Teardowns Show Samsung Built the A5
The iPad's A5 chip was manufactured by Samsung, according to two independent teardowns and analyses
of the latest generation system-on-a-chip. Despite rumors that Apple was going with Taiwan Semiconductor to fab the A5, decapsulations of the SoC by UBM TechInsights
clearly show telltales of a Samsung fab process.
The process analysis and lab techs at UBM TechInsights dissected the A5 using optical die and scanning electron microscope cross-section images to look at the edge seal of the silicon die and the pitch of the first metal interconnect, as well as taking logic and SRAM transistor gate measurements. They then compared what they found to other manufacturers, including other chips fabbed by Samsung using its 45nm process, such as the A4 SoC found in the iPhone and the original iPad. The indicators all lined up clearly, showing that Samsung must have been responsible for the chip's fabrication.
this week also did a decap of the A5 and their chipheads experts also concluded, by comparing the shape of the transistor gates and dielectric layers in the A5 to last year's A4 CPU, that Samsung is the manufacturer. Both analyses found 512 MB of Low Power DDR2 DRAM, but UBM, which decapped two different A5s from two separate iPad 2s found different DRAM chips in each: one from Samsung and one from Elpida. This indicates that Apple is being flexible in its component sourcing, which may prove vital as Japan struggles to restart its manufacturing industry after the devastating Sendai earthquake.
The rumors about Apple going to a new chip foundry aren't put to rest by these revelations, however. These reports, which go back to the early part of this year, rely both on industry gossip and raw business pragmatics to assert that Apple will get future chips from Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company
(TSMC), the world's largest independent foundry. TSMC has the most capacity for 40-nm molds, which will be key for the A5's future development as the current 45-nm chip is almost twice the size of the A4. Additionally, as Samsung is pitting its Galaxy smartphones and Galaxy Tabs against the iPhone and iPad, Apple is at the mercy of a major competitor for an essential component of its products. With that competition heating up
, it's reasonable to expect that relationship may be on its way out sooner rather than later.