It’s no secret that smartphone and tablet OEMs are looking toward quad-core processors to power their next-generation doodads, with Apple’s oft-rumored A6 chipset being one of the most anticipated. According to 9to5Mac, snippets of code in the beta version of the iOS 5.1 update tacity confirm that a quad-core A6 will soon grace Apple’s new iDevices.
9to5Mac’s sources point to two images — the count begins at 0 for the first processing core, which would mean a dual-core device would be referred to with the label “/cores/core.1.” The existence of a reference to “/cores/core.3.” means that Apple has indeed been slaving away on quad-core iPhones and iPads.
Not that it should be a huge surprise — semiconductor manufacturer TSMC was working on a trial production run in August, but the company had issues that eventually led to Apple and Samsung working together again.
Meanwhile, the market is quickly shifting toward quad-core being the next big thing in the mobile/portable space. Asus’s quad-core Transformer Prime tablet hit the streets not long ago, although the experience has been a little rocky for certain users. The Transformer Prime’s NVIDIA Tegra 3 chipset was seen in early benchmarks to be a considerable step above the chipset it was meant to replace.
Even so, it’s scores showed that it was only marginally more robust than the iPad 2′s dual-core A5. Now I wouldn’t take those scores as gospel — Matt notes that the benchmarking software may not have been able to fully take advantage of the four cores at the time — but Apple’s quad-core efforts could potentially be the ones to beat.
With all the talk of multiple cores, one has to wonder how much of a performance boost we’ll see once these quad-core iDevices are released into the wild. The answer will be something of a mixed bag — Apple’s first party applications will most likely be tuned to play nice with the additional processing cores, but it’ll take time for the scores of iOS developers hit their stride. In the end though, benchmarks alone won’t entice most people buy a certain tablet. It’s safe to say that new iPads will sell like crazy even if they’re not the first or the fastest quad-core tablet out there.