When Apple unveiled the new iPad, its dual-core CPU/quad-core GPU A5X chip was all the rage — and why not? It had the best prospects for a hit, combined with its Retina Display, and was poised to carry much of Apple’s profits going into the next quarter.
But along with that milestone product, the Apple TV 3 was released with a single-core A5 chip powering the HDMI-compatible set-top box. Supporting 1080p video resolutions and an all-new interface, Apple TV may still be Apple’s hobby, but it’s also becoming serious business. Chipworks, a site that as you may guess deals with new and emerging computer chips, has unveiled some very interesting information on what may eventually become the A6 chip in the next iPhone.
According to an x-ray of what was thought to be a single-core A5 chip, it turns out that Apple has incorporated a new 32nm Samsung High-K Metal Gate manufacturing process into the chip design, which shrinks the die by 41% and decreases current leakage. It also appears that they have disabled one of the cores using a technique called binding, which is often what happens when a new process leads to low yields on an initial run.
This high-k gate process has been evinced before, recently in the announcement of Samsung’s own dual-core Cortex-A15 Exynos 5250 processor and unnamed quad-core Cortex-A9 Exynos which is expected to power the Galaxy S III. Considering Samsung has manufactured all three of Apple’s A-series chips, there is no reason to believe they would stop with the next generation. While the A6, or whatever it is called, may be based on the improved Cortex-A15 design, it is all but certain the chip will use Samsung’s updated manufacturing process to keep it in line with the growing competition from Qualcomm, Texas Instruments and Nvidia.