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Inside the Apple iPad Mini – Samsung 32 nm Confirmed

Apple is continuing the march to the holiday season with two new devices. An all new and improved iPad (fourth) and the answer to Kindle, Nexus, and other 7″ format Android tablets – the iPad mini. iFixit has done its usual bang-up job getting parts, and flew people to two different locations around the world (only to get the parts in their local office too) and did a very thorough teardown. So we are going to complement their story with a focus on the silicon rather than on the overall BoM.Leading us off, the A5 processorRemember the past, when Apple launched the Apple A5X to great fanfare? When the A5X launched, Apple also snuck in a change to the process generation in their A5 chip by putting a new 32 nm version inside the iPad2 and Apple TV3. Apple (likely) plays it this way because they don’t want people evaluating their products based on “commodity” technical specifications, but based on the overall experience with the device.Because of this past behavior, there has been some speculation on the web as to whether they would do the same thing with the latest generation of Apple A5 processor. A new process for a new product. Maybe even a new foundry partner?The answer is no.When we looked at the A5 package markings found in the iPad Mini, we saw that it had the exact same package markings as that found in the latest (fifth) generation iPod. We wondered if we might have an A5 Gen 3 here already. So we looked closer at both of them again. First, the family overview. Missing the new A6X – so stay tuned!

A5 A5 Gen 2 A5X A6(top metal shown)
iPad2 iPad2/AppleTV/iPod gen5/iPad Mini iPad 3 iPhone 5
45 nm 32 nm HKMG 45 nm 32 nm HKMG
Samsung Samsung Samsung Samsung
10.09 mm x 12.15 mm 8.19 mm x 8.68 mm 12.9 mm x 12.8 mm 9.70 mm x 9.97 mm
The foundry for the A5 is confirmed to be SamsungBasically, we put our device in for a cross section and the images show the same contacted gate pitch and the same high-k metal gates, so we are comfortable with this conclusion. TSMC 28 would look quite different.
A5 Processor from iPad Mini

A5 processor from iPad Mini

Apple A5 Processor from iPad 2

Apple A5 processor from iPad 2 and iPod fifth generation

A look at the other design winsApple has continued the (logical) trend of re-use, with the board looking substantially like the iPhone but with blank areas where one might find the RF and baseband chips. Just in case you are tempted to think, “this is just a big iPod” and that there is no thought to the future, a quick look at the layout of the iPod shows the differences. We should see the space in the iPad Mini populated in an LTE version. Only time will tell. We put our iPad under the soldering iron and its parts straight into the hot acid, with no stopping for pictures, so thanks to Fixit for the board image at the right. For full resolution images visit their teardown
iPad Mini Circuit Board

iPad Mini circuit board

iPod 5th Generation Circuit Board

iPod fith generation circuit board

A few die photo highlightsAt right we have:
  • The continued success of Cirrus Logic in Apple devices with two 338S1077 Class D amplifiers and the 338S1116 audio codec
  • The Broadcom BCM5976 touch controller
  • The STMicroelectronics L3G4200D gyroscope MEMS die
  • The Murata 339S0171 Wi-Fi module featuring notable silicon from Broadcom (the BCM4334) and Skyworks
Apple Cirrus Logic Audio Codec Apple Cirrus 338S1077Broadcom BCM5976 Touch Controller in iPad MiniSTMicroelectronics L3G4200D Murata 339S0171
A few (more) die photo highlightsAt right we have:
  • The Elpida 4 Gb LP DDR2 SDRAM (shown in X-ray and die photo)
  • The STMicroelectronics Accelerometer (ASIC shown)
  • An NXP 1608A1 chip we have seen in several Apple design wins but have not yet identified (we’ll take your comments)
The Image Sensors – OmniVision keeping the socketsOmniVision has scored the primary and secondary sensors as noted by the die markings found under IR.The 5 Mp primary camera has the same markings as that we saw in the 5th generation iPod touch while the 1.2 Mp secondary camera is identical to that seen in the iPad4.