At the end of January it was suspected Apple was set to release an Apple TV refresh, as FCC filings revealed a unit with a different model number and slightly smaller dimensions. Apple responded to the speculation to say the updated model number was required as part of regulatory approval and overall it is just a minor refresh. The changes were discovered to include a new Broadcom single antenna wireless chip and the processor labelled as A5XR2 (versus A5R2 in current models).
Now, MacRumors reveals the chip inside the latest, refreshed Apple TV is indeed the A5 SoC–albeit a die-shrunken version that is smaller than the original. They suspect the smaller chip could be based on TSMC’s 28 nm process, allowing Apple to trial their manufacturing, as the latter begins to rely less on Samsung:
This new A5 found in the tweaked third-generation Apple TV is considerably smaller still, with our measurements putting the chip at just 6 mm by 6 mm.
The original A5 chip was later shrunken down and found within the iPad 2 and third generation Apple TV, at a size reduction of 41%, based on Samsung’s 32 nm high-k metal gate process:
The benefits of a smaller processor include less power consumption which results in energy savings; the size reduction also saves room internally to allow for further components to be packed into devices.