updated 05:50 am EDT, Tue March 15, 2011
Larger die, faster RAM, built by Samsung
An electron microscope "teardown" by UBM TechInsights has yielded interesting details about the new Apple A5 system-on-a-chip (SOC) powering the iPad 2. Recent benchmarking has shown that it significantly outpaces the NVIDIA Tegra 2 processor in the Motorola Xoom and other upcoming Android 3.0 tablets by some margin, particularly in its graphics performance. Part of the reason for the performance differential can be found in the cost of the chips to manufacture. Apple has apparently spared no expense by incorporating a chip that currently costs $25 per chip to manufacture. This works out to $10 more per chip to build than the Tegra 2.
From a technical standpoint, the A5 chips continue to be manufactured by Samsung on a 45nm process at this point, and not by TSMC as has been thought. The A5 die-package is about twice the size of the superseded A4 chip as it now houses a dual-core Cortex A9 CPU and a dual-core Imagination Technologies SGX543MP2 GPU. This is supplemented by faster 512 MB of LPDDR2 DRAM manufactured by Samsung or Elpida depending on where the RAM was sourced for each chip.
Further, as AnandTech's benchmarking demonstrated, the 1GHz A5 system-on-a-chip is capable of dynamically controlling its clock speeds as it uses a new advanced IC from Dialog Semiconductor. This helps to better manage the way the iPad 2 uses its power, allowing it to speed up or slow down depending on the demands of each application.
It is likely, that from a cost perspective, Apple will ultimately be able to bring the pricing of the chip down into line with its competitors. Better economies of scale will be achieved when it ramps up production for use of the A5 in other devices such as the next iPhone and the next iPod touch, and ultimately starts using TSMC to fabricate the chips in the future. [via Appleinsider]