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March 15th marked the day of the new iPad 3, but in the background were some interesting changes going on to the A5 processors in the iPad 2.

The A5 a single core application processor is widely used in Apple’s iPhone and iPad devices, as well its Apple TV products. It has been noted and listed as a single core — but that’s not necessarily the case. Chipworks, a leader in reverse engineering and patent infringement analysis of semiconductors and electronic systems, found the A5 single core application processor used in the latest iPad 2 is actually dual-core.

“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.” says Chipworks.

As they continued to investigate, they found the previous generation of the A5 (APL0498) was manufactured on Samsung’s 45nm LP CMOS process, while the new A5 was manufactured on Samsugn’s new 32nm ‘high-k metal gate’, gate first, LP CMOS process.

“The new A5 measures nearly 41% smaller than its predecessor, coming in at 69.6 mm². Process shrinking not only reduce costs by fitting more dies on a wafer, but it also improves performance and lowers power consumption. This is a very complex chip for a relatively low volume part (for Apple); one would think they have greater plans for this new A5 variant. Does this give any hints about what might be in the next generation iPhone, or a cost reduction path for the current iPhone 4S? And, lo! and behold, when we looked at a new iPad 2 (v4), inside it was the APL2498; presumably with both A9 cores enabled this time.”

via Chipworks


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