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iPad 4 came early because A6X is cheaper

by on13 November 2012

A5X was a hot and expensive SoC

We finally got to the bottom of why Apple decided to unexpectedly announce a new version of iPad just months after the Retina iPad 3 came out.
The new, new iPad, something that we like to call iPad 4 comes with an A6X SoC and our sources are telling us that the chip is definitely making a big difference for the new iPad, as its production costs are much lower than the A5X.

To refresh your memory, the A5X is a dual-core Cortex A9 chip manufactured at 45nm by Samsung, and it came with a quad-core PowerVR SGX543MP4 GPU in order to accommodate the millions of pixels courtesy of the Retina display.

It is rumored that the chip has already gone out of production and at cca. 165mm² it was one of the biggest ARM chips ever produced. Just for comparison, Nvidia’s Tegra 3 is 82mm² which is also considered a big chip by ARM standards. Remember, Tegra 3 is a quad-core processor and even the Apple A5 measures 123mm², again much larger than the Tegra 3 and other ARM based SoCs.

The new iPad A6X chip is reported to work at 1.3GHz, now at 32nm. It is still a dual-core manufactured by Samsung and it is estimated that the chip size is 95mm2. It is clear that this is a dramatic reduction in size versus 165 mm² of the A5X.

The new graphics core is the SGX 554MP4 clocked at 266MHz and Apple is using its own Swift cores for the new processor, resulting in an impressive performance boost on this hip 32nm chip. [We messed up the GPU spec, lack of coffee it seems, fixed. Ed]

The bottom line, the chip in the new iPad needs less power, works faster and it is much cheaper to manufacture. This is one of the main reasons why Apple released the fourth generation iPad and broke the hearts of many iPad 3 early adopters.

Last modified on 13 November 2012
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