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Old Mar 12, 2013, 12:05 PM   #1
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A5 Chip in Tweaked Apple TV Still Manufactured by Samsung at 32nm




Earlier this week, we opened up the newly tweaked Apple TV to find a remarkably small A5 chip inside rather than an A5X as had been suspected from the device's software posted by Apple over a month ago.

Since that time, we've been talking with chip experts at Chipworks and Silicon-IP about the possibilities and have confirmed that, unlike in the previous Apple TV, this even smaller A5 does not use a stacked chip design involving the DRAM. We were unable to identify the chip to the left of the A5 in our unit due to illegible markings, but Chipworks has cracked open another unit and discovered Elpida DRAM in that location.

Size comparison of 2012 A5 die with 2013 die
Despite continued rumors that Apple has been working very hard to transition away from Samsung for production of A-series chips, it appears that Apple has not yet been able to make that step on a mass production basis, as this new smaller A5 is still being fabbed by Samsung.

Chipworks has confirmed the die size of this new A5 at 6.1 mm x 6.2 mm, making it just over half the size of the 8.19 mm by 8.68 mm die in the previous version and less than a third the size of the original A5 introduced in the iPad 2 two years ago.

Despite confirmation that this new A5 chip is being manufactured by Samsung, Chipworks is still working to confirm the process node for the chip.
Quote:
Is this new A5 a pipe-cleaner for TSMC in a lower volume (and risk) device? Is this new A5 a lower cost variant that we will see in new lower end phones from Apple? Is it a shrink from Samsung's 32-nm process to their 28-nm? All were speculated upon, and this time around we can deny the first rumor by confirming that the chip has die markings consistent with the continued use of Samsung as the foundry partner. With respect to the second rumor, we can provide our $.02 that we do expect to see this chip in future Apple devices (such as a possible phone or iPod) because that behavior would be consistent with what they have done in the past. As for the die shrink, the math tells us that the size reduction is more than a simple shrink - some functionality has changed too. We'll have to wait for the cross-section to see if it is fabbed on the smaller process.
Chipworks' Jim Morrison notes that it is unclear exactly what Apple's larger plans are for this chip, given that the Apple TV is not a high-enough volume product to justify creation of the new chip, so it is possible that Apple intends to use this A5 as a smaller, cheaper, and more power efficient chip for its rumored lower-cost iPhone or perhaps the next-generation of iPod touch. Apple made a similar move last year with the 32-nanometer A5, launching it in the Apple TV and a tweaked iPad 2 before rolling it out on a larger scale in the iPad mini and iPod touch later in the year.

Morrison also notes that, despite this new A5 being manufactured by Samsung, it could still be part of a pipe cleaner run to prepare for a move to TSMC, serving as a reference and fallback option for Apple as TSMC builds its own versions of it.

Also unclear is why Apple is not using a stacked DRAM design for this latest A5, although Silicon-IP's Kurt Wolf suggests that the company may simply still be lining up the process for building it with a package-on-package design. With the Apple TV having ample board space for the separate packages, Apple had little need to wait for a more compact stacked design.

Update 11:22 AM: Chipworks has now confirmed that the new A5 chip still uses the same 32-nanometer process seen on the previous generation, meaning that this nearly 50% smaller chip is truly a new device and not simply a shrink of the earlier design. Chipworks will have more information once it is able to obtain polysilicon die photos to view the layout of the chip.


Article Link: A5 Chip in Tweaked Apple TV Still Manufactured by Samsung at 32nm
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Old Mar 12, 2013, 12:09 PM   #2
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Old Mar 12, 2013, 12:12 PM   #3
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Is this Samsung the next Microsoft? They seem to have a great deal of power. Almost a merger of Apple and Microsoft and powered by Google.
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Old Mar 12, 2013, 12:13 PM   #4
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Apple and Samsung are like husband and wife. They fight every once in a while but they both need each other.
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Old Mar 12, 2013, 12:13 PM   #5
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Power

And yet the TV specifications page still lists the power as being 6 watts. I was hoping to shave at least 1 watt from that, my electricity bill is high enough as it is!

Seriously though, I wonder what the power requirement difference is between the two chips.
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Old Mar 12, 2013, 12:15 PM   #6
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If Samsung are the best and most capable at manufacturing these components, it's not really in the users interest to have them made by anyone else is it?

Beyond the Samsung Vs Apple blurb, wouldn't we all appreciate Apple pumping out better hardware even if it is by Samsung?

Going to an inferior supplier will harm everyone with a potential worsened user experience. I've seen plenty of arguments on here about the different display manufacturers and units for example.

Do you want the best that Apple can offer or something slightly worse in a vain attempt at hurting a component supplier?
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Old Mar 12, 2013, 12:18 PM   #7
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Old Mar 12, 2013, 12:18 PM   #8
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Thankya, Sammy!

Apple would be in deep trouble if it didn't have Samsung as a close partner.
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Old Mar 12, 2013, 12:19 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by BornAgainMac View Post
Is this Samsung the next Microsoft? They seem to have a great deal of power. Almost a merger of Apple and Microsoft and powered by Google.
Read the wikipedia on Samsung. It's actually quiet scary how big they are and plan on becoming. Size wise (and I don't mean in stocks) Samsung might become bigger than Microsoft at this point. Just look at their portfolio. They tend to go into an industry and start dominating many parts of it. Look at how the Galaxy S went from being behind HTC to having its own on-stage reveal on Thursday.

Samsung will stop at nothing. NOTHING to become ACME.
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Old Mar 12, 2013, 12:20 PM   #10
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Chipworks' Jim Morrison notes that it is unclear exactly what Apple's larger plans are for this chip, given that the Apple TV is not a high-enough volume product to justify creation of the new chip, so it is possible that Apple intends to use this A5 as a smaller, cheaper, and more power efficient chip for its rumored lower-cost iPhone or perhaps the next-generation of iPod touch.
Or perhaps something even smaller like a watch?
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Old Mar 12, 2013, 12:21 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yvan256 View Post
And yet the TV specifications page still lists the power as being 6 watts. I was hoping to shave at least 1 watt from that, my electricity bill is high enough as it is!
You would save about 5 cents per month if you left the thing on 24/7. One watt is totally insignificant.

You would do better to pick up pennies off the sidewalk.
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Old Mar 12, 2013, 12:21 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by ChazUK View Post
If Samsung are the best and most capable at manufacturing these components, it's not really in the users interest to have them made by anyone else is it?

Beyond the Samsung Vs Apple blurb, wouldn't we all appreciate Apple pumping out better hardware even if it is by Samsung?

Going to an inferior supplier will harm everyone with a potential worsened user experience. I've seen plenty of arguments on here about the different display manufacturers and units for example.

Do you want the best that Apple can offer or something slightly worse in a vain attempt at hurting a component supplier?
But I think Apple does not want to be on the breast milk right now because they don't want Samsung pulling the carpet from under their feet.

I think the best thing right now is for the lawsuit here to be squandered or less than $200 million settlement. Either way, I see them continuing to abuse each other and eventually consumers.
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Old Mar 12, 2013, 12:25 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by linkgx1 View Post
But I think Apple does not want to be on the breast milk right now because they don't want Samsung pulling the carpet from under their feet.

Maybe Apple is thinking "better the devil ye know than two in the bush"?
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Old Mar 12, 2013, 12:27 PM   #14
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Maybe Apple is thinking "better the devil ye know than two in the bush"?
True. The problem with Apple going somewhere else is that there could be a living hell. Samsung just works. I mean, look at when Apple did their own internal apps and the controversy that caused. The latter hurts you in the long wrong. No need for pissing games.
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Old Mar 12, 2013, 12:30 PM   #15
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Apple would be in deep trouble if it didn't have Samsung as a close partner.
Hummmm.... don't think so. There would be someone else and more than likely there will be. We just saw a rumor about talks with Intel to produce future chips. I think it would be in the best interest of Apple to distance themselves from Samsung. Yes, they seem to make good components, but there are others out there that can too.
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Old Mar 12, 2013, 12:34 PM   #16
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Hummmm.... don't think so. There would be someone else and more than likely there will be. We just saw a rumor about talks with Intel to produce future chips. I think it would be in the best interest of Apple to distance themselves from Samsung. Yes, they seem to make good components, but there are others out there that can too.
Yet Intel is unproven in the ARMistace race...er...industry. I mean, can you imagine the problems?
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Old Mar 12, 2013, 12:34 PM   #17
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Apple: "I'm home!"
Samsung: "Dinner is almost ready"
Apple: "Gimmie some of that good lovin now!"
Samsung: "Not in front of little Android and iOS"
Apple: "Kids go to bed!"
Samsung: "All you do is take my parts and when you're done you abuse me!"
Apple: "I gave you Android when I said I did not want anymore kids!"
Samsung: "Why are you so mean to me?"
Apple: "I bring home that bacon! Did you see my last quarterly report?"
Samsung: "We can work this out"
Apple: "I want a divorce and I'm going to sue you into oblivion. I'm also taking iOS with me!"
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Old Mar 12, 2013, 12:35 PM   #18
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I'm starting to think that TSMC is not going to cut it, and that maybe why there are rumors of intel fabricating these SoC for Apple.
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Old Mar 12, 2013, 12:47 PM   #19
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I'm surprised after all the lawsuits that if you zoom in enough, there isn't a cartoon dick etched somewhere on the silicon or maybe just a swearword or 2
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Old Mar 12, 2013, 12:49 PM   #20
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"Pipe cleaner" run? What the hell? Google search not picking up this bit of jargon (found something in the Gay Slang Dictionary) but summary repeats it like it's common knowledge.
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Old Mar 12, 2013, 12:49 PM   #21
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Or perhaps something even smaller like a watch?
That would be awesome! I kind of picture the watch being transparent and curved as depicted by the tech envisioned in this Microsoft Fictional video. Here they do it with the take apart phone. Anything transparent though would need clear circuit boards and maybe gold circuitry. Or maybe the chips will be in the base or band.
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Old Mar 12, 2013, 12:55 PM   #22
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... I think it would be in the best interest of Apple to distance themselves from Samsung. Yes, they seem to make good components, but there are others out there that can too.
Distance isn't so much the problem as nurturing a healthy ecosystem of suppliers. Apple tend to get into modes where they funnel too much resources into just one supplier. One single factory on the planet that makes some part. Or squeeze the suppliers so hard on margins that only a conglomerate that can afford to subsidize the product for a while can meet the constraints.

At times Apple appears to get maniacal about squeezing margins that they loose sight of the big picture and risks.
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Old Mar 12, 2013, 12:57 PM   #23
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Does anybody really cares about it?!
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Old Mar 12, 2013, 12:57 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Popeye206 View Post
Hummmm.... don't think so. There would be someone else and more than likely there will be. We just saw a rumor about talks with Intel to produce future chips. I think it would be in the best interest of Apple to distance themselves from Samsung. Yes, they seem to make good components, but there are others out there that can too.
If Sammy were to announce that they would henceforth refuse to do any business with Apple, AAPL would drop to around $200.

Apple needs to show some gratitude.
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Old Mar 12, 2013, 01:04 PM   #25
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I'm thinking since this chip is getting so small and more efficient it will be what is used in the iWatch.
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