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Tear Down: Apple's A6X under the microscope

Posted: 19 Nov 2012 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:A6 processor? A6X? PowerVR SGX543?

Inside Apple's 4th generation iPad lies a modified A6 processor, aptly named the A6X. The latest variation of the A6 processor still features two applications processor cores and operates at 1GHz. However, the chip has been modified to include quad-core graphics as opposed to the three-core graphics of the original A6.

At first, we suspected that this new processor would continue to feature the PowerVR SGX543 family GPU. But further analysis found otherwise. From the decap image, right away you can see how the A6X processor is larger in area than its predecessor and the addition of another graphics core accounts for most of that increase.

The Apple A6 and the A6X

Figure 1: Side-by-side comparison of die photos of the Apple A6 (left) and the A6X. The original A6 measures 96.5 mm2 in area, while the A6X measures 124 mm2.

A quick comparison of the A6 die to the A6X die shows an increase of 30 per cent in die area. These cores are much different in size and shape in comparison to the Apple A6.

According to our sources, the A6X does not use the SGX543MP GPU core of the Apple A6, but instead uses the SGX554. The biggest difference in the SGX543 compared to the SGX554 is that the processor now has twice the compute power via twice as many USSE2 ALU blocks, so A6X doubles the computing power throughput at the same clock compared with the original A6.

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