Apple has confirmed through the documentation included with the recent beta 3 of the iPad development kit that the tablet uses the same graphics processor as the iPhone and iPod Touch, or at least one of the same family: the PowerVR SGX . According to the company, using OpenGL ES on the iPad is identical to using it on other devices running under the iPhone OS.
Initially there was some confusion about the hardware Apple had actually used on the iPad due to an erroneous report published by Bright Side of the News that claimed the company had used a much less powerful ARM graphics processor but this was definitely not true. Apple is one of Imation Technologies’ largest licensees and investors, creators of the PowerVR SGX chips used in the iPhone 3GS and the third generation iPod Touch (previous models as well as the fourth and fifth generation iPod nano use an older version, the MBX) and the new A4 processor that brings the iPad to life is a design that incorporates the main ARM processor and PowerVR SGX GPU on a single chip to reduce power consumption and improve performance.
The PowerVR SGX family has different versions, all of which are more than capable of meeting the requirements of OpenGL ES 2.0 (as well as DirectX 10.1 Shader Model 4.1), and although Apple enjoys preferential treatment over its competitors, it is also used in many mobile phones and devices from brands such as Sony, Samsung, Nokia or Intel, among others. Precisely the latter uses the same version that mounts the iPhone 3GS to manufacture the well-known Intel GMA 500 graphics processor used in an endless number of Netbooks including the Asus Eee, the MSI Wind or the Acer Aspire.
The question now is whether the Apple A4 on the iPad uses this same chip or instead makes the leap to some of its more recent versions such as the SGX540 which doubles the performance or, even better, the SGX545 which takes its specifications even further. Another less likely but not impossible candidate that has also come to be associated with the future iPhone 4G is the 5XT series (SGXMP), available in multi-core versions (from a single core to a maximum of 16) that would certainly close the door to any excuse imaginable for the much desired multi-tasking.
In short, we are close to having an iPad in our hands and, more importantly, those of the developers. At the end of the day, they are the ones who have the last word when it comes to pushing the limits of a platform and demonstrating (or not) its true potential .