Chip analysis reveals subtle changes to new iPad innards

Posted:
in iPad edited January 2014


An analysis of the internals of Apple's third-generation iPad reveal some small changes to the design of the device, such as a switch to discrete DRAM devices, the addition of a heat spreader on top of the A5X chip and a possible move to a flip-chip solution.



Anandtech published a preliminary technical analysisa of the new iPad on Thursday based on iFixit's teardown of the device.



Report author Anand Lal Shimpi said the tablet's internals were "mostly what we expected," including the Qualcomm MDM9600 LTE baseband. However, working from images of the third-generation iPad's insides, he did surmise that Apple is now using "two discrete DRAM devices" for its A5 SoC, instead of a PoP (Package-on-Package) stack.



The two 512MB Elpida LP-DDR2 devices were located "on the side of the PCB that doesn't feature the A5X," he said. The DRAM devices carried a part number of B4064B2MA-8D-F, but Lal Shimpi was unable to identify detailed specifications by reading the part numbers.



Another change reported by the publication was the addition of a metal heat spreader to the A5X. Lal Shimpi took the to mean that Apple had "made the shift from a wire bond package to flip-chip," the process of flipping a chip top face down to connect it to external circuitry.











"Moving to a flip-chip BGA package allows for better removal of heat (the active logic is closer to the heatsink), as well as enabling more IO pins/balls on the package itself," he said.



However, Lal Shimpi did note that Apple may have already used flip-chip in the previous-generation A5 and "simply hidden it under the PoP stack."



The report went on to estimate the die size of the new A5X chip. By comparing Apple's new SoC with the Toshiba eMMC NAND next to it, Lal Shimpi deduced that the A5X die measured roughly 10.8mm x 10.8 mm, or 117.5mm^2. Anandtech had previously guessed a 125mm^2 die for the A5X. He assumed that the A5X is built on a 28/32nm process, but he also warned that there was "a lot of estimation" in his methodology.











Apple's new A5X has the same clock speed as its predecessor, but features double the RAM and a new quad-core graphics processor. According to iFixit's teardown, the CPU was built by Samsung and is believed to have been manufactured during the first week of 2012. Samsung also manufactured the Retina Display found in the new iPad used for the teardown.



The third-generation iPad launches in 10 countries at 8 a.m. local time on Friday, though some retailers began selling the device at midnight.



[ View article on AppleInsider ]

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 24
    It's amusing how interested everyone is in how Apple designed the iPad, and no one gives a shit about how any other tables are designed. I LOVE it!!
  • Reply 2 of 24
    bugsnwbugsnw Posts: 717member
    I agree. I find it endlessly fascinating, all these intricate details. It's like looking behind the curtain of Apple's genius.
  • Reply 3 of 24
    This is a marvel in electrical engineering.



    The board is extremely clean as it takes custom systems integration where no one has taken it before.



    We can not help but wonder about the inside of such a beautiful device. Even if all we ultimately see are a highly integrated black boxes, surrounded by surface mounted devices, we want to see the source of the beauty.
  • Reply 4 of 24
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleSauce007 View Post


    This is a marvel in electrical engineering.



    The board is extremely clean as it takes custom systems integration where no one has taken it before.



    We can not help but wonder about the inside of such a beautiful device. Even if all we ultimately see are a highly integrated black boxes, surrounded by surface mounted devices, we want to see the source of the beauty.



    It really is. There is no CE I know of that uses such densely built boards. That is neither easy nor inexpensive. Take a look at iFixit's teardown of the Samsung Galaxy in Steps 13 and 14. By comparison it's amature hour.
  • Reply 5 of 24
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 12,826member
    At least when technically possible. Folklore.org has an interesting piece about that and the original Mac. It does say something about your craftsmanship to make something that is highly functional yet looks good.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post


    It really is. There is no CE I know of that uses such densely built boards. That is neither easy nor inexpensive. Take a lot at iFixit's teardown of the Samsung Galaxy in Steps 13 and 14. By comparison it's amature hour.



  • Reply 6 of 24
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by wizard69 View Post


    Folklore.org has an interesting piece about that...



    Link?
  • Reply 7 of 24
    jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,946member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post


    It really is. There is no CE I know of that uses such densely built boards. That is neither easy nor inexpensive. Take a look at iFixit's teardown of the Samsung Galaxy in Steps 13 and 14. By comparison it's amature hour.



    There is a cost to having a larger board too. Apple tends to use ribbon cables to communicate with (relatively) far-flung components, there might be some cost savings. Having everything on the same board does reduce the number of assembly steps, but it does reduce repairability should you be inclined to fix it.
  • Reply 8 of 24
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by JeffDM View Post


    There is a cost to having a larger board too. Apple tends to use ribbon cables to communicate with (relatively) far-flung components, there might be some cost savings. Having everything on the same board does reduce the number of assembly steps, but it does reduce repairability should you be inclined to fix it.



    I can see a cost to having more material but aren't Apple's boards double stacked which makes them considerably harder to produce?
  • Reply 9 of 24
    jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,946member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post


    I can see a cost to having more material but aren't Apple's boards double stacked which makes them considerably harder to produce?



    Do you mean more layers? If it uses more layers, then yes, it costs more per unit area, but the reduced area might balance that out. Or components on both sides of the board? Samsung's boards appear to have components on both sides. Without specifics, it might be hard for anyone to know with much confidence. Circuit design and board layout is pretty tough work though. There are myriad considerations to make sure everything is routed well with predictable time delays and such.
  • Reply 10 of 24
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by JeffDM View Post


    Do you mean more layers? If it uses more layers, then yes, it costs more per unit area. Or components on both sides of the board? Samsung's boards appear to have components on both sides. Without specifics, it might be hard for anyone to know with much confidence.



    I don't just mean components on both sides, I mean they take two layers that are densely populated but have corresponding relay points that when sandwiched together have components on both sides that overlap each other front to back. I'm just not seeing it with the Samsung Galaxy board I linked to as noted by all the dead space.



    In general, putting the same chips on a much smaller, more densely populated board is considerably more costly to produce than than making a larger board where you have no such constraints.
    PS: Apple's board design was not covered when I was in school so I have no industry terms to better categorize this process.
  • Reply 11 of 24
    jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,946member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post


    I don't just mean components on both sides, I mean they take two layers that are densely populated but have corresponding relay points that when sandwiched together have components on both sides that overlap each other front to back. I'm just not seeing it with the Samsung Galaxy board I linked to as noted by all the dead space.
    PS: Apple's board design was not covered when I was in school so I have no industry terms to better categorize this process.



    Are you describing more layers within the board, or separate boards on top of the board? The relay points might be referring to what I understand as vias to communicate signals between different circuit layers within the board.
  • Reply 12 of 24
    sunilramansunilraman Posts: 8,133member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleSauce007 View Post


    This is a marvel in electrical engineering.



    The board is extremely clean as it takes custom systems integration where no one has taken it before.



    We can not help but wonder about the inside of such a beautiful device. Even if all we ultimately see are a highly integrated black boxes, surrounded by surface mounted devices, we want to see the source of the beauty.



    Jony Ives has said several times, "in some ways, [Apple Product] is more beautiful on the inside, than the outside". It's that kind of obsession that is now, legendary. The MacBook unibody design definitely has some amazing design on the inside, let alone overall. I can't look at a clunky PC laptop and not think, "gee, that's just a piece of rubbish right there".



    I've been opening Mac laptops for 10 years and nothing comes close to the beauty of the unibodies.
  • Reply 13 of 24
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by JeffDM View Post


    Are you describing more layers within the board, or separate boards on top of the board? The relay points might be referring to what I understand as vias to communicate signals between different circuit layers within the board.



    What I'm describing is the difficulty in having a chip(s) on one side and some other chip(s) doing some other functions directly on the other side without leaving the board blank on opposing sides in order to reduce cost of complexity.
  • Reply 14 of 24
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by sunilraman View Post


    Jony Ives has said many times, "in some ways, [Apple Product] is more beautiful on the inside, than the outside". It's that kind of obsession that is now, legendary. The MacBook unibody design definitely has some amazing design on the inside, let alone overall. I can't look at a clunky PC laptop and not think, "gee, that's just a piece of rubbish right there".



    I bet if you took a person that know's Apple's products and showed them only some basic internal components without any textual markers indicating the company most would probably guess correctly which ones are from Apple.
  • Reply 15 of 24
    neilmneilm Posts: 618member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Macky the Macky View Post


    It's amusing how interested everyone is in how Apple designed the iPad, and no one gives a shit about how any other tables are designed. I LOVE it!!



    Anandtech is a hardware geek site and does similar chip level hardware analysis of almost everything they test.
  • Reply 16 of 24
    jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,946member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post


    What I'm describing is the difficulty in having a chip(s) on one side and some other chip(s) doing some other functions directly on the other side without leaving the board blank on opposing sides in order to reduce cost of complexity.



    OK, I see. Plenty of complexity that can arise from that.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by sunilraman View Post


    Jony Ives has said several times, "in some ways, [Apple Product] is more beautiful on the inside, than the outside". It's that kind of obsession that is now, legendary. The MacBook unibody design definitely has some amazing design on the inside, let alone overall. I can't look at a clunky PC laptop and not think, "gee, that's just a piece of rubbish right there".



    I've been opening Mac laptops for 10 years and nothing comes close to the beauty of the unibodies.



    That it is. The unibody introduction is one of my inspirations to keep improving my own product designs.
  • Reply 17 of 24
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by NeilM View Post


    Anandtech is a hardware geek site and does similar chip level hardware analysis of almost everything they test.



    And yet their readers still complain because Anand will only review 20x more non-Apple tablets and smartphones this year leaving many to get little or no mention.
  • Reply 18 of 24
    eriamjheriamjh Posts: 1,134member
    Apple really designs its products. It doesn't just slap reference designs into a package and ship it out the door. The iPad is a prime example of that. Heck, so are the iMacs, MacBook Airs, MBPs, etc.
  • Reply 19 of 24
    anonymouseanonymouse Posts: 6,580member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post


    It really is. There is no CE I know of that uses such densely built boards. That is neither easy nor inexpensive. Take a look at iFixit's teardown of the Samsung Galaxy in Steps 13 and 14. By comparison it's amature hour.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by wizard69 View Post


    At least when technically possible. Folklore.org has an interesting piece about that and the original Mac. It does say something about your craftsmanship to make something that is highly functional yet looks good.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post


    Link?



    He might be referring to:



    http://folklore.org/StoryView.py?pro...&detail=medium





    But this is also extensively documented and discussed in Steve Jobs.
  • Reply 20 of 24
    bugsnwbugsnw Posts: 717member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by sunilraman View Post


    Jony Ives has said several times, "in some ways, [Apple Product] is more beautiful on the inside, than the outside". It's that kind of obsession that is now, legendary. The MacBook unibody design definitely has some amazing design on the inside, let alone overall. I can't look at a clunky PC laptop and not think, "gee, that's just a piece of rubbish right there".



    I've been opening Mac laptops for 10 years and nothing comes close to the beauty of the unibodies.



    When I read The Journey is the Reward, which covers Steve Jobs' life from a kid on up through the Mac, I was fascinated by his attention to the smallest details. Lengthy prose on why SJ preferred rounded rectangles for the GUI and how the Apple II and subsequent motherboards had to look neat and orderly.



    Solipsism's pic really says it all. One board looks sloppy and has gaping space while Apple's looks like every square mm was carefully planned.



    Back in the NeXT days, they used to proudly display the 68030 board at the computer shows, and it was a gorgeous thing to behold. I still have my raw 030 board and it's pleasingly intricate yet built like a tank.
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