iPad A5X processor built on Samsung's 45nm technology

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014


Infrared microscope inspection of Apple's new A5X processor revealed that the chip was designed and built around Samsung's 45nm low power architecture, which is currently used in A5 processor found in the iPhone 4S and iPad 2.



As part of its comprehensive component-by-component analysis of the third-generation iPad, Chipworks has discovered that Apple's new A5X processor is being manufactured using Samsung 45nm CMOS process.



Measurements of the connected gates taken during cross-section analysis of the A5X confirm that it is a 45nm chip, similar in architecture to Apple's previous generation A4 and A5 silicon.



Unlike the older A-series chips, which sport a package-on-package design with the processing unit stacked below the LP-DDR2 SDRAM, the A5X configuration moves the 1GB of physical memory to a motherboard location opposite the processor.



Apple is continuing to source its memory from different suppliers as the Chipworks A5X used Samsung LP-DDR2, while an identical unit analyzed by iFixit implemented Elpida SDRAM.





Discrete DDR2 RAM modules, in this case Samsung-sourced. | Source: Chipworks







The A5X's die measures 12.82mm-by-12.71mm, which is a 35 percent increase in area compared to the A5 chip's 10.01mm-by-11.92mm die. Contributing to the increase in size is the addition of a quad-core GPU to the existing dual-core CPU.





Apple's new A5X chip boasts a 45nm LP CMOS architecture. | Source: Chipworks







Despite sharing the same CPU clock speed with the older A5 chip, the graphics and memory boosts in the new iPad's A5X processor should allow higher performance in graphics-intensive applications.



[ View article on AppleInsider ]

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 27
    rd68krd68k Posts: 16member
    Dear editor,



    There are no infrared microscope pictures here. The first picture is made on an optical microscope and the second one is made on a SEM (scanning electron microscope).
  • Reply 2 of 27
    45nm process

    Other products are being manufactured at 28nm and 22nm.

    So, how more do we get when the iPad/iPhone processors are made with these narrow widths?

    Exponential progress really hurts the brain.
  • Reply 3 of 27
    aizmovaizmov Posts: 988member
    Still on 45nm? Why does Apple still let Samsung fab them? Can't Apple design them but have Intel fabricate them? Intel had 32nm since 2010 and they are bringing out 22nm this year.
  • Reply 4 of 27
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    This is the first iPad that gets hot to the touch. Not that's it's unwarranted with the needed GPU performance but it's unusual and uncomfortable for this device. Solution is simple: turn 180°.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Aizmov View Post


    Still on 45nm? Why does Apple still let Samsung fab them? Can't Apple design them but have Intel fabricate them? Intel had 32nm since 2010 and they are bringing out 22nm this year.



    Intel can do 32nm ARM fabs and at the quantities Apple needs?
  • Reply 5 of 27
    relicrelic Posts: 4,735member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Aizmov View Post


    Still on 45nm? Why does Apple still let Samsung fab them? Can't Apple design them but have Intel fabricate them? Intel had 32nm since 2010 and they are bringing out 22nm this year.



    Well yea why not I heard that the new Atom processors are getting better. Maybe now we will be able to install Windows 8 on the iPad.



    Intel no longer makes ARM CPU's. Samsungs next ARM CPU's are all 32nm, they could have easly made the A5x on a 32nm die. It was probably not economicly feasable or maybe Apples design simply isn't ready for 32nm.
  • Reply 6 of 27
    jragostajragosta Posts: 10,473member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Aizmov View Post


    Still on 45nm? Why does Apple still let Samsung fab them? Can't Apple design them but have Intel fabricate them? Intel had 32nm since 2010 and they are bringing out 22nm this year.



    Because Intel publicly stated that they're not really interested in fabbing someone else's ARM chips. They didn't come right out and say 'no', but more like the Japanese "it would be very difficult" - which amounts to the same things.
  • Reply 7 of 27
    y2any2an Posts: 68member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    ... revealed that the chip was designed and built around Samsung's 45nm low power architecture...



    The process technology may be Samsung's, but the architecture is Apple's (with help from the CPU and GPU IP owners).



    Whether it is "designed" around this choice is an unanswerable question. My guess is Apple stayed with 45nm and general design rules not optimized for Samsung's process technology to give flexibility in switching fabs.
  • Reply 8 of 27
    aizmovaizmov Posts: 988member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post


    Intel can do 32nm ARM fabs and at the quantities Apple needs?



    Maybe. Intel is already moving to 22nm (Ivy Bridge) with trigate transistors.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Relic View Post


    Well yea why not I heard that the new Atom processors are getting better. Maybe now we will be able to install Windows 8 on the iPad.



    Intel no longer makes ARM CPU's. Samsungs next ARM CPU's are all 32nm, they could have easly made the A5x on a 32nm die. It was probably not economicly feasable or maybe Apples design simply isn't ready for 32nm.



    Where did I say Atom? All I'm saying Intel can operate as a foundry. They are ahead on their process technology it isn't even funny. I bet in a generation or two they'll get Atom to be more power efficient than ARM, medfield already looks promising. I can't vet whether Atom can be ever as efficient as ARM as an architecture but Intel's advanced process makes up for that.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by jragosta View Post


    Because Intel publicly stated that they're not really interested in fabbing someone else's ARM chips. They didn't come right out and say 'no', but more like the Japanese "it would be very difficult" - which amounts to the same things.



    I thought Intel was open to fabricating someone else's designs.
  • Reply 9 of 27
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Aizmov View Post


    Still on 45nm? Why does Apple still let Samsung fab them? Can't Apple design them but have Intel fabricate them? Intel had 32nm since 2010 and they are bringing out 22nm this year.



    Samsung's 32nm process isn't ready, as even they haven't shipped out any chips for there phones. And Apple would have had to make this decision months ago, you don't just suddenly switch from 32nm back to 45nm.
  • Reply 10 of 27
    galbigalbi Posts: 968member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Aizmov View Post


    Still on 45nm? Why does Apple still let Samsung fab them? Can't Apple design them but have Intel fabricate them? Intel had 32nm since 2010 and they are bringing out 22nm this year.



    They would be digging their own graves.



    Their goal is to rid ARM processors from the market, not encourage it by being one of its proponents.





    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Aizmov View Post


    I thought Intel was open to fabricating someone else's designs.



    You assumed wrong.
  • Reply 11 of 27
    Maybe Apple should jus buy Samsung
  • Reply 12 of 27
    jnjnjnjnjnjn Posts: 588member
    Hey AI, I had the scoop on this.

    On the positive side, this means that the new iPhone will have 40 hours of use and 800 hours of standby time with the same performance as the A5X chip if it is build on 22nm.

    The even newer iPad will have 20 hours of use and 2 times the performance of the A5X processor, and will be as fast per pixel as the current iPad2.



    J.
  • Reply 13 of 27
    jnjnjnjnjnjn Posts: 588member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by dagamer34 View Post


    Samsung's 32nm process isn't ready, as even they haven't shipped out any chips for there phones. And Apple would have had to make this decision months ago, you don't just suddenly switch from 32nm back to 45nm.



    As far as I can see Samsung is already able to produce 28nm chips.

    I don't know if they are ready to produce processor chips with this feature size and required volume.

    So it could be they are not ready, yet.

    But Samsung isn't the only company that can produce ARM chips with this feature size.

    So my guess is that it won't take long before we see an A6 chip with a feature size of 32nm. The new iPhone, later this year will have one.



    J.
  • Reply 14 of 27
    afrodriafrodri Posts: 190member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Aizmov View Post


    Maybe. Intel is already moving to 22nm (Ivy Bridge) with trigate transistors.



    I thought Intel was open to fabricating someone else's designs.



    Intel has made some vague pronouncements on this, but they are far from being a turnkey fab like TSMC or Global. From what I've seen, they've opened up to some FPGA makers, but doing that is common for fabs to fine-tune their fab line (nice regular structures to test new fab processes on).



    The margins on fab-for-hire are much lower than if you design the chip as well. Intel will be wary against giving that up, and they certainly don't want to do it for an architecture (ARM) which they are wary of (their attempts to break into the low-power market have, so far, failed, but ARM may start making headway into the server and even desktop market).
  • Reply 15 of 27
    cnocbuicnocbui Posts: 3,613member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Jimbo1234 View Post


    Maybe Apple should jus buy Samsung



    I am sure the Korean government would welcome that with as much enthusiasm and acceptance as the US government would if a Russian company were to try and buy Boeing.
  • Reply 16 of 27
    tunetune Posts: 91member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Jimbo1234 View Post


    Maybe Apple should jus buy Samsung



    Considering Samsung spent more than $100 billion in investments alone in 2010-2012, I highly doubt that would be possible.
  • Reply 17 of 27
    orthorimorthorim Posts: 142member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Aizmov View Post


    Still on 45nm? Why does Apple still let Samsung fab them? Can't Apple design them but have Intel fabricate them? Intel had 32nm since 2010 and they are bringing out 22nm this year.



    I am sure there's a very good reason.



    Apple/Samsung really pushes the concept of frenemies to new levels... Apple couldn't actually make iPad 3s at all if it wasn't for Samsung. Samsung makes the CPU and the vast majority of the high res displays. I am sure Apple is trying to switch, but they can't. Apple needs Samsung.



    As to why Samsung wants to supply its competitor I am not sure... probably to make money, to get early access to the very latest tech themselves (with Apple paying for development and Samsung reaping the benefits in their own devices)? IDK. Those reasons don't seem very strong to me. I don't know enough about Samsung...
  • Reply 18 of 27
    mactelmactel Posts: 1,275member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by cnocbui View Post


    I am sure the Korean government would welcome that with as much enthusiasm and acceptance as the US government would if a Russian company were to try and buy Boeing.



    Or they can just buy a controller stake getting some seats on the Samsung board and have them give Apple favorable licensing terms of their IP portfolio.
  • Reply 19 of 27
    jragostajragosta Posts: 10,473member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Tune View Post


    Considering Samsung spent more than $100 billion in investments alone in 2010-2012, I highly doubt that would be possible.



    So what?



    Samsung Electronic's market cap is something under $180 B. Typically, acquisitions are made at a slight premium to market cap, so it would take Apple something like $200 B to buy them.



    With $100 B in cash and no debt, Apple would have absolutely no problem in buying Samsung if they wished. Of course, it is extremely unlikely that they'd want to.
  • Reply 20 of 27
    msimpsonmsimpson Posts: 452member
    Intel is not exactly taking the market by storm with their smaller process technology. Yet. Ivy Bridge has been delayed. Their lower power Atom processors on 32nm are nothing special. I doubt they could match the A5X in power efficiency when integrated into a tablet. There is a lot more that goes into efficient chip design than just shrinking the process.



    I see the A5X as being similar to the "tick tock" strategy Intel has been using - first you get the design right, then you shrink it. Apple has the ability to create processors that include unique feature sets. Beside the 2 CPU & 4 GPU cores, it has circuity for interfacing with the cameras and memory.



    What is interesting about A5X is they moved the DRAM off to separate chips, which would seem to indicate it would not work in an iPhone because of the extra space required. I could see Apple have two distinct lines of ARM processors in the future - ones focused for iPhones with RAM onboard, and the other on iPads with separate RAM chips. It is probably cheaper to manufacturer a chip without piggybacking the RAM on another layer, and it gives Apple flexibility to source iPad RAM from multiple vendors
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