A1427 (left) vs. A1469 (right) image via AnandTech
While initial speculation was that Apple’s quietly refreshed Apple TV would include an A5X processor, recent tear downs of the device have revealed Apple is actually including new silicon with a single core 32NM ARM Cortex A9 CPU and overall die size reduction of 50 percent. However, new information today revealed even more tweaked components in the new Apple TV that could account for significant power savings, reduced cost, and possibly new low-cost iOS devices from Apple.
Chipworks previously performed its usual analysis finding the new A5 chip measures 6.1-by-6.2 mm, compared to the larger 69mm2 previous generation A5, and features several redesigned components. While Apple reassured us the slightly upgraded Apple TV is identical in appearance and user experience for consumers, its tweaked components could have some major implications for future Apple TV products and possibly even other iOS devices.
Apple included a dual-core chip with 1-core disabled in the Apple TV, and Chipworks speculated the move to the redesigned, single-core silicon could signal Apple has plans for an additional single-core device in the future. This has not surprisingly lead to speculation that the device could be Apple’s much-rumored, low-cost iPhone.
With new evidence today of even further power and cost reduction changes in the Apple TV, it’s also possible Apple could lower the price on the device and/or enable further discounts through retailers (you can now find it as low as $85)…
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It wouldn’t be much of a shock for Apple to lower the cost of the already competitive $99 Apple TV, as the company has been aggressive with Apple TV pricing in the past by selling it almost near cost. It would allow the company to get Apple TV in more hands and provide leverage as it continues negotiations with cable companies and content owners and match or beat the price of Apple TVs biggest competitors (Roku, Google TV, etc). Another implication of the reduced size and cost of the chip, as well as the optimized internals, is the future form factor of Apple TV…
Apple TV competitor Roku already sells its $99 thumb drive sized Streaming Stick measuring just 0.4-by-2.7-by-1 inches and weighing 0.8 ounces (pictured right). The current refreshed Apple TV is almost the same size as the earlier generations, but optimizations and reduction of size for its components could contribute to a future, smaller redesign of Apple TV. The reduction in power means the HDMI port like the Roku Streaming Stick could power it.
Another possibility is Apple plans to bring the new low-cost A5 chip to a new, low-cost iOS device. If increasing Apple TV sales alone isn’t the focus, the new, low-cost A5 chip could help Apple achieve the $250 to $350 price point analysts are expecting from low cost iPhones.
A new teardown from AnandTech showed even more optimizations to the components inside the device that could make Apple TV cheaper and easy to manufacture:
Apple moved to a highly integrated ceramic package from USI for the WiFi/BT solution, which saved a good amount of board area. Apple also went back to a single antenna design, further reducing complexity from the short stint with the dual-antenna design in the A1427 model. Removing the single large EMI shield we see the remaining changes. The single-core A5 SoC saw a package size reduction, and the DRAM is no longer integrated in a PoP (Package-on-Package) stack but is rather a discrete component.
AnandTech also ran a power test to record any power consumption changes in the updated Apple TV model and claimed “power savings are nothing short of significant.” This could be yet another clue that Apple has plans for the new chip in other devices:
The power savings are nothing short of significant. The previous generation Apple TV wasn’t really a power hog, with platform power maxing out at around 1.6W, but the new model tops out at just a watt. Overall the power savings seem to be around 800mW across the board.
With no change to process technology, I can only assume that the reduction in power consumption came from other architectural or silicon optimizations. The significant power reduction is the only thing that makes me wonder if this new A5 silicon isn’t destined for another device, perhaps one powered by a battery.