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Inside Apple A5 processor

Apple leverages the volume of the sale, to create a processor, that other will not be possible for traditional processor designers. Apple’s A5 is a not just a processor – it is an ecosystem that combines a processor, 512 MB of DDR2 RAM, and an advanced graphics on a single chip. We have already seen integration of the processor and the graphics – for example, Tegra 2 is quite aggressive with its graphics and it enables the real time encoding of HD level video. Apple’s A5 gives it a good competition.

Apple releases minimal technical information about the processor and parts. Apple A5 is a dual core processor and is based upon ARM Cortex A9. Basically most of the smartphones and the notepads are based upon ARM based processor. But there is a difference with Apple A5. Apple leverages the volume its product to tightly integrated the processor and the RAM and this lowers the cost of the chip.

The maximum processor clock frequency is 800 MHz to 1 GHz. However, A5 dynamically changes the frequency to preserve the battery power. If the processing power requirement is small, it will lower the power supply voltage to processor core along with the processor clock frequency. This will lead to lower power consumption.

Apple A5 is being manufactured by Samsung. Apparently Apple is leveraging the low cost and technological advantage of the Samsung Fabs. The processor is built with 45 nm technology.

Nvidia’s Tegra 3, freescale’s i.MX6 and the OMAP series of the processor should easily outperform the Apple’s A5 processor, but, it is hard to beat the advantage that Apple has because of the volume. Apple sold 4 millions of iPhone 4S in less than a week of its introduction. Samsung will typically be churning out 20 million or so A5’s in a year. At $20 a piece, Samsung will have a turnover of $400 millions and $20 million profit ( assuming it makes $1 per IC).

Table :Apple A5 Vs A4 Comparison

Feature Apple A4
Apple A5
Core Frequency 1 GHz Varies beteen 800 MHz to 1 GHz
No. Of Cores 1 2
Memory 256 MB DDR2 512MB DDR2
Used in
iPad1 / iPhone4 iPad2 / iPhone 4S
Core Base Cortex  A8 Dual Core Cortex A9
Graphics Performance
7x faster than A4
Lithography 45 nm 45 nm

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