New Apple TV Supports Smaller, More Efficient Dual-Core A5 Processor

Apple’s latest Apple TV, unveiled alongside the new third-generation iPad, utilizes a new A5 processor. At the unveiling event, Apple had said that the Apple TV would utilize a single-cpore processor on its A5 chipset, but it is now known that the A5 processor employed is actually a dual-core model with the second core turned off.

News of a dual-core chipset existing in Apple’s third-generation Apple TV release comes via a teardown report from Chipworks. With this A5 processor, Apple may either be turning on just one core or is using a process called chip-binning, which would allow the company to recycle chips where one of the two cores is faulty:

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.

And as reported by 9to5 Mac, the A5 used here is said to be 41 percent smaller than the dual-core A5 processor on the iPad or iPhone 4. It looks like Apple chip manufacturing partner Samsung is looking to use a smaller 32 nm architecture for the dual-core A5 from the 45 nm architecture employed on older A5 chipsets. The smaller architecture would lead to better performance and efficiency while at the same time reducing power consumption, and these would be important attributes to have as Apple begins to ready a 4G LTE-capable iPhone as the 4G radio would consume more power than 3G radios.

According to a report on Apple Insider, the lower $99 price of Apple TV and lower units sold means that the new architecture is being tested on this platform to ensure that any flaws or defects are addressed before Apple moves forward with mass scale production for future iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad models.

It’s still unclear if Apple will move forward with a more efficient A5 CPU on the next-generation iPhone, or if the company will utilize an A5X processor with improved graphics performance but based on the same 32 nm architecture. Another possibility would be an A6 processor.

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