Contrary to what we thought yesterday based on visual estimation of the A5X die, Chipworks has (presumably) measured the actual die itself: 162.94mm^2. While the A5 was big, this is absolutely huge for a mobile SoC. The table below puts it in perspective.

CPU Specification Comparison
CPU Manufacturing Process Cores Transistor Count Die Size
Apple A5X 45nm? 2 ? 163mm2
Apple A5 45nm 2 ? 122mm2
Intel Sandy Bridge 4C 32nm 4 995M 216mm2
Intel Sandy Bridge 2C (GT1) 32nm 2 504M 131mm2
Intel Sandy Bridge 2C (GT2) 32nm 2 624M 149mm2
NVIDIA Tegra 3 40nm 4+1 ? ~80mm2
NVIDIA Tegra 2 40nm 2 ? 49mm2
The PowerVR SGX 543MP2 in Apple's A5 takes up just under 30% of the SoC's 122mm^2 die size, or around 36.6mm^2 just for the GPU. Double the number of GPU cores as Apple did with the A5X and you're looking at a final die size of around 160mm^2, which is exactly what Chipworks came up with in their measurement.

Update: Chipworks confirmed the A5X is still built on Samsung's 45nm LP process. You can see a cross-section of the silicon above. According to Chipworks' analysis, the A5X features 9 metal layers.
Note that this is around 2x the size of NVIDIA's Tegra 3. It's no surprise Apple's GPU is faster, it's spending a lot more money than NVIDIA to deliver that performance. From what I hear, NVIDIA's Wayne SoC will finally show what the GPU company is made of. The only issue is that when Wayne shows up, a Rogue based A6 is fairly likely. The mobile GPU wars are going to get very exciting in 2013.
Image Courtesy iFixit
Thanks to @anexanhume for the tip!


View All Comments

  • dagamer34 - Saturday, March 17, 2012 - link

    Going quad core when they know they are going to have a dual-core Cortex A15 next year is silly and dumb. Reply
  • Steelbom - Sunday, March 18, 2012 - link

    What? They should have a quad-core Cortex A15 next year. The A6 found in iOS Beta is a quad-core, so it's pretty easy to guess that it'll likely be an A15 quad. Reply
  • Mike1111 - Saturday, March 17, 2012 - link

    IMHO 162.94mm2 makes it very unlikely that the A5X will end up in the next iPhone. An A6 makes more sense, maybe even with big.LITTLE A7+A15. It was said that there will be devices available with big.LITTLE by the end of the year, so if the next iPhone launches in October like it did last year it could happen (yes, Apple needs a lot of chips, but they also have the advantage of owning and designing both the chip and the phone, so the timing advantage and disadvantage might cancel each other out).

    I mean what are the alternatives? A5X die shrink? A6 with just 2xA15?
  • Steelbom - Sunday, March 18, 2012 - link

    We won't see an A5X in the iPhone 5. The whole point of the extra graphics power is for powering the retina display in the iPad 3. It'll either stay with an SGX543MP2 or, and more likely, we'll see some 600 series chips.

    I'm actually hoping Apple opts for a faster dual-core Cortex A15 rather than a quad-core Cortex A15.
  • Mike1111 - Tuesday, March 20, 2012 - link

    Maybe it's a "quad-core" in the sense of 2xA7 + 2xA15. ARM said it's also possible to expose all 4 cores to the OS (standard would be the OS sees either 2xA7 or 2xA15). Apple with full control over software and hardware could easily expose all 4 cores to iOS. Reply

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