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Raised res iPad 2 to sport four-core chip?

2048 x 1536 graphics, anyone?

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First out of the starting gate this Monday morning: iPad 2 speculation has gone into overdrive, with talk of a dual-core processor and a quadrupling of the 10.1in display's pixel count.

That would take the tablet's screen resolution to a whopping 2048 x 1536, higher than a full HD TV. The rumour started with a piece on Endgadet claiming the iPad 2 will sport a rather higher resolution than the current version does.

The claimed resolution followed separately, by guesswork. Since Apple double the horizontal and vertical pixel counts when it introduced the iPhone 4's "retina display", from 320 x 480 to 640 x 960, it's not unreasonable to assume it'll do the same with the iPad at some point.

That would be easier on developers, not least because Apple put in place a mechanism to deal with it. iOS coders can add two sets of graphics to their apps: one set plainly named for the 'old' resolution and a second, double-size set with "@x2" suffixed to the filename plus an statement of hardware type, for example: 'screen_background@x2ipad.png' or 'screen_background@x2iphone.png'. iOS then automatically displays the correct image.

A greater number of pixels requires extra memory and a beefier graphics chip, so it follows that if its screen resolution is doubled, the iPad 2 will need plenty more Ram - 1GB at least, possibly 2GB - and a more powerful GPU. AppleInsider reckons it'll be Imagination Technologies' PowerVR SGX543MP2, based on word from a "source familiar with Apple's graphics strategy".

The SGX543MP2 has two cores that, if necessary, can work as one. The second powers down when it's not needed, to conserve battery life.

That, if integrated into the ARM Cortex A8-based chip Apple calls A4, would be enough to justify a nomenclature upgrade to A5, but the Engadget report says the new part will be based on ARM's Cortex A9 design. It can comprise two CPU cores, and we can well see Apple touting the system-on-a-chip as a quad-core design. Eat that, Tegra 2, etc, etc.

Indeed, all the claimed features would allow Apple to maintain some clear blue water between the iPad's feature list and those of the incoming new breed of tablets running Android 3.0.

Moles also suggest Apple is migrating to a Qualcomm chipset for future iPhone and - presumably - iPad wireless connectivity, the better to support both GSM/Edge/HSPA 3G and CDMA/EvDO standards more cheaply. Having entirely separate hardware for these network technologies - the latter is required by Verizon - isn't cost effective.

Reports continue to claim the iPad 2 will have front- and rear-facing cameras, but it's once again being suggested that the new model will indeed incorporate an SD card slot.

The finished product can't be far off. Mac Rumors reports that not only has an iPad 2 screen appeared on a Chinese parts supply website, but US retail giant Best Buy briefly has three new Wi-Fi iPad entries listed in its database. All of these have since been removed. ®

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