Tweaked Apple TV Contains Die-Shrunk A5 Chip, Not A5X

Discussion in 'MacRumors.com News Discussion' started by MacRumors, Mar 10, 2013.

  1. macrumors bot

    MacRumors

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    #1
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    Back in late January, an update to the Apple TV software revealed a new "AppleTV3,2", with FCC documents for the device showing up the following day. By digging into the software files for this new device, it was discovered that the device appeared to be using an A5X chip rather than the single-core A5 chip found in the third-generation Apple TV.

    This conclusion was based on the chip carrying an identifier of S5L8947 compared to the S5L8945 seen on the original A5X. A similar move was made when Apple rolled out a die shrink of the A5 in the third-generation Apple TV last year, shifting from the original S5L8940 to the smaller S5L8942.

    According to Apple, this latest Apple TV update was designed to be invisible to users, offering no changes in features.

    Apple's tweaked third-generation Apple TV, which carries a part number of A1469 compared to an A1427 part number for the original version, has now begun making its way into Apple's retail store stocks, and we have purchased one and cracked it open to examine its internals.

    Most notably, the tweaked third-generation Apple TV does not contain an A5X chip. Instead, it contains an A5 chip like its predecessor, although the new chip is considerably smaller than the previous one.

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    The original A5 chip introduced in 2011 for the iPad 2 was built on a 45-nanometer process, measuring 10.09 mm by 12.15 mm, while the first die-shrunk A5 introduced in 2012 for the third-generation Apple TV and the tweaked iPad 2 measured 41% smaller at 8.19 mm by 8.68 mm.

    This new A5 found in the tweaked third-generation Apple TV is considerably smaller still, with our measurements putting the chip at just 6 mm by 6 mm.

    We do not know for sure what Apple is using to produce this even smaller A5, but it is very possible that the company is piloting a 28-nanometer process from Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) for this new chip. Such a move would be a major development, making this A5 the first iOS device processor to be manufactured by a company other than Samsung. Samsung is also moving to a 28-nanometer process for its fab in Austin, Texas where it produces chips for Apple, but the facility will reportedly not be ready for mass production at that scale until late this year.

    TSMC has been rumored to be coming on board for A6X chip production for the current iPad, as well as for future chips using even smaller processes.

    Article Link: Tweaked Apple TV Contains Die-Shrunk A5 Chip, Not A5X
     
  2. ConCat, Mar 10, 2013
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2013

    macrumors 6502a

    ConCat

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    #2
    I don't see why it would have contained an A5X chip. The A5X was the same chip as the A5, just with more GPU cores. The AppleTV does not need them.

    01100110 01101001 01110010 01110011 01110100
     
  3. macrumors 6502

    Eadfrith

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    #3
    I wonder how much power it consumes being so much smaller.
     
  4. macrumors 65816

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    Lincoln, UK
    #4
    This silent update could have major implications if it is a 28-nanometer die test. I'm looking forward to seeing less power and space taken up by the electronics, giving more battery space that is put under less demand. Or allows for new features.
     
  5. macrumors 65816

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    #5
    Waiting for Amazon Prime added to Apple TV and other streaming apps until than I will wait for the next generation Apple TV, whenever that is.
     
  6. macrumors 68040

    Orlandoech

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    #6

    Same here. How disappointing.
     
  7. macrumors 68020

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    #7
    While I most certainly appreciate _All_ the news MacRumors brings us, it's things like this that are so trivial, that the average buyer doesn't care about.

    It's a reflection of anything bigger to report on, like something truly substantial to report about regarding the next iPhone.
     
  8. macrumors G4

    daneoni

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    #8
    Apple TV seems to now be a testbed for Apple's Tick (die shrink) cycle of A-series chip manufacturing.
     
  9. gmanist1000, Mar 10, 2013
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2013

    macrumors 68020

    gmanist1000

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    #9
    I have an Apple TV, but I want this. And HBO Go.

    Edit: And NFL Sunday Ticket :(
     
  10. macrumors 68040

    Jaro65

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    #10
    That is true. Not unless Apple wants to open Apple TV to a third party app development....
     
  11. macrumors 6502a

    Mr Fusion

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    #11
    ... Or they could just open up the platform to developers...

    ... Like they should have years ago...

    ... So you don't have to wait for Apple to add features at a glacial pace...

    ... :rolleyes:
     
  12. macrumors regular

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    #12
    I love my Apple TV but it is lacking serious content when compared to other devices like the roku 3. :apple:


    I'll stick my with Apple TV 3 for now
     
  13. macrumors regular

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    #13
    This is the first Apple chip with 28nm die size. Since the chips are of enormous importance to the products this is a pretty big deal. The more Apple can reduce the die size the more other stuff such as battery or other silicon can be added to the products.
     
  14. macrumors regular

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    #14
    I can think of alot of ways that an Apple TV could make use of more GPUs on-die.
     
  15. macrumors 6502a

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    #15
    It makes sense that the A5X wasn't used because the A5X uses external DRAM on the PCB rather than the stacked DRAM of the A5. That means Apple would have had to redesign the internal layout of the Apple TV, which would be quite a bit of work for a silent update.

    I wonder if there are any plans to silent refresh the iPad Mini, iPhone 4S or 5th gen Touch with this 28nm A5? The 28nm A5 on the face of it seems like a great candidate for the low-cost iPhone, but several reports seem to name some form of A6.
     
  16. macrumors 65816

    Tankmaze

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    #16
    Whats the point in using shrunken chip, and not the new one.
    My guess is this chip only makes it harder to jailbreak.

    Still waiting jailbreak on my atv3 :(
     
  17. APlotdevice, Mar 10, 2013
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2013

    macrumors 68030

    APlotdevice

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    #17
    Hmm... A smaller A5 could be a useful component in both the rumored budget iPhone and iWatch. Or even just to upgrade the low-end iPod touch.

    The prevailing theory was that Apple would use the partially defective die-shrunk A5Xs in the AppleTV as they ramp up that chip's production for the next iPad Mini. Similar to what they did with the current hardware.
     
  18. macrumors 68020

    theBB

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    #18
    Or from Intel or Global Foundries or UMC.... In any case, companies such as ChipIdea can easily strip one down and figure out the foundry. There must be a lot of investors curious about this.
     
  19. macrumors 603

    quagmire

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    #19
    As mentioned, the Apple TV with its relatively low production has become the test bed for new CPU's on a new process. Last year it used the defective A5's with only one of the cores working on the 32 nm process which worked out the quirks for the revised A5 for the iPad 2 and A6 for iPhone 5.

    Apparently the further revised A5 is testing out TSMC's 28nm process before the A7 comes out for the iPhone 5S using the same 28nm process.
     
  20. macrumors 68000

    AngerDanger

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    #20
    On an all new episode of "How Insignificant Can we Make These Updates"…
     
  21. macrumors regular

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    #21
    I know this will improve battery life once implemented on the iPhone 5S (I highly doubt apple TV will move to 28nm and iphone get left behind) but my main gripe is the LTE and Dual Carrier 3G that eat up battery, plus the GPS, but I'm not sure if it is the GPS specifically or the network only that causes batter drains.
     
  22. macrumors 6502a

    lolkthxbai

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    #22
    A die shrink typically means lower production costs and higher percent yield from the same size wafer. Considering they went from roughly 10mm X 12mm to 6mm X 6mm means they've nearly quadrupled their yield. Also, if I'm not mistaken, it uses less power and runs cooler(?)

    Anyways, Apple could just be testing out TSMC's new process and might even decide to have them produce the "AX" chip for the rumored "iWatch" based on this. But that's just my guessing and speculation.
     
  23. macrumors 6502

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    #23
    I never understood why anyone believed it would contain the A5X. What would an Apple TV catering to 1080p displays do with 4 times the GPU of an iPad 2?
     
  24. macrumors 68020

    theBB

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    #24
    Keeping an A5 in this low cost iPhone would help, but there has got be some other cost savings to bring its price below 4S. An iPhone with a larger screen, but the same resolution as 5 sounds more likely as a new iPhone model alongside 5S this year.
     
  25. macrumors 6502a

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    Nov 10, 2006
    #25
    Has TSMC actually been confirmed? Samsung's 28nm process may not be as behind as MacRumors is saying. Samsung has already demoed their 28nm Exynos 8 and it seems likely to be introduced with the Galaxy S4 being announced this week.

    I thought the glass/metal design of the iPhone4/4S was a major cost contributor? Going plastic should be a big help.
     

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