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Teardown: The 4th-Gen iPad unraveled

Posted: 14 Nov 2012 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:iPad? A6 Processor? iPhone 5? graphics cores? UBM TechInsights?

Going against the typical one iPad-per-year production cycle, Apple stunned reporters by announcing its fourth generation iPad, just after six months since the launch of the iPad 3.

The iPad 4 introduces a new variant on the Apple A6 processor found within the iPhone 5. The Apple iPad 4 features the latest processor in the "A" family, the A6X. Like the A6, the A6X features two customised ARM cores. However, this new processor features four graphic cores, as opposed to the three graphic cores featured in the Apple A6.

Apart from the change in processor, Apple has been quite mum on what other changes are featured in the latest iPad. Will taking apart this device reveal some design changes from the previous generation iPad, or has Apple created a product that only requires a change of software and a swap out of processors? Taking a look inside will answer those questions.

Inside the iPad 4
When we picked up our iPad 4 on Nov. 2 (coincidentally, at the same time we picked up our iPad mini), we took it to our lab as soon as we could to take it apart and analyse what, if any, differences there were between this new iPad and the iPad 3.

Almost instantly upon taking the iPad 4 apart, we at UBM TechInsights discovered a product that was not much different at all from the iPad 3. In fact, apart from the change in processors (from the Apple A5X to the Apple A6X) and a move to Apple's proprietary Lightning connector dock, there isn't anything new in terms of the semiconductors that make up the tablet. One has to wonder if Apple expects to sell the same type of volume (usually tens of millions) of this new iPad if the general perception is this that it's just the iPad 3 with a faster processor.

Consequently, the major design winners from the Apple iPad 3 retain their sockets in the iPad 4, including longtime partner Broadcom, which retained three major design wins from the iPad 3. Two of these wins for were for touchscreen controllers (the BCM5974 and the BCM5973 both of which have been found in the previous iPads and the first generation of the iPhone). Broadcom's other major design win is the company's four-in-one combo wireless chip, the BCM4334,which was also found in the iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy S3. Below are some images of the Broadcom ICs we've analysed using our de-encapsulation (decap) process:

Inside the Murata module containing the Broadcom BCM4334.

Die photo of the BCM5973A.

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