It was recently discovered the latest ‘silent’ Apple TV update contained a smaller A5 chip, with speculation it could have been manufactured by TSMC’s 28 nm process, possibly part of a production trial to create smaller chips for Apple. Now, Chipworks (via MacRumors) has confirmed the A5 within the latest Apple TV is still being fabricated by Samsung:
Is this new A5 a pipe-cleaner for TSMC in a lower volume (and risk) device? Is this new A5 a lower cost variant that we will see in new lower end phones from Apple? Is it a shrink from Samsung’s 32-nm process to their 28-nm? All were speculated upon, and this time around we can deny the first rumor by confirming that the chip has die markings consistent with the continued use of Samsung as the foundry partner. With respect to the second rumor, we can provide our $.02 that we do expect to see this chip in future Apple devices (such as a possible phone or iPod) because that behavior would be consistent with what they have done in the past. As for the die shrink, the math tells us that the size reduction is more than a simple shrink – some functionality has changed too. We’ll have to wait for the cross-section to see if it is fabbed on the smaller process.
The new device measures 6.1 x 6.2 mm when compared to the prior generation A5 measuring 37.8 mm2 down from the prior 32-nm variant at 69 mm2.
Below is a comparison of the previous A5 chip (left) against the smaller A5 found in the silent Apple TV update:
The tear down also revealed the lack of an Apple-branded audio chip (made by Cirrus Logic), which could allude to the functionality being built into the die itself. Chipworks notes it will be updating its site with cross sectional and polysilicon shots of the Apple A5 soon to reveal more details.
Update: Chipworks has updated their post and provided a cross-section to confirm this A5 is still Samsung’s 32-nm process, but a new design: