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The A6 processor of iPhone 5 detailed - "the only manual layout in a chip to hit the market in several years"

Posted: , by Daniel P.

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The A6 processor of iPhone 5 detailed -
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.

source: iFixit

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23 Comments
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posted on 26 Sep 2012, 02:40 5

1. pikapowerize (banned) (Posts: 1869; Member since: 03 May 2012)


looking good but still underpowered!

posted on 26 Sep 2012, 13:47

20. WakaFlakaD (Posts: 361; Member since: 30 Apr 2011)


Stop saying stuffs without a rational thinking people

posted on 26 Sep 2012, 03:02 10

2. Great_Stuff (banned) (Posts: 3; Member since: 26 Sep 2012)


see people that's how a good processor is made: It just shows that a well engineered product doesn't need crazy specs to run smooth and have great battery life. Android these days just seems to want jump on the latest thing without perfecting anything. The iphone uses half the muscle a top tier android phone have yet it out scored pretty much every cross platform benchmark... how do you explain that????

posted on 26 Sep 2012, 03:29 7

7. bobfreking55 (Posts: 866; Member since: 15 Jul 2011)


and it's also why Samsung Galaxy S phones are good right? Exynos was made by Samsung for Samsung.

It's like making a cake with icing but only eating the icing. OEMs should use only what they need, if not, the device will be imperfect in its performance.

posted on 26 Sep 2012, 08:23 7

14. Captain_Doug (Posts: 753; Member since: 10 Feb 2012)


It is explained by iOS being a super lightweight OS. Android is a very heavy OS. Android needs more power to do things like multi-task and allow deep customization as well as many other features. Since iOS doesn't do those things, it can be written much more basically allowing the OS to be streamlined.

posted on 26 Sep 2012, 10:13

19. nak1017 (Posts: 328; Member since: 08 Jan 2010)


See, that's a well thought out explaination everyone. Please follow Capt Doug's example...

posted on 27 Sep 2012, 06:24

23. Captain_Doug (Posts: 753; Member since: 10 Feb 2012)


sometimes I just feel like no one notices... =D

posted on 26 Sep 2012, 03:06 1

3. Jimstar (Posts: 259; Member since: 24 Oct 2011)


so is it the same LTE radio for all versions? and if so why the lack of voice and data on the Sprint and Verizon variants?

posted on 26 Sep 2012, 08:41

16. -box- (Posts: 3784; Member since: 04 Jan 2012)


CDMA versus GSM/UMTS I'd guess, if that's the case

posted on 26 Sep 2012, 03:46 4

8. Kronic (banned) (Posts: 321; Member since: 11 Sep 2012)


Samsung just got owned. Go f**k your exynos! Lol

posted on 26 Sep 2012, 07:30 2

13. doejon (Posts: 346; Member since: 31 Jul 2012)


lol first samsung produced this chip!
2. wait 4 the new exynos

posted on 26 Sep 2012, 08:25 1

15. Kronic (banned) (Posts: 321; Member since: 11 Sep 2012)


Apple designed the technology. Samsung is just acting like a factory, also when the A7 releases its gonna fry exynos with its sophisticated design.

posted on 26 Sep 2012, 08:42

17. -box- (Posts: 3784; Member since: 04 Jan 2012)


Yeah, because samsung is really going to put their very best tech in a competitor's product...

posted on 26 Sep 2012, 04:17 4

9. twens (Posts: 610; Member since: 25 Feb 2012)


You guys are soo funny. If the iPhone is packed with half of the features and task the s3 does it will crawl even with what ever chip is inside it. With all these hardware and it still can't manage a simple Bluetooth file transfer? Talk of transferring your files between your pc and the phone? You can't even simple delete media you put on the phone. You have to go all de way to use your pc. I will pass on any iPhone no matter the specs it's still bullcrap.

posted on 26 Sep 2012, 04:42 1

10. Raziel14 (Posts: 10; Member since: 21 Mar 2012)


what do you mean by "laid-out manually" ? any link I can read more about that process? :)

posted on 26 Sep 2012, 15:30

22. IHateApple (banned) (Posts: 122; Member since: 26 Sep 2012)


It's kinda complicated. I read about it in a Anandtech article long ago.

posted on 26 Sep 2012, 07:22

12. rihel_95 (Posts: 216; Member since: 21 Mar 2012)


LoL What Camera they used to take ultra macro shots?

posted on 26 Sep 2012, 08:51

18. lzsbleach (Posts: 155; Member since: 20 May 2012)


You have to give it to apple they did a good job on Samsungs processor and that was because they had a good foundation to build it upon (Samsung). Even though every one complains about Samsung's cheap plastic they have quality components and thats why apple chooses them to make alot of components in the Iphone.

posted on 26 Sep 2012, 13:58

21. ngo2dd (Posts: 781; Member since: 08 Jul 2011)


Where is Remixfa on this? It is funny because he keep saying it is a rebranded Samsung processor.

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