Difference Between Apple A5 and Samsung Exynos 4210

Apple A5 vs Samsung Exynos 4210 | Processors Exynos 4210 vs A5 Speed and Performance | ARM Cotex-A9 processor, PowerVR SGX543MP2,  ARM Mali-400MP
 

This article compares two recent System-on-Chips (SoC), Apple A5 and Samsung Exynos 4210, deployed in consumer electronics by Apple and Samsung respectively. In a Layperson’s term, a SoC is a computer on a single IC (Integrated Circuit, aka chip). Technically, a SoC is an IC that integrates typical components on a computer (such as microprocessor, memory, input/output) and other systems that cater electronic and radio functionalities. Both Apple A5 and Samsung Exynos 4210 are Multiprocessor System-on-Chip (MPSoC), where the design uses multiprocessor architecture for exploiting the available computing power. While Apple released A5 in March 2011 with its iPad2, Samsung’s Exynos 4210 came a month later when Samsung released its Galaxy S2. 

Typically, the major components of a SoC are its CPU (Central Processing Unit) and GPU (Graphics Processing Unit). The CPUs in both Apple A5 and Exynos 4210 are based on ARM’s (Advanced RICS – Reduced Instruction Set Computer – Machine, developed by ARM Holdings) v7 ISA (Instruction Set Architecture, the one that is used as the starting place of designing a processor) and are manufactured using a semiconductor technology known as 45nm.

Apple A5

A5 was first sold in March 2011, when Apple released its latest tablet, iPad2. Later Apple’s recent iPhone clone, iPhone 4S was released equipped with Apple A5. Apple A5 was designed by Apple and manufactured by Samsung on behalf of Apple. As opposed to its predecessor Apple A4, A5 has dual cores in its both CPU and GPU. Therefore, technically Apple A5 is not just a SoC, but also a MPSoC (Multi Processor System on Chip). A5’s dual core CPU is based on ARM Cotex-A9 processor (that uses the same ARM v7 ISA that is used by Apple A4), and its dual core GPU is based on PowerVR SGX543MP2 graphics processor. A5’s CPU is typically clocked at 1GHz (the clocking uses frequency scaling; therefore, the clock speed can change from 800MHz to 1GHz, based on the load, targeting power saving), and its GPU is clocked at 200MHz. A5 has both L1 (instruction and data) and L2 cache memories. A5 comes with a 512MB DDR2 memory package that is typically clocked at 533MHz.

Samsung Exynos 4210

In April 2011, Samsung in its Galaxy S2 first deployed Exynos 4210. Exynos 4210 was designed and manufactured by Samsung under the codename Orion. It is a successor to Samsung Exynos 3110. Its CPU is a dual core ARM Cotex A9 series clocked at 1.2GHz and its GPU is ARM’s famous Mali-400MP (4 core) design clocked at 275MHz. Exynos 4210 was the first SoC (or rather MPSoC) to deploy ARM’s Mali-400MP. Another attraction for Exynos 4210 is its native support for three displays (triple display outs: 1xWXGA, 2xWSVGA), which is very handy for devices that are targeted by Exynos 4210. The chip was packed with both L1 (instruction and data) and L2 cache hierarchies and had a 1GB DDR3 SDRAM inbuilt.

A comparison between Apple A5 and Exynos 4210 is tabulated below.

 

Apple A5

Samsung Exynos 4210

Release Date

March 2011

April 2011

Type

MPSoC

MPSoC

First Device

iPad2

Samsung Galaxy S2

Other Devices

iPhone 4S

Not Available

ISA

ARM v7 (32bit)

ARM v7 (32bit)

CPU

ARM Cotex A9 (dual core)

ARM Cotex A9 (dual core)

CPU Clock Speed

1GHz (800MHz-1GHz)

1.2GHz

GPU

PowerVR SGX543MP2 (dual core)

ARM Mali-400MP (4 cores)

GPU Clock Speed

200MHz

275MHz

CPU/GPU Technology

45nm

45nm

L1 Cache

32kB instruction, 32kB data

32kB instruction, 32kB data

L2 Cache

1MB

1MB

Memory

512MB Low Power DDR2, clocked at 533MHz

1GB Low Power (LP) DDR3

Summary 

In summary, both Apple A5 and Samsung Exynos 4210 have comparable features. Given that they were released within a month, they have utilized similar design criteria. Both of them use the same CPU architecture (with a faster clocking frequency in Exynos 4210) while Exynos 4210 uses a better GPU with a faster graphics processing support (mainly due to its four core Mali-400MP and faster GPU clocking frequency). Although, both had exactly similar CPU cache configurations, Exynos 4210 has a larger (1GB vs. 512MB) and better (DDR3 vs. DDR2) memory. While admitting that a benchmark-based evaluation is the right way to compare such close configurations, we expect that Samsung Exynos 4210 might slightly outperform Apply A5 in such comparison.