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Archive for April 2nd, 2012

Apple A5X CPU in Review

Apple Inc.

Apple Inc. (Photo credit: marcopako )

A meta-analysis of the Apple A5X system on chip

(from the currently shipping 3rd Gen iPad)

New Ipad’s A5X beats NIVIDIA Tegra 3 in some tests (MacNN|Electronista)

Apple’s A5X Die (and Size?) Revealed (Anandtech.com)

Chip analysis reveals subtle changes to new iPad innards (AppleInsider-quoting Anandtech)

Apple A5X Die Size Measured: 162.94mm^2, Samsung 45nm LP Confirmed (Update from Anandtech based on a more technical analysis of the chip)

Reading through all the hubbub and hand-waving from the technology ‘teardown’ press outlets, one would have expected a bigger leap from Apple’s chip designers. A fairly large chip sporting an enormous graphics processor integrated into the die is what Apple came up with to help boost itself to the next higher rez display (so-called Retina Display). The design rule is still a pretty conservative 45nm (rather than try to push the envelope by going with 32nm or thinner to bring down the power requirements). Apple similarly had to boost its battery capacity to make up for this power hungry pixel demon by almost 2X more than the first gen iPad. So for almost the ‘same’ amount of battery capacity (10 hours of reserve power), you get the higher rez display. But a bigger chip and higher rez display will add up to some extra heat being generated, generally speaking. Which leads us to a controversy.

Given this knowledge there has been a recent back and forth argument over thermal design point for iPad 3rd generation. Consumer Reports published an online article saying the power/heat dissipation was much higher than previous generation iPads. They included some thermal photographs indicating the hot spots on the back of the device and relative temperatures. While the iPad doesn’t run hotter than a lot of other handheld devices (say Android tablets). It does run hotter than say an iPod Touch. But as Apple points out that has ALWAYS been the case. So you gain some things you give up some things and still Apple is the market leader in this form factor, years ahead of the competition. And now the tempest in the teapot is winding down as Consumer Reports (via LA Times.com)has rated the 3rd Gen iPad as it’s no. 1 tablet on the market (big surprise). So while they aren’t willing to retract their original claim of high heat, they are willing to say it doesn’t count as ’cause for concern’. So you be the judge when you try out the iPad in the Apple Store. Run it through its paces, a full screen video or 2 should heat up the GPU and CPU enough to get the electrons really racing through the device.

A picture of the Apple A5X

This is the new System on Chip used by the Apple 3rd generation iPad

Written by Eric Likness

April 2, 2012 at 3:00 pm

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