Flashback: how the Apple M1 developed out of Apple’s iPad chipsets

The primary customized Apple chipset, the Apple A4, launched in 2010 with the unique iPad and was additionally featured within the iPhone 4 a couple of months later. The A4 was manufactured by Samsung and used an enhanced Cortex-A8 CPU core dubbed “Hummingbird”.

Hummingbird was co-developed by Samsung and Intrinsity and was introduced in 2009 as “the world’s quickest ARM Cortex-A8 processor”. A number of customizations needed to be made for the core to hit its 1GHz goal. Apple acquired Intrinsity simply months after it unveiled the iPad. And a few years earlier than that it had acquired PA Semi.

After these key acquisitions, Apple set to work on in-house chipset designs to make use of in its moveable merchandise. At present’s story begins in 2012 as we’ll give attention to the improved X-series of chips, that are predecessors to the groundbreaking Apple M1. The AX chips are used primarily in iPads, however they sometimes confirmed up in Apple TVs as properly.

The second era iPad launched the Apple A5 to the world in 2011. It nonetheless used off-the-shelf parts, Cortex-A9 CPU cores from ARM and PowerVR SGX543 GPU cores from Creativeness. The third-gen iPad arrived a 12 months later with an enhanced model of that chip, dubbed the Apple A5X, which received the ball rolling.

The A5X doubled the GPU cores (from MP2 to MP4) and in addition featured a brand new quad-channel reminiscence controller, which supplied information switch speeds of as much as 12.8GB / s, roughly triple the bandwidth of the A5.

Future AX chipsets would comply with the identical recreation plan – use the identical {hardware}, simply extra of it. Tablets are bigger than telephones, that means they’ve larger batteries and extra floor space to dissipate warmth, so they might deal with the extra highly effective chipsets.

The Apple A6 is notable for introducing the primary customized CPU core designed in-house by Apple, referred to as “Swift”. The GPU nonetheless got here from Creativeness. The A6X was a bit disappointing in that it solely added an additional GPU core.

A few years later got here the Apple A8X, the primary within the collection to increase the CPU {hardware} in addition to the GPU. It added an additional Storm core, for a complete of three, whereas the GPU core rely was doubled to eight. The A9X went again to having the identical CPU because the common A9, however that was the final time – from then on all AX chipsets would have larger CPUs

Flashback: how the Apple M1 evolved out of Apple's iPad chipsets

2016’s Apple A10 chipset was the primary from the corporate to undertake an enormous.LITTLE structure. It had two large Hurricane cores together with two small Zephyr cores. A 12 months later the A10X got here with three of every, whereas additionally doubling the GPU core rely.

Little cores are nice for effectivity, however having various does not add a lot efficiency. That’s the reason the Apple A12X chipset from 2018 solely doubled the massive CPU core rely (to 4), whereas utilizing the identical variety of small cores (additionally 4). The GPU was upgraded to a 7-core design, an 8-core model would arrive in 2020 because the Apple A12Z.

Let’s bounce to 2020 – after years of utilizing Intel processors, Apple bid them farewell and introduced the primary batch of Apple M1-powered Macs. This additionally marked a transition away from x86 and in the direction of ARM, the identical ARM instruction set that powered its iPhones and iPads.

And that’s no coincidence, the Apple M1 used barely modified variations of the parts within the A14 (the chip contained in the iPhone 12 and 4th gen iPad Air) – the massive Firestorm cores and the small Icestorm cores, the identical GPU structure as properly.

Flashback: how the Apple M1 evolved out of Apple's iPad chipsets

However as we have already seen, the trick to creating the chipset quicker is so as to add extra cores. The M1 doubled the massive CPU cores and doubled the GPU (although it supplied chips with 7-core GPUs as a cost-saving measure). Like with the 12X, the small CPU cores have been left untouched. It helped that Apple’s designs have been already within the lead when it comes to each efficiency and effectivity (TSMC deserves a few of the credit score for that), so the M1 dealt with desktop duties with ease, even when passively cooled.

The Apple M2 chipset that was introduced earlier this month follows the identical sample, though this time it’s primarily based on the A15 chipset (iPhone 13). The M1 had Professional, Max and Extremely variants, the M2 will definitely as properly.

These simply use completely different multipliers, eg the M1 Professional has 50% or 100% extra large CPU cores than the bottom M1 and double the GPU cores. The Professional lower the small cores down to 2, however as already mentioned just a few of these are mandatory. The Max makes use of the identical CPU components, however gives 3 to 4 instances as many GPU cores because the M1 base. The Extremely doubles the CPU and GPU assets (it’s truly constructed of two Professional chips).


































2012/2012 Apple A5 A5X
Large CPU cores 2x Cortex-A9 2x Cortex-A9
Little CPU cores
GPU SGX543 MP2 SGX543 MP4
2012 Apple A6 A6X
Large CPU cores 2x Swift 2x Swift
Little CPU cores
GPU SGX543 MP3 SGX554 MP4
2014 Apple A8 Apple A8X
Large CPU cores 2x Storm 3x Storm
Little CPU cores
GPU 6XT 4-core 6XT 8-core
2015 Apple A9 Apple A9X
Large CPU cores 2x Tornado 2x Tornado
Little CPU cores
GPU 7XT 6-core 7XT 12-core
2016/2017 Apple A10 Apple A10X
Large CPU cores 2x Hurricane 3x Hurricane
Little CPU cores 2x Zephyr 3x Zephyr
GPU 7XT GT 6-core 12-core
2018/2020 Apple A12 Apple A12X / A12Z
Large CPU cores 2x Vortex 4x Vortex
Little CPU cores 4x Tempest 4x Tempest
GPU G11P 4-core 7/8-core
2020 Apple A14 Apple M1
Large CPU cores 2x Firestorm 4x Firestorm
Little CPU cores 4x Icestorm 4x Icestorm
GPU Apple 4-core Apple 7/8-core
2021/2022 Apple A15 Apple M2
Large CPU cores 2x Avalanche 4x Avalanche
Little CPU cores 4x Blizzard 4x Blizzard
GPU 4-core 8/10-core

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