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What exact processor is inside the new iPod touch? TUAW digs deeper

Joachim Bean

Sure, the biggest mystery around the new iPod touch is the omission of the heavily-rumored camera, like the one found on the new iPod nano. However, there is some speculation and wondering in what is actually at the heart of the new iPod touch.

As you may know, all devices that run iPhone OS are powered by a processor based on the ARM architecture. These processors, like Intel and PowerPC processors, come in many different speeds. As Apple did with the iPhone 3GS, improved performance (including OpenGL ES 2.0 support for better gaming and graphic support) is touted as a feature in the new 32GB/64GB iPod touch models (the 8GB iPod touch retains the same performance as it did last year). It's still unclear what the exact details are for the new processor, but here at TUAW, we've done some digging to find out more information about it.

Read on for more technical details on the processor in the new iPod touch.

If you dig into the .ipsw iPod/iPhone software update bundles that are downloaded when you restore of update your iPhone or iPod touch (which are really zip archives in disguise), you can find a file called restore.plist, which is an XML property list stating the various technical specifications of the iPhone/iPod touch model the .ipsw file is intended for. If you look at the "Platform" string under the DeviceMap array in that property list, you'll find a model number of the processor of the iPod touch/iPhone in question, as shown below.

The first-generation iPhone, first-generation iPod touch and the iPhone 3G are all powered by a Samsung S5L8900X series processor, running at 412 MHz, which has been widely documented. The second-generation iPod touch contains a S5L8720X series processor, which is faster than the processor of the three other models that were introduced before it, running at 532 MHz. Meanwhile, the iPhone 3GS contains a S5L8920X series processor, which is widely believed to be based on the Samsung S5PC100 series processor, which itself is a member of the ARM Cortex-A8 family. Apple states the 3GS is "up to 2X faster" than then the iPhone 3G; this is a consequence, to a large degree, of the improved performance of the S5L8920X processor, which runs at 600 MHZ.

The newly introduced third-generation iPod touch contains a S5L8922X series processor, which is a slight numerical increment over the processor in the iPhone 3GS. Also, as revealed in the teardown by iFixit, the model number etched on the processor in the new iPod touch, 339S0075 ARM, also shows a slight numerical increment of the 3GS processor, which is 339S0073 ARM.

Meanwhile, the new iPod touch also shows a increase in the model identifier to iPod3,1, up from iPod2,1 on the second-generation iPod touch. An increase in the first digit of the model identifier usually indicates a major architectural change in the device. For example, the model identifier of the iPhone 3G is iPhone1,2, up from iPhone1,1, as both devices use the same S5L8900X processor.

These signs mostly likely point to some sort of small revision in the processor in the new iPod touch over the iPhone 3GS, however, it's still unclear what improvements this processor offers, if any.

Did you happen to pick up or use a new iPod touch? Did it feel any faster than the 3GS to you? Let us know in the comments below and tell us what you've noticed!

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