Teardown Reveals Apple TV 3 Contains New Dual Core A5 Processor

In a teardown of the Apple TV 3 and the A5 processor, Chipworks reports this morning on an interesting discovery in their labs: the A5 is actually built dual core, but with only one core operating.

Sometimes, when we get inside technology, we find that things are not always what they are supposed to be. The new A5 processor die is not a single core processor, but contains a dual core processor. Either Apple is only utilizing one core or they are binning parts. Parts binning is a common process in semiconductors where devices are segregated (binned) based on meeting a subset of the overall requirements, in this case they could disable the “bad” core, this increases the usable die per wafer, lowering the cost.

Another discovery was a new processing method of this A5 chip, coming in at approximately 41% smaller than the A5 found in the iPad 2:

The previous generation A5, part number APL0498, was manufactured on Samsung Semiconductors’ 45 nm LP CMOS process. This new A5 processor is manufactured on Samsung’s new 32 nm high-k metal gate, gate first, LP CMOS process technology.

The new A5 measures nearly 41% smaller than its predecessor, coming in at 69.6 mm².

We know the current Apple TV hardware is a very small package, and it would make sense for Apple to utilize every square inch within. Chipworks believes this discovery could hint at what could come in the future for Apple’s processors.

Could this new A5 variant be used in the rumoured refresh of the iPod touch or next generation iPhone?

[via Chipworks]

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  • guylegend

    A better question is whether we can enable the second core to get better performance when the 3rd gen ATV gets jailbroken.

  • Jd2157

    That’s not too likely… more likely they’ve physically disabled the core.

  • Jd2157

    The big question here is why didn’t they use the 32 nm process in The New iPad. It’s bigger, heavier, hotter, needs a much larger battery and takes longer to charge than the iPad 2. A 32 nm processor would’ve improved things significantly. I guess they wanted to keep to their iPad release timeline more than they wanted to optimize the product.

    Almost worth waiting for The Next New iPad before buying… decisions decisions.

  • Justdoit

    And then wait for the next next new iPad.

    There will always be something better around the corner. Better to buy it if you want it.