Smaller A5 Chip From Tweaked Apple TV Contains Only One CPU Core, Revamped Analog Circuitry

Discussion in 'MacRumors.com News Discussion' started by MacRumors, Mar 13, 2013.

  1. macrumors bot

    MacRumors

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2001
    #1
    [​IMG]


    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.

    [​IMG]
    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.
    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
     
  2. macrumors 68020

    DavidLeblond

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2004
    Location:
    Raleigh, NC
    #2
    iWatch, obviously. :rolleyes:
     
  3. macrumors 603

    Menel

    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2011
    Location:
    ATL
    #3
    Shouldn't even need as much horsepower as a single core A5.
     
  4. macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Oct 28, 2011
    #4
    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.
     
  5. macrumors 6502a

    djrod

    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2008
    Location:
    Madrid - Spain
    #5
    A5 powered iWatch here we go
     
  6. macrumors 68020

    Squilly

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2012
    Location:
    PA
    #6
    Meh. Wasn't really ever a fan of the Apple TV anyways. That's a really small GPU and CPU though....
     
  7. macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jun 26, 2009
    #7
    But a low power, low clocked A5 would be a nice, cheap chip to maximise battery life, no?
     
  8. macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2010
    #8
    Well, a snowball's chance in hell is still a chance, I guess, so the answer is yes. :)
     
  9. macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jun 4, 2012
    #9
    Yay!

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

    ----------

    Um... I too enjoy smoking weed sir.

    The iPhone 5 utilizes the A6 chip, the 5S is expected to come with the A7.
     
  10. macrumors 65816

    bacaramac

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2007
    #10
    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.
     
  11. macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2002
    Location:
    Vancouver, BC CANADA
    #11
    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?
     
  12. macrumors 603

    jrswizzle

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2012
    Location:
    McKinney, TX
    #12
    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.
     
  13. macrumors 603

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2009
    #13
    iTV

    TV speakers are analog
    maybe lots of other parts in a TV as well
     
  14. macrumors 603

    jrswizzle

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2012
    Location:
    McKinney, TX
    #14
    No.

    ----------

    Why on earth would they worry about "shrinking" the size of the chip if they're simply going to put it in a TV.....
     
  15. macrumors 65816

    Mike MA

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2012
    Location:
    Germany, Europe
    #15
    Well, it does its job.
     
  16. macrumors 65816

    SockRolid

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2010
    Location:
    Almost Rock Solid
    #16
    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.
     
  17. macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2002
    Location:
    Vancouver, BC CANADA
    #17
    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.
     
  18. macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2012
    #18
    I was thinking set top box too.

    Is anything still broadcast w an analogue signal? If so, this might explain the mods.
     
  19. macrumors 68040

    cocky jeremy

    Joined:
    Jul 12, 2008
    Location:
    Huntington, WV
    #19
    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."
     
  20. macrumors 65816

    thedeejay

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2012
    Location:
    Toronto, Canada.
    #20
    Oh ok
     
  21. macrumors 68040

    Koodauw

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2003
    Location:
    Madison
    #21
    Or what about a low cost iPhone?
     
  22. macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Oct 28, 2008
    #22
    oh wow how interesting!

    :rolleyes:
     
  23. macrumors 68000

    powers74

    Joined:
    Aug 18, 2008
    Location:
    At the bend in the river
    #23
    Beat me to it.
     
  24. macrumors 6502

    Time Less

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2010
    Location:
    Planet Earth
    #24
    i'm always fascinated by these xray chip images. looks like a satellite view of area 51 or something, crazy.
     
  25. macrumors 65816

    voyagerd

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2002
    Location:
    Rancho Cordova, CA
    #25
    Smaller chips are more cost effective to fab.
     

Share This Page