"We can say with 100 percent certainty that this is a Samsung-made chip," said Allan Yogasingam, a technical marketing manager for TechInsights.
The company conducted a cross-section analysis of the chip that revealed details indicating Samsung made the chip in its 45nm process, the same process and fab Apple used for its previous generation A4 SoC. Previously, several sources speculated Apple might take the business of having its internally designed A5 SoC to TSMC.
The Apple A4 and A5 chips both are made in a 45nm Samsung process with nine metal layers and one poly layer. They both use a stacked package-on-package technology, according to TechInsights. A comparison of the differences between the two chips is here.
TechInsights used optical die and SEM cross-section images to analyse important features such as die edge seal, metal 1 pitch, logic and SRAM transistor gate measurements. These features were then compared to other manufacturers in the company's database, including other Samsung 45nm parts.
The A5 supports low power DDR2 DRAM memory, something previously rumoured and now confirmed by the TechInsights analysis. In separate teardowns in Austin and Ottawa, TechInsights found two different LP-DDR2 DRAMs from two different manufacturers, Samsung and Elpida.
The Samsung K4P2G324EC LP-DDR2 die marks the first time analysts have seen Samsung’s new 46nm LP-DDR2 memory.
A separate analysis conducted by IO Snoops found that while the Apple A4 clock speed was steady at 1 GHz, the A5 clock speed varies depending on the application being run. TechInsights said the finding indicates advanced power management circuitry controlling the clock speeds of the cores—something new for the A5. The new feature may explain the use of a power management IC from Dialog Semiconductor on the iPad 2 that is different from the chip on previous Apple products.
TechInsights will continue to analyze the A5 over the next several days. Meanwhile, analysts provided a handful of pictures from their A5 chip teardown.
The picture of the A5 die markings (below) were the first indication the chip could be a Samsung manufactured device. The A5 markings used a font similar to the one used on the Apple A4 (shown in the insert).
Samsung made the first A5 chips. Then, however, TSMC will reportedly ramp the A5 in Q3 or Q4, according to sources. TSMC could be a second source to Samsung for the 45- and 40-nm version. Then, TSMC will fab the 28-nm version, sources said.
On the other hand, TSMC and GlobalFoundries both make Snapdragon for Qualcomm, which is used to power the HTC phones competing with Iphone. So I don't see why ultimately Apple won't use both Samsung and TSMC. Ultimately it can impose capacity burden on competing products at least indirectly.
It seems Apple already gives TSMC a lot of business, even if it's not the core processor or leading edge. Also TSMC does not manufacture its own tablet competitor, of course it's harder to leverage.
Apple designed my SigmaTel team's AV SOC out of iPod Shuffle Gen1 when Samsung offered a pairing discount for flash. It was hard to compete with that on price. The Asus fab produced over 100k PCBs with out part and embedded software though, before it was done.
Asus 100k PCBs per day is enough to earn some profit for a fabless semi firm. Now as the XILINX ZYNQ system architect in platform planning, this iPad2 teardown and A5 analysis listed is interesting in that ZYNQ has a dual ARM A9 + 128 bit NEON vector processing + Programmable Logic and a wealth of validated high performance soft IP cores to drop into the PL all of which is 28nm TSMC. XILINX will let the world know when that innovation platform is ready for your designs.