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Apple iPad Air 2 doesn't fall far from the tree

Posted: 29 Oct 2014 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:iPad? iPhone? A8X? 28nm?

Eight is enough

One area where Apple significantly upgraded the Air 2 compared to the Air is the processor. The Air 2 employs the Apple-designed A8X processor, compared to the iPad Air-specific variant of the A7 in the last-generation iPad Air. The A8X, along with the M8 motion coprocessora separate integrated circuitis estimated to cost a combined $22, up from $18 for the A7X and M7 coprocessor combination.

The use of the A8X conforms to another Apple pattern. The iPhone 5S had an A7 and the iPad Air had an A7X processor. The iPad Air 2 features an A8X processor, which is a slightly different variant of the A8 used in the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.

Like the A7X before it, the A8X employs a different integrated circuit (IC) package that has no package-on-package memory, and also features a metal cap on the IC that acts as a heat sink. The A8X likely carries a larger processor burden than the A8. This is because of the A8X's faster clock speed and the iPad Air 2's larger screen, which put increased graphics processing load on the iPad processor versus that of the iPhone.

As a result, the A8X, like the A7X before it, likely runs a bit warmer than the A8, requiring the heat sink to help keep the central processing unit (CPU) cool.

Also, the larger size of iPad Air 2 chassis compared to the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus models gives Apple more space inside to lay out the printed circuit boards, eliminating the need to conserve space by placing the dynamic random access memory (DRAM) directly on top of the processor.

TSMC takes a piece of the action

The big story with the A8 and A8X processors is that Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) now accounts for a share of processor production. Samsung previously held a monopoly on the manufacturing of older Apple processors, such as the A7 and A7X.

With the addition of TSMC, the semiconductor manufacturing technology for the A8X also has advanced to 20nm, compared to 28nm employed in the A7 and A7X processors. This more advanced semiconductor process improves energy efficiency for the A8 and A8X processors.

Battery shrink

For the Air 2, Apple once again has reduced the battery size and capacity, while maintaining a similar usage lifetime. The iPad Air 2 has a battery with a 27.6 watt/hour (Wh) capacity, down 16 per cent from 32.9Wh in the original iPad Air, which in turn was down 23 per cent from 42.5Wh in the third-generation iPad.

Apple manages to maintain battery life while reducing battery capacity by improving efficiency throughout the design, including improvements in the display and by employing more advanced process chips, such as the aforementioned A8X produced in a more advanced semiconductor process.

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