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Along with two new iPhones and a host of other goodies associated with Tuesday’s Apple event was an upgrade of the Apple-designed ARM-based application processor. The latest version, dubbed the A8, is a 64-bit processor with 2 billion transistors – double that of the A7. This is the second 64-bit processor from Apple, which means it can address more memory that higher-end tablets can use to run more programs faster.
The new chip uses a 20 nanometer process, which means the lines etched between transistors are smaller and thus you can shove more of them on the chip. That means the new CPU is 25 percent faster and has a 50 percent better graphics performance. The game play shown during the event was pretty impressive, almost console quality. The smaller process node also makes the chip more energy-efficient. With the larger screens, this may not translate to much in the way of better battery life, but it does mean those speed boosts don’t come at a power cost.
Because [company]Apple[/company] clearly views silicon as a prime differentiator, it also showed a new version of its motion-sensing co-processor, the M8. The new M8 chip can estimate distance and track elevation (such as flights of stairs), and has a barometer sensor. This chip is designed to take the weight of calculating data from the accelerometers and gyroscopes off the CPU. In practical terms, it means that the iPhone can count your steps and activities without taking a battery cut from switching the cPU on. Co-processors are a hot trend in the chip business and one that Apple helped popularize when it launched the M7 last year on the iPhone 5s.