Update: It’s in the new $399 iPad 2 as well! More info after the break.
Chipworks today published their teardown of the 1080p Apple TV’s A5 chip and they have found that it’s been shrunk in size from 45 nm to just 32 nm. This is actually the same exact chip that’s in Apple’s iPhone 4S from last October, though its much smaller. It doesn’t make much sense for Apple to have such a small chip within their most inexpensive product though — even the new iPad’s A5X chip is 45 nm, so it’s unclear why they’d spend extra effort to make it smaller. It’s also important to note that this is the first iOS device Apple has used a 32 nm chip in.
The strangest thing that Chipworks found in their teardown was that the A5 chip is actually dual-core, even though Apple labeled it as single-core on the device’s technical specifications page. Sadly, the second core is disabled, meaning that there’s no way to get that extra power. Chipworks says that the reason for it being disabled could “Either Apple is only utilizing one core or they are binning parts.”
The new A5 processor die is not a single core processor, but contains a dual core processor. Either Apple is only utilizing one core or they are binning parts. Parts binning is a common process in semiconductors where devices are segregated (binned) based on meeting a subset of the overall requirements, in this case they could disable the “bad” core, this increases the usable die per wafer, lowering the cost.
Chipworks has updated their post now saying that they’ve opened up a $399 iPad 2 to find the same 32 nm processor inside. This could mean better battery life for the device, which is definitely something that’s nice to hear if you’re looking for a cheaper solution to the Retina iPad. The display isn’t as beautiful, but it sure does come in at a better price.