Tweaked Apple TV features smaller custom A5 chip

Posted:
in iPod + iTunes + AppleTV edited January 2014
Speculation that Apple would add a more powerful A5X chip to its tweaked Apple TV proved false, as a look inside the new hardware has discovered it's simply a smaller version of the previous A5 chip.

A5
The new, smaller A5 chip in the Apple TV. Via MacRumors.


The changes to the internal hardware of Apple's media playing device were discovered by MacRumors, which got its hands on one of the new Apple TV units. In taking it apart, they found a chip labeled A5 which is "considerably smaller" than its predecessor.

Their measurements found that the new chip is 6 millimeters by 6 millimeters, which compares to a size of 8.19 millimeters by 8.68 millimeters.

Apple has gradually shrunk the A5 chip since it first debuted in the iPad 2 in 2011. That version was even bigger than the shrunk model that appeared in the third-generation Apple TV in 2012, and now its footprint has been reduced even further.

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission had tipped that Apple was planning to release a new Apple TV in January. In reading details of the device, some speculated that Apple would switch to the more power A5X chip, which was introduced with the third-generation iPad.

As rumors of a major overhaul of the Apple TV hardware began to grow, Apple made a rare public comment about forthcoming hardware and revealed that the new product would simply feature minor tweaks, rather than a total redesign. The new model has been identified by the ACC is "A1469."

Continued efforts to shrink Apple's custom mobile processors could be setting the stage for the company to introduce a 28-nanometer chip produced by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company. Rumors have suggested Apple is interested in switching its chip production from rival Samsung to TSMC, and that company is pushing its 28-nanometer process for 2013.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 19
    richard getzrichard getz Posts: 1,142member
    Always good to try a die shrink on your 'hobby' rather than your bread and butter : )
  • Reply 2 of 19
    When does it come out? I want to buy an Apple TV but I'm worried 1 month after I get one, that a new one will come out.
  • Reply 3 of 19
    coohill wrote: »
    When does it come out? I want to buy an Apple TV but I'm worried 1 month after I get one, that a new one will come out.

    Go ahead and get one now. Doesn't look like there are going to be any other major changes that would make previous versions obsolete.
  • Reply 4 of 19
    gazoobeegazoobee Posts: 3,754member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by oneaburns View Post





    Go ahead and get one now. Doesn't look like there are going to be any other major changes that would make previous versions obsolete.


     


    I think you missed the point of the question.  The poster was asking when this new AppleTV in the article "comes out" as it's something that they didn't bother to mention.  


     


    Typical of this kind of article actually.  Lots of detail on crap that means nothing and no actual detail on what the consumer is interested in.  

  • Reply 5 of 19

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Gazoobee View Post


     


    I think you missed the point of the question.  The poster was asking when this new AppleTV in the article "comes out" as it's something that they didn't bother to mention.  


     


    Typical of this kind of article actually.  Lots of detail on crap that means nothing and no actual detail on what the consumer is interested in.  





    He/she said they are worried that if they get an ATV now a new one will come out a month later.  My point is that it won't matter which he/she gets, new or old, because they are likely to be virtually indistinguishable. There's no point in waiting for one with a physically smaller A5 processor (unless you're really into that type of thing lol.)  Apple's statement said, in essence, there's nothing to wait for.

  • Reply 6 of 19
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member


    Originally Posted by coohill View Post

    When does it come out?


     


    What do you mean, "when"? This guy has one right now. It's already out.


     


    Heck, I have one already. Just checked the box.






     I want to buy an Apple TV but I'm worried 1 month after I get one, that a new one will come out.



     


    This one adds, changes, and removes absolutely nothing. It won't be able to do anything more than any other 1080p-based model. You can get one now if you want it, but it's not indicative of any future change or lack thereof. 


     


    An A6 (A7?) Apple TV could still very well come out this year.

  • Reply 7 of 19


    One more shrink and they are ready for the iWatch.

  • Reply 8 of 19
    philboogiephilboogie Posts: 7,451member
    Speculation that Apple would add a more powerful A5X chip to its tweaked Apple TV proved false, as a look inside the new hardware has discovered it's simply a smaller version of the previous A5 chip.

    Darn, I was hoping this to be something big.
  • Reply 9 of 19
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member


    Originally Posted by PhilBoogie View Post

    Darn, I was hoping this to be something big.


     


    Haven't heard enough about content deals for that to be the case yet.

  • Reply 10 of 19


    Quote:



    Originally Posted by PhilBoogie View Post





    Darn, I was hoping this to be something big.


     


    This is big. As noted by several posters at MacRumors, if it was just a die shrink from 32nm to 28nm then it wouldn't be quite so small. So possibiliites include this being an even smaller process (like Intels 22nm) or maybe it's a custom ship with only a single core. Both seem unlikely. The $$$ it would cost to make another specific A5 are too high to make one just for the Apple TV and a single core A5 would be useless for an iPhone or iPad.


     


    So if it is a single core, then maybe this is the processor for the iWatch. Smaller die and one core would give huge power savings over the 32nm A5. If it's a dual core then it could be 22nm (which would be a big deal if Intel is sampling parts for Apple). If it was 28nm then it means TSMC is sampling parts for Apple.


     


    Whatever it is, there's no denying this is some very significant news.

  • Reply 11 of 19
    _rick_v__rick_v_ Posts: 141member
    In it's current form and function (streaming movies, airplay, etc), the current A5X processor has proven to be perfectly capable of decoding/playing 1080p movies. It's a bit hard to fathom what advantage a "faster" chip would provide.

    Apple seems to want to use the AppleTV as an 'adapter' (so to speak) for getting content from your iPhone/iPad or iTunes or computer to the TV. Unless Apple breaks this cycle, I don't really see the need for ever putting a faster chip in there.
  • Reply 12 of 19
    19831983 Posts: 1,190member
    When the 3rd-gen Apple TV came out it was reported that its A5 SoC had one core disabled - so theoretically maybe, they could still increase the performance of the device, at some point in the future, by activating the second core in software. But like philboogie above, I was hoping for something more.
  • Reply 13 of 19
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member


    Originally Posted by EricTheHalfBee View Post

    As noted by several posters at MacRumors, if it was just a die shrink from 32nm to 28nm then it wouldn't be quite so small. So possibiliites include this being an even smaller process (like Intels 22nm) or maybe it's a custom ship with only a single core. Both seem unlikely.


     


    Perhaps this chip is meant for the "cheaper iPhone" and the Apple TV is the testbed for it?






    Originally Posted by 1983 View Post

    When the 3rd-gen Apple TV came out it was reported that its A5 SoC had one core disabled - so theoretically maybe, they could still increase the performance of the device, at some point in the future, by activating the second core in software. But like philboogie above, I was hoping for something more.


     



    I believe the initial claim was that it's disabled because it's defective, and rather than ditching perfectly good chips (sans their dual core-ness), turning off the core and using it as a single-core chip is less wasteful and financially viable.


     


    Heck, AMD sold "tri-core" processors for a time. They were just the quad-core chips with a single faulty core.

  • Reply 14 of 19
    philboogiephilboogie Posts: 7,451member
    Quote:
    philboogie wrote: »
    Darn, I was hoping this to be something big.

    This is big. As noted by several posters at MacRumors, if it was just a die shrink from 32nm to 28nm then it wouldn't be quite so small. So possibiliites include this being an even smaller process (like Intels 22nm) or maybe it's a custom ship with only a single core. Both seem unlikely. The $$$ it would cost to make another specific A5 are too high to make one just for the Apple TV and a single core A5 would be useless for an iPhone or iPad.

    So if it is a single core, then maybe this is the processor for the iWatch. Smaller die and one core would give huge power savings over the 32nm A5. If it's a dual core then it could be 22nm (which would be a big deal if Intel is sampling parts for Apple). If it was 28nm then it means TSMC is sampling parts for Apple.

    Whatever it is, there's no denying this is some very significant news.

    Good post! (I simply forgot to add a sarc tag, as I was trying to be funny)
  • Reply 15 of 19
    Thanks for the feedback. I know money doesn't grow on trees, but for $99, I'll just get one and if they come out with another, I'm sure I can use the old one for AirPlay and other happiness on another TV. :)
  • Reply 16 of 19
    am8449am8449 Posts: 343member


    It makes sense for Apple to try to shrink the Apple TV as much as possible, because when they finally launch the Apple-branded TV, they'll want the innards to be as small and thin as possible.  Maybe it'll look something like the current iMac, but with a larger screen.

  • Reply 17 of 19
    I hope for a A6 chip, the A5 has been out for two years(I do not mind that) yet 2013 should be for A6 and A7 not for a third year of A5 with now A6 and A7.
  • Reply 18 of 19
    razorpitrazorpit Posts: 995member


    Good news is they have improved the manufacturing process to allow for a smaller chipset.  Bad news is if this is indeed a testbed for something say like an iWatch that probably means we have a ways to go before "the results" are in.

  • Reply 19 of 19
    macrulezmacrulez Posts: 2,455member


    deleted

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