Nvidia to Apple: thanks for the backhanded compliment

March 7, 2012

REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

Nvidia got some free publicity from Apple today. Well, sort of.

On Wednesday, its crosstown peer flashed a slide at the new iPad’s unveiling, briefly claiming that Apple’s A5X processor packed four times the graphics punch of Nvidia’s own next-generation Tegra 3. Nvidia product spokesman Ken Brown’s phone has been ringing off the hook since.

“People noticed. When Apple calls out your processor as the one to beat, it gets attention. We’ve gotten some questions about it,” he said.

“It almost looks like it’s a two-horse race between Apple and Tegra,” he added, deftly framing things in the best possible light for Nvidia.

The A5X chip boasts quad-core graphics and is twice as fast as the IPad 2, Apple claims.

For a company whose core business is not chips, Apple’s processors so far have more than held their own against processors used in other tablets. But precisely how it matches up against Nvidia or othe competing silicon has yet to be empirically and independently tested.

Chip companies are famous for picking and choosing benchmark tests that cast features of their own semiconductors in the most flattering light possible.

And like the rest of the mobile industry, Apple and Nvidia both base their chip designs on technology licensed from Britain’s ARM Holdings. Chip reviewer AnandTech believes the new Apple chip is a dual-core Cortex A9, an ARM design.

The ultimate test for the A5X is how much it improves the iPad experience for consumers — and Apple’s eventual sales numbers of course.

One comment

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It will be interesting to see how NVIDIA’s Tegra 3 (4xPrimary CPU cores, 1xLowPower CPU, 12xGPUs) performs against the apple A5X (2xCPUs, 4xGPUs) when someone does side by side testing of both a variety of benchmarks and applications.

I’m sure Apple could do one benchmark that does not make good use of multiple processors and get better results. How about a benchmark or application that makes good use of all processors (2 or 4)? For example, there are applications designed just for the Tegra processor (Tegra Zone) to make use of all that computing power.

A graphic intensive application such as a game or video/photo processing optimized for the Tegra 3 will likely kick ass over an application optimized for the A5X.

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