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

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

  1. MacRumors macrumors bot


    Apr 12, 2001

    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.
    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. DavidLeblond macrumors 68020


    Jan 6, 2004
    Raleigh, NC
    iWatch, obviously. :rolleyes:
  3. Menel macrumors 603


    Aug 4, 2011
    Shouldn't even need as much horsepower as a single core A5.
  4. Raftysworld macrumors 6502

    Oct 28, 2011
    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. djrod macrumors 65816


    Sep 16, 2008
    Madrid - Spain
  6. Squilly macrumors 68020


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

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

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

    Jun 4, 2012

    **** 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. bacaramac macrumors 65816


    Dec 29, 2007
    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. coolfactor macrumors 68040

    Jul 29, 2002
    Vancouver, BC CANADA
    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. jrswizzle macrumors 603


    Aug 23, 2012
    McKinney, TX
    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. alent1234 macrumors 603

    Jun 19, 2009

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


    Aug 23, 2012
    McKinney, TX


    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. Mike MA macrumors 68000

    Mike MA

    Sep 21, 2012
    Well, it does its job.
  16. SockRolid macrumors 68000


    Jan 5, 2010
    Almost Rock Solid
    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. coolfactor macrumors 68040

    Jul 29, 2002
    Vancouver, BC CANADA
    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. Robert.Walter macrumors 65816

    Jul 10, 2012
    I was thinking set top box too.

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

    cocky jeremy

    Jul 12, 2008
    Columbus, OH
    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. Koodauw macrumors 68040


    Nov 17, 2003
    Or what about a low cost iPhone?
  21. nazaar macrumors 6502a


    Oct 28, 2008
  22. powers74 macrumors 68000


    Aug 18, 2008
    At the bend in the river
    Beat me to it.
  23. Time Less macrumors 6502

    Time Less

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


    Jun 30, 2002
    Rancho Cordova, CA
    Smaller chips are more cost effective to fab.

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