The A6 processor of iPhone 5 detailed - "the only manual layout in a chip to hit the market in several years"
The engineers from Chipworks have landed their ion blaster and electronic microscope gear to iFixit for a deeper analysis of the Apple A6 processor than we find in the new iPhone 5. The phone itself they call "full of brand new components…best Apple release since the first iPhone," so we can expect an engineering marvel with a fair certainty.
The team already solved the mystery of the iSight camera, and it was, just as we expected, a 5-lens Sony camera module, but now they are turning their attention to the silicon that churns out those record benchmark scores - the homebrew Apple A6.
It turns out that the chip is indeed homebrew, and laid-out manually at that, not by a computer - a process, they say, which is way more expensive and takes much longer, but results in faster processors.
The processor uses the ARMv7s instruction set, but is a completely custom design, which is very close to the Cortex-A15 generation, but tweaked for Apple's purposes. In fact, this is the first manually laid-out processor that has hit the market in several years, with a much larger die area than the A5, and more functionality. The processor is still produced by Samsung, on its 32nm HKMG process, but the design is entirely Apple, it seems.
There is also 1GB of Elpida memory, a Cirrus Logic class D audio amplifier, and Broadcom wireless connectivity chip. As for the LTE radio, it is the most advanced one Qualcomm can offer at the moment for mass production - the MDM9615 - coupled to an RTR8600 multiband RF transceiver, for support of various 4G and 3G bands.