Inside the iPad 2 and the Apple A5

Inside the iPad 2 and the Apple A5

Technology News |
  There are major design wins for Qualcomm again with the MDM6600. Essentially Qualcomm has pushed Infineon–whose wireless properties now belong to Intel–right out of Apple’s flagship products. "It makes you wonder if Intel might have buyer’s remorse considering they purchased Infineon while it had the iPhone and iPad…
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There are major design wins for Qualcomm again with the MDM6600. Essentially Qualcomm has pushed Infineon–whose wireless properties now belong to Intel–right out of Apple’s flagship products.

"It makes you wonder if Intel might have buyer’s remorse considering they purchased Infineon while it had the iPhone and iPad design wins," said Allan Yogasingam, a technical marketing manager with TechInsights, a division of United Business Media, the publisher of EE Times.

The iPad2 had significant reuse from past products.  "The wireless data card, for example, shows virtually 100 percent of the same components we found in the corresponding sockets of the Verizon iPhone 4," said Yogasingam.

The iPad2 communications board (below) includes the following chips:

–A Qualcomm PM8028 power management IC

–A Skyworks SKY77711-4 power amplifier module for CDMA/PCS

–A Skyworks SKY77710-4 power amplifier module for dual-mode CDMA/AMPS

–An Avago AFI05Z front end module

–A Toshiba Y9A0A111308LA memory package

–A Qualcomm MDM6600 multi-mode baseband supporting GSM/GPRS/EDGE, CDMA, HSDPA and HSPA+ as well as EV-DO

"Before the iPad 2 was released, we speculated that Apple’s design patterns would suggest the iPad 2 would borrow heavily from the Verizon iPhone 4 (and Motorola Xoom) by selecting a Qualcomm multi-mode-ready radio," said David Carey, vice president of TechIntelligence, part of UBM TechInsights.

"It turned out be the exact same radio as found in the iPhone 4 and Motorola Xoom available from Verizon," said Carey.

"In terms of the processor, the A5’s general specifications match the Nvidia Tegra 2 dual-core processor studied in the Motorola Xoom so CPU costs we assume comparable price of about $15-$20, but we’ll have a better understanding of the cost by looking at the A5’s details to learn more," he said.

"We can use past history to speculate and estimate component costs that the iPad 2 has an approximate $270 cost for Bill of Materials (BoM)," Carey said. "Apple’s volumes and [reuse] will certainly factor in keeping BOM costs competitive to their tablet competition," he added.

"We will not know the full story until [we have done] full-scale research of every component in the iPad 2, but given Apple’s consistent pricing for the iPad 2 versus its predecessor, we expect to see iPad 2 BOM cost estimates to align closely to those of the first generation iPad from its mid-2010 launch," Carey said.

The components on the main logic board (below) include:

— The Apple A5 dual-core processor

— A Samsung K9PFG08U5A multi-level cell (two bit-per-cell) NAND flash chip

— A Broadcom BCM5973 I/O controller

— A Texas Instruments CD3240B touch screen line driver

— A Broadcom BCM5974 touch screen controller

— An Apple branded 3430542 Dialog Semiconductor D1946A power management IC

— An Apple branded 338SC940 Cirrus Logic CLI1S546A0 audio codec

Much of Apple’s secret sauce for the iPad2 is either in its software or its system-on-chip processor—the A5. We can’t do a teardown exposing the code, unfortunately, but we can explore the A5.

 

“The primary observation is that the A5 is huge, with a processor die size of 12.1 x 10.1 mm," said Robert Widenhofer, a senior technical analyst at UBM TechInsights.

"You’ll recall that the A4 was a package-on-package with the processor and its supporting memory stacked one capsule atop another, and it had a processor die size of 7.3mm x 7.3mm," Widenhofer said.

"For the A5, we see a single package containing the processor die and a pair of 256 MByte low power DDR2 SDRAM die–512 MBytes total memory, likely configured to support a 64-bit bus,” he said.

The initial markings and location of the markings on the A5 suggest it may be fabricated by Samsung. However, UBM TechInsights is continuing its analysis of the chip in greater detail. Stay tuned for more detail.

Meanwhile, below is a chart comparing the A5 to past Apple SoCs.

This article first appeared on eetimes.com

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