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Teardowns prove Apple A5 chip is Samsung-made

Posted: 16 Mar 2011 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:A5 chip? iPad 2 teardowns? 45nm Samsung process? low-power DDR2 DRAM?

Teardowns conducted by UBM TechInsights, a unit of EE Times publisher United Business Media, have revealed that the A5 processor powering the Apple iPad 2 comes from Samsung's fab.

"We can say with 100 percent certainty that this is a Samsung-made chip," said Allan Yogasingam, technical marketing manager for TechInsights.

The company conducted a cross-section analysis of the chip that revealed details indicating Samsung made the chip in its 45nm process, the same process and fab Apple used for its previous generation A4 SoC. Previously, several sources speculated Apple might take the business of having its internally designed A5 SoC to TSMC. Read about the related story here.

Both Apple A4 and A5 chips are made in a 45nm Samsung process with nine metal layers and one poly layer. They both use a stacked package-on-package technology, according to TechInsights.

TechInsights used optical die and SEM cross-section images to analyze important features such as die edge seal, metal 1 pitch, logic and SRAM transistor gate measurements. These features were then compared to other manufacturers in the company's database, including other Samsung 45nm parts.

The A5 supports low-power DDR2 DRAM memory, something previously rumored and now confirmed by the TechInsights analysis. In separate teardowns in Austin and Ottawa, TechInsights found two different LP-DDR2 DRAMs from two different manufacturers, Samsung and Elpida.

The Samsung K4P2G324EC LP-DDR2 die marks the first time analysts have seen Samsung's new 46nm LP-DDR2 memory.

A separate analysis conducted by IO Snoops found that while the Apple A4 clock speed was steady at 1GHz, the A5 clock speed varies depending on the application being run. TechInsights said the finding indicates advanced power management circuitry controlling the clock speeds of the coressomething new for the A5. The new feature may explain the use of a power management IC from Dialog Semiconductor on the iPad 2 that is different from the chip on previous Apple products.

TechInsights will continue to analyze the A5 over the next several days. Meanwhile, analysts provided a handful of pictures from their A5 chip teardown.

The picture of the A5 die markings was the first indication the chip could be a Samsung manufactured device. The A5 markings used a font similar to the one used on the Apple A4.

A5 photo

Die photo of the A5
Source: TechInsights

- Rick Merritt
??EE Times





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