most industry watchers agree on a design similar to the iPad 2’s design and a Retina Display. Notably, publications are disagreeing on the new iPad’s processor; some are pointing to a quad-core A6 chip and others are calling for an improved A5 dual-core chip. Why, though? Well, Apple is actually developing BOTH…

While trustworthy publications like iMore and Bloomberg both independently said the new iPad will sport a quad-core chip (also, we found quad-core chip references in iOS 5.1 beta code), The Verge reported the iPad 3 will feature an enhanced dual-core chip that sports an improved graphics engine. Seemingly affirming the report is a purported photo of an iPad 3 logic board that appeared just a few days ago. That board includes an “A5X” processor—a name that indicates a halfway jump from the A5 dual-core chip to the rumored quad-core A6 chip. Backing that is the Apple iOS device processor-naming scheme. As we noted in our summary of the A5X processor photo:

The original iPad’s A4 chip was called S5L8930X, the iPad 2′s A5 chip was called the S5L8940X, and now this A5X chip is labeled as S5L8945X. Notice the jump of 10 in the labeling on the A4 to A5, and notice the jump of only 5 on the A5 to “A5X.” The 5 would note a half-way upgrade, something that an A5X chip with improved graphics, but still dual-core processing, would be likely referred to as.

Going by this naming scheme, the next major iOS device processor revamp (A6, not A5X) would be called the “S5L8950X.” Now, we discovered evidence to support Apple is working on that specific chip. Deep in the iOS 5.1 betas (as shown below) sits references to two next-generation iOS device chips: the previously discussed S5L8945X and this new S5L8950X. While nobody found the 50X (A6) chip in the code until now, we can report that both next-generation processors entered the iOS code simultaneously. This would seem to indicate Apple is working on two next-generation chips.

Thanks, iH8Sn0w!

From here, speculation about why Apple has two next-generation chips in the code can be endless. Here are some purely speculative possibilities:

  • Apple developed both chips simultaneously to see which would better fit the new iPad.
  • The quad-core A6 is for the iPad 3. Meanwhile, the A5X is for rumored Apple TV update, the next-generation iPhone, or another iOS device
  • Apple will sell a cheaper iPad with the A5X chip, while the higher-end iPad 3 has the A6.
  • The rumored 8-inch iPad has the A5x processor

In any case, the evidence that Apple is working on two next-generation chips, an enhanced A5, and a completely new chip, is here. What is not clear is which chip will land in the iPad 3 in early March.

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