In order to bring 1080P video playing to the new Apple TV, Apple included what they called a single-core A5 processors. Many industry watchers noted that this A5 was a new A5 chip specifically designed for the new Apple TV, as it is Apple’s only single-core A5. The A5 SoC from the iPhone 4S and iPad 2 is a dual-core variant. While Apple calls it a single-core A5, Chipworks reveals that, while the chip runs as a single-core unit, the chip is actually dual-core based. Chipworks provides a possible explanation:
Either Apple is only utilizing one core or they are binning parts. Parts binning is a common process in semiconductors where devices are segregated (binned) based on meeting a subset of the overall requirements, in this case they could disable the “bad” core, this increases the usable die per wafer, lowering the cost.
Additionally, the teardown firm says this new A5 chip for the new Apple TV is 41% smaller than the A5 processors found in Apple’s other A5-driven devices. The reasoning is quite important for a small, TV-based product: the smaller architecture offers cost-savings to Apple (important for the retention of the $99 pricing), improved power efficiency, and even better performance. Chipworks believes that this new type of A5 chip may be a peak into Apple’s future chips. Earier this week, we reported that Apple is working on a variant of the A5X iPad processor for the sixth-generation iPhone.