Apple’s A6 SoC Gets Unmasked

Posted on September 25, 2012 1:05 PM by Rob Williams

It’s not uncommon to see the folks over at iFixit take a brand-new device and, without hesitation, disassemble it to show us what it’s made of. Today, however, things are taken a bit – okay, a lot – further. They’ve teamed up with Chipworks, who have taken Apple’s latest A6 SoC, hit it with an ion blaster and other technological wizardry, and have given us a first-hand look at all that the A6 is comprised of.

I’ll save the explanation of the process for gaining such images to the article, but will talk about a couple of the components here instead. As you can see from the shot below, Apple’s A6 die looks awfully similar to a cracker or some wheat cereal. With Chipworks’ equipment, this final die shot is actually the result of multiple images stitched together for increased accuracy.

Though Apple would love to be as self-sufficient as possible, both its A6 processor and other on-board components have been sourced from third-parties, such as Murata, Qualcomm, Elpida and even a hint of Samsung. The SoC, as previously known, is built atop a 32nm process using Hi-K metal gate transistors – perhaps we’ll see Apple add 3D to the mix, a la Intel, later on?

Looking at the block diagram, the arrangement of the dual ARM and GPU cores, along with other components, gives Chipworks the feeling that the overall layout was constructed by hand rather than by the automation of a computer which is so often done. If true, it proves that Apple is taking its chip-designing business extremely seriously.

One other die shot I particularly like is of the Qualcomm LTE modem – it doesn’t look too dissimilar from a railway.

Thanks to all of the different and unique components found on the various chips inside the iPhone 5, Chipworks believes that this iPhone features the biggest changes since the original – furthering the idea that while Apple’s launch last week seemed modest by most standards, there were significant improvements made under the hood that weren’t delved into. Apple could have done itself a lot more justice had it gone into even the surface-level detail here, so I am surprised it didn’t.

If you care at all about chip design or want a mind-blowing look at the chips powering the latest iPhone, hit up the URL below.

Source: iFixit

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