Inside Apple's iPad 2 A5: fast LPDDR2 RAM, costs 66% more than Tegra 2

Posted:
in iPad edited January 2014
The new A5 processor used by iPad 2 incorporates Samsung's new 46nm Low Power DDR2 memory, uses a variable clock speed and costs about $25, a significant premium over NVIDIA's competing Tegra 2.



According to research performed by UBM TechInsights, Apple's larger A5 (12.1mmx10.1mm, compared to the 7.3mmx7.3mm A4) costs about $25 to build, making it $10 more expensive than similar dual core chips such as the Tegra 2 used by the Motorola Xoom.



Even so, the firm estimates the iPad 2 total Bill Of Materials costs about $270, compared to its BOM estimate of the Xoom, which weighs in at $288 (both numbers compare 32GB 3G versions).



Cheaper by the million dozen



"To help with their margins," UBM engineer and technical marketing manager Allan Yogasingam told AppleInsider, "this basically guarantees the A5 will be in most next generation Apple products like the iPhone 5 and the iPod Touch. It will help bring the costs down to the $15 range of their competition - especially if they have a plan in place to ramp up production through another fab like TSMC."



Yogasingam noted that despite rumors that Apple may be working with TSMC to build A5 chips, "the A5 in our possession is definitely manufactured by Samsung using their 45nm process."



"Our first inclination that this could be a Samsung manufactured processor was the similarity in word mark between this font and the font in the Apple A4," the Yogasingam stated (below, A4 wordmark is in the inset image.)







The A5 up close, really close



UBM TechInsights also said it "used optical die and SEM cross-section images to analyze features such as die edge seal, metal 1 pitch, logic and SRAM transistor gate measurements. These features were then compared to other manufacturers in our database, including other Samsung 45nm parts," indicating that the A5, like the previous generation Apple A4 processor, was built using Samsung?s 45nm process.







Yogasingam provided a full scale die photo of the Apple A5 Processor (above). A side view image of the A5 processor reveals the package-on-package of the processor and low-power DDR2 DRAM (below).







A SEM (Scanning Electron Microscopy) cross-section image showing the SRAM transistors in the Apple A5 processor (below).







Evolution of Apple's APL chips



Apple has used a series of Applications Processors in its iPhone, iPod touch and iPad models since 2007. Initial versions of the chips were designated as 8900B series, while later versions were labeled in an APL series. Only last year did Apple begin naming its processor as "the A4," a step similar to the company's previous branding of third, fourth, and fifth generations of PowerPC chips the G3, G4 and G5.







In addition to much faster graphics based on the dual core SGX543MP2 graphics technology licensed from Imagination Technologies, the A5 also boasts dual processing cores based on ARM Cortex A9, with a dynamically set clock speed.



Dynamic clock, faster RAM



"While the A4 clock speed was steady at 1 GHz," Yogasingam said, "the A5 clock speed varies depending on the application being run. This would indicate an advanced power management circuitry controlling the clock speeds of the cores?something new for the A5 and may explain the use of a different power management IC from Dialog Semiconductor."



Also notable in the A5 is the use of fast new Low Power DDR2 DRAM memory. "What is also interesting is that teardowns performed at two UBM TechInsights locations (in Austin and Ottawa) revealed two different LPDDR2 DRAM from two different manufacturers (Samsung and Elpida). The Samsung K4P2G324EC LPDDR2 die is the first time we?ve seen Samsung?s new 46nm LPDDR2 memory. This also tells us that Apple is fully prepared to package multiple LPDDR2 offerings."



«134

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 65
    galbigalbi Posts: 968member
    Like I've said before, Apple is only diversifying its supply base of CPU makers not dumping Samsung completely, quite frankly and like it or not, they cant.
  • Reply 2 of 65
    backtomacbacktomac Posts: 4,579member
    I bet Apple uses TSMC to fab A5 chips at 40 nm that wind up in the iPhone 5. The slightly smaller fab process will help the iPhone's battery life.
  • Reply 3 of 65
    OK!



    To get the price down, there are some things they can do to utilize the A5 chip:



    1) iPhone, iPod Touch (obviously)

    2) AppleTV 3

    3) HomeServer/TimeMachine/iMediaServer

    ---- Mac or PC Compatible

    ---- Store iMedia (iTunes, iPhoto, apps) Content

    ---- Local Backup

    ---- Staged remote backup to MobileMe

    ---- Crossload to AppleTV and iDevices: Apps, Audio and Video

    ---- Stream to iDevices

    4) Possibly a touch/stylus graphics tablet/control surface peripheral for the Mac (though I am hoping the iPad 2 can perform this function)
  • Reply 4 of 65
    sheffsheff Posts: 1,407member
    Shows you how much specs actually matter these days. Xoom could barely compete against a single core processor with 256 megs ram. As soon as Apple bumped up the specs that copare to xoom it is now about half the speed.
  • Reply 5 of 65
    brookstbrookst Posts: 62member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by backtomac View Post


    I bet Apple uses TSMC to fab A5 chips at 40 nm that wind up in the iPhone 5. The slightly smaller fab process will help the iPhone's battery life.



    I think it's unlikely they'd produce chips on two different processes; there are substantial costs in targeting any given process, and a 40nm respin of the A5 would cut into the economies of scale that Apple enjoys by sharing chips across iPads and iPhones and iPods.
  • Reply 6 of 65
    OMAP and ST-E standalone APs will be $15 or less when they are fully ramped, but Nvidia is currently charging $25 for Tegra 2.
  • Reply 7 of 65
    kre62kre62 Posts: 10member
    I've seen people get the same program showing 950mhz+ speeds. When are all the blogs going to figure out that the proc speed is dynamic all the way up to 1ghz?



    This is a 1ghz processor for sure. If it needs it, it'll ramp all the way up.
  • Reply 8 of 65
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by rmm160109 View Post


    OMAP and ST-E standalone APs will be $15 or less when they are fully ramped, but Nvidia is currently charging $25 for Tegra 2.





    I have heard/read that the PlayBook is using a Marvell chip



    Then the HP TouchPad is supposed to use the Qualcomm Snapdragon dual-CPU APQ8060





    -- Any ideas on which chip and what cost for either of these?
  • Reply 9 of 65
    bugsnwbugsnw Posts: 717member
    THANK YOU, AI!!!!!!!!



    These are my favorite posts. Right after Apple comes out with some new kit, AI gets up close and personal. No one does it better. Then the replies after the article are just a bonus. Some are quite insightful and help in understanding the 'why's'
  • Reply 10 of 65
    godriflegodrifle Posts: 267member
    Hey, great article. Very interesting read!
  • Reply 11 of 65
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by backtomac View Post


    I bet Apple uses TSMC to fab A5 chips at 40 nm that wind up in the iPhone 5. The slightly smaller fab process will help the iPhone's battery life.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by BrooksT View Post


    I think it's unlikely they'd produce chips on two different processes; there are substantial costs in targeting any given process, and a 40nm respin of the A5 would cut into the economies of scale that Apple enjoys by sharing chips across iPads and iPhones and iPods.



    Historically speaking I think it’s likely Apple will use the same fab across the line. However, there are some issues with that rational when we consider the current iPhone 4 design and assume that Apple will want the iPhone 5 to retain the same external look and internal layout for two iterations.



    When I look at the battery taking up most of the internal space and the main logic board being sandwiched to one side I can’t see how Apple could get the iPad’s A5 in there as it would require 1.4mm on each side. Is there enough space for that with all other things being equal?



    Some options they can go? 1) making the battery less wide, 2) rearranging the way the components are place, 3) stop using a side-by-side method for the battery and circuitry, 4) make the phone wider, 5) use a single-core Cortex-A9 reference design, or 6) use a smaller fab process.



    Of all those 6 options — did I get them all? — the smaller fab seems to be the most viable option if they can’t get that additional 1.4mm on battery and antenna sides of the logic board.
    PS: This falls under the first option, but I wanted to separate it out just to cover all the bases. Apple could use multiple batteries that would work in unison, like with Mac notebooks and the iPad. One obviously being wider than the other so it can accommodate the wider CPU. While this makes sense for larger Li-Poly-Ion batteries I don’t think it makes sense for such a small battery, especially since there is now that your battery has a lower mAh for the total battery volume do to the middle divider.
  • Reply 12 of 65
    mdriftmeyermdriftmeyer Posts: 7,503member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Galbi View Post


    Like I've said before, Apple is only diversifying its supply base of CPU makers not dumping Samsung completely, quite frankly and like it or not, they cant.



    They'll be able to dump Samsung by 2012 with Global Foundries now capable of stamping out ARM based solutions.





    GlobalFoundries News: http://www.globalfoundries.com/newsroom/



    Expansion of $5.4 Billion in Manufacturing for 2011 and 45/40/32/28/22nm processes.

    http://www.xbitlabs.com/news/memory/...n_in_2011.html





    GLOBALFOUNDRIES Launches Industry's First 28nm

    ARM Cortex-A9 Processor Platform with Gate First High-K Metal Gate


    Milpitas, Calif. ? September 1, 2010



    http://www.globalfoundries.com/newsr...00901_ARM.aspx
  • Reply 13 of 65
    seeing technology this close makes me believe in magic. my mind is blown right now thinking about the logic of it all that makes computers and portables work. absolutely amazing
  • Reply 14 of 65
    No reason to dump Samsung from Apple's point of view, rather make them use up their capacity on Apple product so that they won't be able to produce lot's of galaxy tabs at low cost.
  • Reply 15 of 65
    tipootipoo Posts: 1,147member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by talkshowonmute View Post


    seeing technology this close makes me believe in magic. my mind is blown right now thinking about the logic of it all that makes computers and portables work. absolutely amazing



    And we're not even seeing all of what goes on in there, as its too small. Some processors are getting up to 1 billion transistors now, GPU's over 3 billion, all in chips smaller than your thumb nail. The complexity of it is mind boggling.
  • Reply 16 of 65
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Dick Applebaum View Post


    Possibly a touch/stylus graphics tablet/control surface peripheral for the Mac (though I am hoping the iPad 2 can perform this function)



    So Dick, did you acquire you iPad ][ yet, or are you like me, ordered and have to wait for a few weeks?



    Check your PMs - Ileft one for you a few weeks ago that's gone unread.
  • Reply 17 of 65
    patspats Posts: 112member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by solipsism View Post


    Historically speaking I think it?s likely Apple will use the same fab across the line. However, there are some issues with that rational when we consider the current iPhone 4 design and assume that Apple will want the iPhone 5 to retain the same external look and internal layout for two iterations.



    When I look at the battery taking up most of the internal space and the main logic board being sandwiched to one side I can?t see how Apple could get the iPad?s A5 in there as it would require 1.4mm on each side. Is there enough space for that with all other things being equal?



    Some options they can go? 1) making the battery less wide, 2) rearranging the way the components are place, 3) stop using a side-by-side method for the battery and circuitry, 4) make the phone wider, 5) use a single-core Cortex-A9 reference design, or 6) use a smaller fab process.



    Of all those 6 options ? did I get them all? ? the smaller fab seems to be the most viable option if they can?t get that additional 1.4mm on battery and antenna sides of the logic board.
    PS: This falls under the first option, but I wanted to separate it out just to cover all the bases. Apple could use multiple batteries that would work in unison, like with Mac notebooks and the iPad. One obviously being wider than the other so it can accommodate the wider CPU. While this makes sense for larger Li-Poly-Ion batteries I don?t think it makes sense for such a small battery, especially since there is now that your battery has a lower mAh for the total battery volume do to the middle divider.



    Why do you discard the larger display when reputed engineering drawings are making the rounds? Also I missed the package size difference. The die is much larger for the A5, but some of the difference can be made up in the POP. Do we have the size of the packaging?



    As far as pricing, Apple is buying from the foundry and someone like MOTO is buying from Nvidia which is buying from the foundry so I think their price estimates for Tegra 2 are suspect. The silicon and packaging might cost Nvidia 15 but I find it's hard to believe they have zero markup. Also most of the Tegra 2 users are adding in 512MB of LPDDR2 which isn't free.
  • Reply 18 of 65
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by bugsnw View Post


    THANK YOU, AI!!!!!!!!



    These are my favorite posts. Right after Apple comes out with some new kit, AI gets up close and personal. No one does it better. Then the replies after the article are just a bonus. Some are quite insightful and help in understanding the 'why's'



    I agree totally with your reply above.



    AI is indeed a great source of these kinds of details.



    However, unless I missed it above, there wasn't much of a comparison between the a% and the Tegra except with respect to pricing and vague numbers.
  • Reply 19 of 65
    The home server would be nice, and even a distinct possibility to replace the current Time Capsule.



    Apple won't be doing an ARM based mac in the near future. I can see three reasons, all based on the fact that powerful though the A5 is relative to other ARM processors, it has nowhere near the power of the Intel desktop chips:



    * they couldn't possibly run current mac applications under emulation

    * mac application publishers are unlikely to recompile all their code for ARM to make universal binaries. It's technically probably straightforward, but...

    * even if they did do such a recompile, the much more resource hungry mac programmes would run like treacle on the A5



    As for the other uses on the list below the mac compatible, aren't they mostly just functions of a putative home server? Except for the MobileMe and cross-loading ideas, which have nothing to do with processors



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Dick Applebaum View Post


    OK!



    To get the price down, there are some things they can do to utilize the A5 chip:



    -- iPhone, iPod Touch (obviously)

    -- AppleTV 3

    -- HomeServer/TimeMachine/iMediaServer

    ---- Mac or PC Compatible

    ---- Store iMedia (iTunes, iPhoto, apps) Content

    ---- Local Backup

    ---- Staged remote backup to MobileMe

    ---- Crossload to AppleTV and iDevices: Apps, Audio and Video

    ---- Stream to iDevices



    Possibly a touch/stylus graphics tablet/control surface peripheral for the Mac (though I am hoping the iPad 2 can perform this function)



  • Reply 20 of 65
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by mdriftmeyer View Post


    They'll be able to dump Samsung by 2012 with Global Foundries now capable of stamping out ARM based solutions [located in] Milpitas, Calif.



    Milpitas? MILPITAS???



    The armpit of Silicon Valley?



    What's a Milpitas?
Sign In or Register to comment.