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Peeling back the layers of the iPad Mini

Posted: 05 Nov 2012 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:iPad Mini? tablet? LCD panel?

Once the main board is revealed, Apple's continued need to mark devices with their own Apple-branding (so as to hide design wins from analysis firms such as ourselves) is apparent. Noticeable socket wins are the memory components, the main processor and the some of the sensors. The main CPU is the 32-nm Apple A5 applications processor, manufactured by Samsung. This device was first seen as a single-core device in the third-generation Apple TV; however, a look at the die indicated two-cores. The dual-core version of the A5 at the 32-nm node was then incorporated into the iPad 2. Manufactured using a gate-first high-k/metal gate (HKMG) process, this version of the A5 has a die with an area of 69.7 mm2 and a die thickness of 110 m.

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Die photo of the Apple A5 - 32-nm version.

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Die marking of the Apple A5 - 32-nm version.

As shown in the past, Apple has a tendency to stay true to the semiconductor vendors that provide its products with parts. The Apple iPad Mini is no exception to this practice. Broadcom is the first major repeat design winner we see in the new iPad Mini.

Broadcom picked up three major design wins, two of which for their touchscreen controllers. The Broadcom BCM5976, which have been found in the iPad 3, the MacBook Air and the iPhone 5 has two sockets on the Mini. The other major design win comes for their four-in-one combo wireless chip, the BCM4334, which was also found in the Samsung Galaxy S3 and the iPhone 5. Below is an image of the Broadcom ICs we've analysed using our de-encapsulation (decap) process:

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Inside the Murata module containing the Broadcom BCM4334.

From a functional perspective, one has to wonder if Apple's decision to not use a retina-based display and a faster processor, like the A6 or the recently introduced A6X, was in line with their thinking of iterative improvements (i.e. giving people something to look forward to in the iPad Mini 2) or if it was a design decision as a faster processor and more vibrant display may put heavy demands on the 16.5Whr battery and jeopardise the characteristic of Apple products as energy-conserving electronics.

In terms of its design, the Apple iPad Mini takes advantage of Apple's previous design methodologies to create a product that Apple feels will address the growing consumer demand for 7-inch tablets. The Apple pessimist will point to the iPad Mini as half an iPad 2. But the Apple optimist will call the Mini a supersized iPod Touch. Consumers will decide if the $329 price tag is worth the spend.

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The iPad Mini in pieces.

- Allan Yogasingam
??UBM TechInsights

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