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Old Mar 13, 2013, 02:19 PM   #1
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Smaller A5 Chip From Tweaked Apple TV Contains Only One CPU Core, Revamped Analog Circuitry




For the past few days, we've been following the story of the smaller A5 chip found inside of the recently tweaked Apple TV, seeking to understand what changes Apple has made in order to shrink the chip to roughly half the size of the previous A5 chip.

Yesterday, experts at Chipworks determined that the new A5 was still being manufactured by Samsung using the same 32-nanometer process used for the previous version, indicating that Apple had undertaken significant design changes for the chip.

Chipworks now has a full image of the A5 die, revealing that this smaller A5 chip contains only a single-core ARM CPU. Apple has listed the Apple TV as having a single-core A5 since the third-generation model launched last year, but the previous design involved a dual-core chip with one core disabled, while the new design contains just the one active core. The new A5 does still contain the same dual-core GPU found in the previous version of the chip.

Chipworks' Dick James tells us, however, that there must be more to the story in order to achieve a nearly 50% size reduction, but the firm has yet to determine exactly what other changes are contributing to the smaller die size.

A separate observation of interest involves the analog circuitry included on the chip. This new A5 chip appears to take advantage of optimized analog components such as resistors, capacitors, and inductors, yielding a mixed signal chip that seems to be a rather significant technical achievement at the 32-nanometer process node.
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My guess is that the analog sections have been re-designed, always a work in progress when we get this small, since analog circuitry does not shrink anywhere near as predictably as digital. And as Jim said earlier, we think this is now in a mixed-signal version of the 32-nm process that allows extra passive components such as resistors, capacitors, and inductors, that is much more suited to analog stuff.
It is still unclear exactly why Apple has elected to redesign the A5 for the Apple TV, as it has been assumed that the company's "hobby" does not generate enough shipment volume to warrant such an investment in and of itself. As a result, it is possible that Apple has plans to use this chip in other products, although the single-core nature of the CPU design will likely limit the range of devices for which it would be suitable.

Article Link: Smaller A5 Chip From Tweaked Apple TV Contains Only One CPU Core, Revamped Analog Circuitry
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Old Mar 13, 2013, 02:22 PM   #2
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It is still unclear exactly why Apple has elected to redesign the A5 for the Apple TV, as it has been assumed that the company's "hobby" does not generate enough shipment volume to warrant such an investment in and of itself. As a result, it is possible that Apple has plans to use this chip in other products, although the single-core nature of the CPU design will likely limit the range of devices for which it would be suitable.
iWatch, obviously.
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Old Mar 13, 2013, 02:26 PM   #3
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iWatch, obviously.
Shouldn't even need as much horsepower as a single core A5.
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Old Mar 13, 2013, 02:27 PM   #4
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Any chance this will be used in the iPhone 5S? It may be a slight reduction in performance, but the increase in battery life and the ability to shrink the device pretty significantly might be worth it.
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Old Mar 13, 2013, 02:27 PM   #5
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A5 powered iWatch here we go
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Old Mar 13, 2013, 02:29 PM   #6
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Meh. Wasn't really ever a fan of the Apple TV anyways. That's a really small GPU and CPU though....
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Old Mar 13, 2013, 02:31 PM   #7
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Shouldn't even need as much horsepower as a single core A5.
But a low power, low clocked A5 would be a nice, cheap chip to maximise battery life, no?
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Old Mar 13, 2013, 02:33 PM   #8
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Any chance this will be used in the iPhone 5S? It may be a slight reduction in performance, but the increase in battery life and the ability to shrink the device pretty significantly might be worth it.
Well, a snowball's chance in hell is still a chance, I guess, so the answer is yes.
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Old Mar 13, 2013, 02:37 PM   #9
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Yay!

**** you first revision third gen Apple TV!

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Originally Posted by Raftysworld View Post
Any chance this will be used in the iPhone 5S? It may be a slight reduction in performance, but the increase in battery life and the ability to shrink the device pretty significantly might be worth it.
Um... I too enjoy smoking weed sir.

The iPhone 5 utilizes the A6 chip, the 5S is expected to come with the A7.
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Old Mar 13, 2013, 02:41 PM   #10
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Any chance Apple is playing around with this stuff for the rumored Apple Television? That is the only thing I can think and they will need to make parts as cheap as possible to compete and turn a decent profit. Or maybe Apple is working on deals with Cable Companies to put their tech in Cable boxes? Can't wait to see where all this goes.
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Old Mar 13, 2013, 02:44 PM   #11
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Meh. Wasn't really ever a fan of the Apple TV anyways. That's a really small GPU and CPU though....
That's fair enough, but care to say why? It's a great portal of diverse content in an elegant package. Gone are the days of multiple big complicated boxes with fans and lots of cables. So what do you use instead of AppleTV? A gaming console? And how does your setup have an advantage over AppleTV?
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Old Mar 13, 2013, 02:45 PM   #12
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I'd say it's pretty obvious they're tinkering with this chip to use it in the iWatch....

The A4 is too big (and on its way out anyways), so the A5 is the logical choice to be tinkered with and put into the iWatch.
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Old Mar 13, 2013, 02:46 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by DavidLeblond View Post
iWatch, obviously.
iTV

TV speakers are analog
maybe lots of other parts in a TV as well
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Old Mar 13, 2013, 02:47 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Raftysworld View Post
Any chance this will be used in the iPhone 5S? It may be a slight reduction in performance, but the increase in battery life and the ability to shrink the device pretty significantly might be worth it.
No.

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iTV

TV speakers are analog
maybe lots of other parts in a TV as well
Why on earth would they worry about "shrinking" the size of the chip if they're simply going to put it in a TV.....
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Old Mar 13, 2013, 02:47 PM   #15
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Meh. Wasn't really ever a fan of the Apple TV anyways. That's a really small GPU and CPU though....
Well, it does its job.
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Old Mar 13, 2013, 02:47 PM   #16
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... but the previous design involved a dual-core chip with one core disabled, while the new design contains just the one active core.

... It is still unclear exactly why Apple has elected to redesign the A5 for the Apple TV, as it has been assumed that the company's "hobby" does not generate enough shipment volume to warrant such an investment in and of itself. As a result, it is possible that Apple has plans to use this chip in other products, although the single-core nature of the CPU design will likely limit the range of devices for which it would be suitable.
I'd guess that shipping two cores and only using one was a way of increasing yields (aka minimizing cost.)
Pushing the envelope with a new process will result in unusable cores.
Using the better of the two cores (or whichever one actually worked) "saved" some chips.
Maybe by now the process has been perfected so a single core can be reliably manufactured.

And, because Apple TV is a relatively low-volume product, there's less pressure. Big deal. Its only Apple TV.
Shrinking die size could cause delays, which would be costly with high-volume products.
If Apple TV A5 yields are below expectations, then slip the estimated ship dates. So what?
If yields are OK, then run off a batch of chips and you're good for months. Yay.

Of course, if you were paranoid, you might think that Apple is doing two things with the Apple TV A5.
1. Limit the amount of advanced chip design that Samsung sees. For obvious reasons.
2. Give TSMC a low-risk chip to make, to improve their process and to test their quality.
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Old Mar 13, 2013, 02:48 PM   #17
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Interesting that they would invest in rearchitecting an existing chip. Is it powerful enough to run the full gamut of existing iOS apps? Because that's where I see AppleTV going. Imagine apps like FaceTime running on your big screen. Just need to have a camera and audio input.
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Old Mar 13, 2013, 02:48 PM   #18
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Any chance Apple is playing around with this stuff for the rumored Apple Television? That is the only thing I can think and they will need to make parts as cheap as possible to compete and turn a decent profit. Or maybe Apple is working on deals with Cable Companies to put their tech in Cable boxes? Can't wait to see where all this goes.
I was thinking set top box too.

Is anything still broadcast w an analogue signal? If so, this might explain the mods.
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Old Mar 13, 2013, 02:51 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by Raftysworld View Post
Any chance this will be used in the iPhone 5S? It may be a slight reduction in performance, but the increase in battery life and the ability to shrink the device pretty significantly might be worth it.
They'd be stupid to reduce performance, even if it helped battery life. Can you imagine the **** they'd catch for that? Other companies would have a field day with that.

"The all new, slower iPhone."
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Old Mar 13, 2013, 02:52 PM   #20
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Oh ok
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Old Mar 13, 2013, 02:57 PM   #21
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I was thinking set top box too.

Is anything still broadcast w an analogue signal? If so, this might explain the mods.
Or what about a low cost iPhone?
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Old Mar 13, 2013, 02:57 PM   #22
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oh wow how interesting!

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Old Mar 13, 2013, 03:05 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by DavidLeblond View Post
iWatch, obviously.
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Originally Posted by djrod View Post
A5 powered iWatch here we go
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Originally Posted by alent1234 View Post
iTV

TV speakers are analog
maybe lots of other parts in a TV as well
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Originally Posted by Koodauw View Post
Or what about a low cost iPhone?
Beat me to it.
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Old Mar 13, 2013, 03:05 PM   #24
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i'm always fascinated by these xray chip images. looks like a satellite view of area 51 or something, crazy.
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Old Mar 13, 2013, 03:06 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jrswizzle View Post
[/COLOR]

Why on earth would they worry about "shrinking" the size of the chip if they're simply going to put it in a TV.....
Smaller chips are more cost effective to fab.
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