A5X Chip Floorplan Reveals Significant Space Required for Quad-Core Graphics

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Earlier today, we pointed to some teardown tidbits from Chipworks regarding the new iPad, including the observation that the A5X system-on-a-chip is being manufactured by Samsung and is using the same 45-nm process used for the A5 package in earlier devices. Also noted was a significant increase of about 36% in the area of the A5X compared to the A5.


UBM TechInsights has now started stripping down the A5X, revealing the floorplan for the package. Among the notable observations is the amount of area taken up by the quad-core graphics found in the A5X, a significant boost from the dual-core graphics found in the A5.
What should be noted is that the processor cores from ARM are identical in look but the extra real estate on the processors (the A5 measures at approx. 120 mm^2 vs. the A5X which measures at 163 mm^2) is accounted for by the the PowerVR SGX543MP4 GPU cores, of which they are paired in groups of two and then symmetrically opposed to each other.
By our calculations, the graphics cores take up roughly 25% of the A5X's surface area alone, compared to just 10% for the ARM cores that make up the application processor. The floorplan also reveals a number of other enhancements for the A5X, including additional DDR interfaces and architecture to support the boost in graphics horsepower.

Article Link: A5X Chip Floorplan Reveals Significant Space Required for Quad-Core Graphics
 

Apple2000

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Jul 19, 2011
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Sure iPad 2 was great, but i do not want innovation to stagnate due to lack of a cpu upgrade...

A15 Dual was my hopes, but even an a9 quad doesn't cut it. Current chip may be able to hold its own now, sort of, but in a year it will be behind the competition by a lot.
 

ABadSanta

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Jul 3, 2011
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Sure iPad 2 was great, but i do not want innovation to stagnate due to lack of a cpu upgrade...

A15 Dual was my hopes, but even an a9 quad doesn't cut it. Current chip may be able to hold its own now, sort of, but in a year it will be behind the competition by a lot.
Inevitable progression and evolution will guarantee that Apple's mobile processors will keep evolving. When iOS evolves and becomes more "complex", Apple will definitely be able to cater it to quad core CPUs and other upgraded parts.
 

jav6454

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Nov 14, 2007
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Sure iPad 2 was great, but i do not want innovation to stagnate due to lack of a cpu upgrade...

A15 Dual was my hopes, but even an a9 quad doesn't cut it. Current chip may be able to hold its own now, sort of, but in a year it will be behind the competition by a lot.
The current dual core CPU handles everything nicely. The graphics were boosted based on double the pixel amount. Makes sense from an engineering standpoint given that the only feature that was truly enhanced was the graphics.
 

mikethebigo

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May 25, 2009
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If the A5x is a bigger chipset, it likely won't go in iPhone 5. Is Apple planning on sticking with the A5 in iPhone 5? I wonder...
 

Apple2000

macrumors member
Jul 19, 2011
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The current dual core CPU handles everything nicely. The graphics were boosted based on double the pixel amount. Makes sense from an engineering standpoint given that the only feature that was truly enhanced was the graphics.
Yes, it handles everything nicely.

But so did the A4.

My worry is that we will not see as many new and innovative apps as we did in 2011 because of the lack of extra processing power.
 

futbalguy

macrumors 6502
May 16, 2007
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Sure iPad 2 was great, but i do not want innovation to stagnate due to lack of a cpu upgrade...

A15 Dual was my hopes, but even an a9 quad doesn't cut it. Current chip may be able to hold its own now, sort of, but in a year it will be behind the competition by a lot.
Well typically I think computers are judged against current technology and not what is going to be available in the future. Also, Apple products are typically not industry-leading spec'd machines but its not too important since the software support is strong and the overall experience is solid.
 

the-oz-man

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Jun 24, 2009
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Yes, it handles everything nicely.

But so did the A4.

My worry is that we will not see as many new and innovative apps as we did in 2011 because of the lack of extra processing power.
I disagree. Just look at the apps demoed in the keynote release. They probably had a fews weeks to a month and still found a way to do stunning things with that display. Quad-core graphics support will lead the innovation this year on the new iPad.
 

jav6454

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Nov 14, 2007
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Isn't it 4x pixel count, based on double the resolution in two dimensions?
Pixel Per inch is double.

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Yes, it handles everything nicely.

But so did the A4.

My worry is that we will not see as many new and innovative apps as we did in 2011 because of the lack of extra processing power.
No app currently uses the A5 to its fullest, what makes ou think there will be one some time soon?

Hell, even a single core A4 hasn't been choked. There is still CPU work power left.
 

Hellhammer

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Dec 10, 2008
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A15 Dual was my hopes, but even an a9 quad doesn't cut it. Current chip may be able to hold its own now, sort of, but in a year it will be behind the competition by a lot.
Cortex-A15 is H2'12, maybe even Q1'13. You can't hope for something that doesn't really exist. It would be similar if you hoped for Haswell in 2012 MacBook Pros. Next year (at the latest) Apple will release a new iPad that will most likely match the competition.
 

Designx

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Mar 15, 2012
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Let's hope heat will be kept in check with the larger chip on the 45nm process, bigger battery, and more complex LCD.
 

frick

macrumors member
May 16, 2006
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Sure iPad 2 was great, but i do not want innovation to stagnate due to lack of a cpu upgrade...

A15 Dual was my hopes, but even an a9 quad doesn't cut it. Current chip may be able to hold its own now, sort of, but in a year it will be behind the competition by a lot.

Just returned mine for exactly this reason. The iPad was a 20% need/80% want purchase for me, so it's not a necessity (I have trouble believing it is truly a necessity for anyone). I would rather the purchase provide the longevity that will come with a new CPU/GPU architecture and smaller (28nm) process next year -- plus the added bonus of a thinner/lighter iPad as such a giant battery won't be needed!

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The die is huge

Image
Someone in the AnandTech comments mentioned the A5X die is about the same size as the upcoming 22nm quad core Ivy Bridge processors. If this isn't evidence that Apple messed up by using a 45nm process (vs. waiting 2 months and moving to 32nm), I don't know what is.
 

chrmjenkins

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Oct 29, 2007
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Someone in the AnandTech comments mentioned the A5X die is about the same size as the upcoming 22nm quad core Ivy Bridge processors. If this isn't evidence that Apple messed up by using a 45nm process (vs. waiting 2 months and moving to 32nm), I don't know what is.
Delaying the iPad on account of a CPU process? Doesn't make much sense unless the process is breaking the bank in some way. Who knows how long it will take for Samsung to be ready for Apple type volume for 32nm.
 

Vol7ron

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Jun 11, 2009
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Someone in the AnandTech comments mentioned the A5X die is about the same size as the upcoming 22nm quad core Ivy Bridge processors. If this isn't evidence that Apple messed up by using a 45nm process (vs. waiting 2 months and moving to 32nm), I don't know what is.
Cost maybe? Moving to the smaller die that early in the game may be more expensive in the very beginning until manufacturing began to ramp up.
 

frick

macrumors member
May 16, 2006
63
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Delaying the iPad on account of a CPU process? Doesn't make much sense unless the process is breaking the bank in some way. Who knows how long it will take for Samsung to be ready for Apple type volume for 32nm.
This is true, especially considering the yields on Samsung's 32nm low voltage node probably aren't great yet. However, note that it's not just the CPU, but also the GPU (on the same SoC), 4G baseband and possibly the RAM that are built at 45nm. If all of these components are produced on a mature 28nm process next year, the efficiency gains will be tremendous.
 

Hellhammer

Moderator emeritus
Dec 10, 2008
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Someone in the AnandTech comments mentioned the A5X die is about the same size as the upcoming 22nm quad core Ivy Bridge processors. If this isn't evidence that Apple messed up by using a 45nm process (vs. waiting 2 months and moving to 32nm), I don't know what is.
What exactly is the problem with big die then? The actual device isn't any bigger because of that and the battery life is the same too (according to Apple, at least). You are making a big deal out of nothing.
 

frick

macrumors member
May 16, 2006
63
0
Put an i7 in an iPad for $499 and I will pre-order the **** out of it :rolleyes:
They might be about the same size, but the A5X will probably pull ~2w at full load, while the Ivy Bridge i7s have a TDP of 77w :)

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What exactly is the problem with big die then? The actual device isn't any bigger because of that and the battery life is the same too (according to Apple, at least). You are making a big deal out of nothing.
Power usage and heat. The iPad is a mobile device so weight / battery life are of paramount importance. The iPad 3 has a larger battery than the iPad 2 (heavier, thicker, will take 2x as long to charge); meanwhile, the big A5X die will likely get quite hot (notice the heat spreader in the teardown?); this heat will spread to the Li-Ion battery and decrease its lifespan (probably only by a few percent, but still...).
 
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