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New iPad packs IC design wins

Posted: 20 Mar 2012 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:iPad teardown? iPad 3? iPad design?

A teardown of Apple Inc.'s latest iPad offering by consumer electronics repair company iFixit Inc. reveals design wins for the tablet. The teardown firm also acknowledges the help of Chipworks Inc. in identifying some of the chips in the iPad.

The latest iPad is not called iPad 3, as would be logical, but does support LTE communications, thanks to Qualcomm Inc.'s two chip solution: the RTR8600 multiband, multimode RF transceiver for 3G and 4G and the MDM9600 3G and 4G capable wireless modem. TriQuint Semiconductor's quad-band power amplifier, Avago Technologies and Skyworks Solutions Inc. won design slots in the RF front end.

Broadcom Corp. provided the BCM4330 combo chip supporting WiFi with integrated Bluetooth 4.0 and FM transceiver.

The main processor is, as expected and previously reported, the Apple-designed A5X, a revision of the A5 processor deployed in the iPad 2. The A5X is a 1GHz dual-core CPU that has been upgraded from A5 through the inclusion of a higher performance GPU.

The teardown company did not comment on who made the A5X on Apple's behalf. The dual-core A5 was made for Apple by Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd and implemented in 45nm silicon. Chances are the graphics boosted A5X is still being made for Apple by Samsung but a handle on the process technology would be interesting. Both Samsung and TSMC were rumored to be trying to make a quad-core A6 processor for Apple in 28nm CMOS.

The graphics boost in the A5X, almost certainly a doubling of the Imagination PowerVR core, is necessary because of the improved display on the latest iPad. According to Apple the retina display features 2048 x 1536 pixel resolution (3.1 million pixels). The model number format leads iFixit to identify it as a Samsung LCD.

On the memory front Toshiba America Electronic Components Inc. is the selected supplier of NAND flash with the THGVX1G7D2GLA08, a 16Gb 24nm MLC memory and a multichip package memory marked Y0A0000. Struggling Elpida Memory Inc. was included in the iPad with two 4Gb LPDDR2 DRAMs arranged in a 64bit configuration.

One of the main changes between the iPad 2 and the latest version is an upgrading of the battery. According to iFixit the latest iPad has a capacity of 42.5 watt-hours, which compares with 25 watt-hours in the iPad 2. The equipment battery life is said to be 10 hours of use, or 9 with a cellular data connection, to the implication is that the beefed-up battery is necessary to drive increased memory, GPU and display requirement.

Other design winners revealed by iFixit include Fairchild Semiconductor, Cirrus Logic for audio codec and Texas Instruments Inc. for the touch screen driver IC. The company did not identify any of the MEMS devices on the various boards inside the iPad, possibly because they do not carry identifying marks.

- Peter Clarke
??EE Times

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