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iPad A4 chip dissection shows package-on-package layout

updated 09:00 pm EDT, Mon April 5, 2010

Chip explored using scanning electron microscope

Following iFixit's recent iPad teardown, the company has proceeded to delve one step further by dissecting Apple's A4 chip. Chipworks, a semiconductor reverse-engineering company, helped destroy the device and explore its components using professional lab equipment such as scanning electron microscopes (SEMs) and high resolution x-ray machines.

The A4 chip is configured as a package-on-package (PoP) component with three primary layers. A cross-section image shows the ARM processor below both 1Gb RAM dies. While the iPhone processors have shown Samsung labeling on the processor dies, the iPad component reportedly shows Samsung tags only on the RAM dies.

iFixit suggests the A4 is very similar to the Samsung processor used in the iPhone. Corroborating earlier reports, the company also believes the processor is a single-core Cortex A8 design rather than the unconfirmed multi-core A9 component.

Although Chipworks and iFixit continued to investigate other chips on the iPad's logic board, the companies could use the hardware observations to confirm the GPU design.

Recent reports suggest the A4 chip is faster than the 1GHz Qualcomm components used in Google's Nexus One. Apple's design averaged 10-percent faster performance when loading websites, although the tests were not an absolute comparison as both devices utilize different browsers.

by MacNN Staff





  1. PRoth

    Joined: Dec 1969


    I'm surprised...

    ... that a company such as this is allowed to continue to function:

    "At Chipworks, we use our reverse engineering expertise, creative investigation techniques and technology patent knowledge to help semiconductor and microelectronics companies advance their understanding of competitive technology and improve their patent licensing positions."

    This Sunday, Sunday, SUNDAY... 2 for 1 deal on reverse engineering ballistic missile guidance systems. Act NOW, and you'll receive a complimentary die photo album featuring such favourites as "How to cause an earthquake in one click or less", "Microwave absolutely anything via GPS satellite" and the all-time-bestseller "Are you SURE that's YOUR brain?" PLUS, attend our upcoming seminar: "Chicken or the egg: Patent infringement, mass destruction and YOU!" ABSOLUTELY FREE!

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Re: PRoth

    . While I am positive that Apple lawyers are sending the C&D (Cease and Desist) as everyone is reading this,

    Cease and Desist what? There is nothing illegal as to what the company is doing. There are no laws, copyrights, patents, etc, that don't allow for someone to tear apart something and show what it does. (The closest there could be is if there is something in the iPad EULA that says you can't do that, but I seriously doubt such a thing would be enforceable.

    The only act that would be illegal would be if they copied any patented designs to make their own chips.

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