SAN JOSE, Calif. – The Apple iPad 3 is an unbalanced design with an underpowered graphics processor for its high-end display, according to an analysis released Wednesday (Jan. 2) by technology watcher David Kanter. Apple’s quick move to the iPad 4 with a graphics chip bolstered in part by Samsung’s new 32-nm process technology showed that Apple recognized the fault, he said.
The analysis emerges as reports circulate again that Apple is preparing to shift at least some of the manufacturing of its A series processors from Samsung to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. TSMC will start trial production this quarter of the A6X processor used in the iPad 4, according to several reports citing Taiwan newspapers.
Rumors have circulated since March 2011 that Apple will switch from Samsung to TSMC for foundry work. Apple and Samsung are locked in legal battles around the world over patent infringement including one resolved last year in a San Jose trial.
As foundries, Samsung and TSMC both could offer Apple the latest 28 nm processes to bolster performance and lower power for the A series chips. One analyst speculated that Apple may have a long term supply contract for foundry services at Samsung, explaining its slow shift away from its smartphone and tablet competitor. Through much of 2012, TSMC had limited availability of its 28-nm process.
Access to the latest process technology is key for Apple, said Kanter, principal of Real World Technologies. “The high cost and power consumption of the A5X was undoubtedly one of the reasons why Apple opted to discontinue the iPad 3 a mere seven months" after it was launched, he said.
Apple moved quickly to adopt the so-called Retina display from Samsung in the iPad 3 released in March. However, the graphics processor in the A5X chip Apple used--made in a 45-nm Samsung process using “conventional SiON gate dielectrics”--could not adequately feed the new 2048×1536 display, Kanter said.