Anandtech took its typical deep dive into hardware, examining Apple’s A7 processor using a combination of its own analysis and code changes to Apple’s LLVM compiler project.
Apple’s A7 processor powers iPhone 5s, iPad Air and the Retina iPad mini. The hardware review goes into great detail about the A7 and its underlying architecture, describing how Apple made significant improvements over its previous generation A6 processor. In the end, reviewer Anand Lal Shimpi concludes that the A7 is a “desktop class” processor as Apple claims. Anandtech adds that most apps don’t take advantage of the underlying power of the architecture, with most users likely running into RAM limitations, instead of maxing out the CPU performance.
Cyclone is a bold move by Apple, but not one that is without its challenges. I still find that there are almost no applications on iOS that really take advantage of the CPU power underneath the hood. More than anything Apple needs first party software that really demonstrates what’s possible. The challenge is that at full tilt a pair of Cyclone cores can consume quite a bit of power. So for now, Cyclone’s performance is really used to exploit race to sleep and get the device into a low power state as quickly as possible. The other problem I see is that although Cyclone is incredibly forward looking, it launched in devices with only 1GB of RAM. It’s very likely that you’ll run into memory limits before you hit CPU performance limits if you plan on keeping your device for a long time.
Anandtech follows its analysis with a look at the bright future of the hardware, noting that “the rest of the players in the ultra mobile CPU space didn’t aim high enough.”
Qualcomm was initially critical of the A7 when it was announced last year, calling the 64-bit chip a marketing gimmick that offered “zero benefit” to consumers. Qualcomm executives retracted that statement, with an anonymous employee later admitting that Apple’s A7 hardware “hit them in the gut.”