Apple system on a chip

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Apple Inc. has developed a range of "Systems on Chip" (SoC) to power their mobile consumer devices. In order to meet the stringent power and space constraints common to mobile devices, these SoCs combine a central processing unit (CPU) with other components into a single compact physical package.

Early series[edit]

Prior to the introduction of the Apple "A" series of SoCs, Apple used several SoCs in early revisions of the iPhone and iPod Touch. They were specified by Apple and manufactured by Samsung. They integrate a single ARM-based processing core (CPU), a graphics processing unit (GPU), and other electronics necessary to provide mobile computing functions within a single physical package.

The APL0098 (also 8900B[1] or S5L8900) is a package on package (PoP) system on a chip (SoC) that was introduced on June 29, 2007 at the launch of the original iPhone. It includes a 412 MHz single-core ARM11 CPU and a PowerVR MBX Lite GPU. It is manufactured by Samsung on a 90 nm process.[2]

The APL0278[3] (also S5L8720) is a package on package (PoP) system on a chip (SoC) that was introduced on September 9, 2008 at the launch of the second generation iPod touch. It includes a 533 MHz single-core ARM11 CPU and a PowerVR MBX Lite GPU. It is manufactured by Samsung on a 65 nm process.[2]

The APL0298 (also S5L8920) is a package on package (PoP) system on a chip (SoC) that was introduced on June 8, 2009 at the launch of the iPhone 3GS. It includes a 600 MHz single-core Cortex-A8 CPU and a PowerVR SGX535 GPU. It is manufactured by Samsung on a 65 nm process.[4] A 45 nm die shrunk version of this SoC,[2] the APL2298 (also S5L8922), was introduced on September 9, 2009 at the launch of the third generation iPod touch.

"A" series[edit]

Evolution of Apple "A" series
A4
March 2010
A5
March 2011
A5X
March 2012
A6
September 2012
A6X
October 2012
A7
September 2013
A8
September 2014

The Apple "A" series is a family of "Systems on Chip" (SoC) used in the iPhone, iPad, iPod, and Apple TV. They integrate one or more ARM-based processing cores (CPU), a graphics processing unit (GPU), cache memory and other electronics necessary to provide mobile computing functions within a single physical package. They are designed by Apple, and manufactured by contract manufacturers such as Samsung. The latest A7 SoC used in the iPhone 5S uses a 28 nm process with a dual-core CPU running at 1.3 GHz and quad-core GPU, while the A4 SoC in the first iPad used a die manufactured on a 45 nm process with a single-core CPU running at up to 1 GHz.

Apple A4[edit]

Main article: Apple A4

The Apple A4 is a package on package (PoP) system on a chip (SoC) designed by Apple and manufactured by Samsung.[5] It combines an ARM Cortex-A8 CPU with a PowerVR GPU, and emphasizes power efficiency.[6] The chip commercially debuted with the release of Apple's iPad tablet;[7] followed shortly by the iPhone 4 smartphone,[8] the 4th generation iPod Touch and the 2nd generation Apple TV. It was superseded in the second-generation iPad, released the following year, by the Apple A5 processor.

Apple A4 is based on the ARM processor architecture.[9] The first version released ran at 1 GHz for the iPad and contains an ARM Cortex-A8 CPU core paired with a PowerVR SGX 535 graphics processor (GPU)[7][10][11][12] built on Samsung's 45-nanometer (nm) silicon chip fabrication process.[2][13] The clock speed for the units used in the iPhone 4 and the iPod Touch (4th generation) is 800 MHz. The clock speed for the unit used in the Apple TV has not been revealed.

The Cortex-A8 core used in the A4 is thought to use performance enhancements developed by chip designer Intrinsity (which was subsequently acquired by Apple)[14] in collaboration with Samsung.[15] The resulting core, dubbed "Hummingbird", is able to run at far higher clock rates than other implementations while remaining fully compatible with the Cortex-A8 design provided by ARM.[16] Other performance improvements include additional L2 cache. The same Cortex-A8 CPU core used in the A4 is also used in Samsung's S5PC110A01 SoC.[17][18] The SGX535 in the A4 could theoretically push 35 million polygons/second and 500 million pixels/second, although real world performance may be considerably less.[19]

The A4 processor package does not contain RAM, but supports PoP installation. Hence, there is a package with two low-power 128 MB DDR SDRAM chips (totaling 256 MB) mounted on top of the A4 used in the first-generation iPad, the fourth-generation iPod Touch,[20] and the second-generation Apple TV.[21] The iPhone 4 has two 256 MB packages for a total of 512 MB.[22][23][24] The RAM is connected to the processor using ARM's 64-bit-wide AMBA 3 AXI bus. To support the iPad's demand for high graphics bandwidth, the width of the RAM data bus is double that used in previous ARM11 and ARM9 based Apple devices.[25]

Apple A5[edit]

Main article: Apple A5

The Apple A5 is a system on a chip (SoC) designed by Apple and manufactured by Samsung[26] that replaced the A4. The chip commercially debuted with the release of Apple's iPad 2 tablet in March 2011,[27] followed by its release in the iPhone 4S smartphone later that year. Apple claims that compared with its predecessor, the A4, the A5 CPU "can do twice the work" and the GPU has "up to nine times the graphics performance".[28]

The A5 contains a dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 CPU[29] with ARM's advanced SIMD extension, marketed as NEON, and a dual core PowerVR SGX543MP2 GPU. This GPU can push between 70 and 80 million polygons/second and has a pixel fill rate of 2 billion pixels/second. Apple lists the A5 to be clocked at 1 GHz on the iPad 2's technical specifications page,[30] though it can dynamically adjust its frequency to save battery life.[29][31] The clock speed of the unit used in the iPhone 4S is 800 MHz. Like the A4, the A5 process size is 45 nm.[32]

An updated 32 nm version of the A5 processor was used in the third generation Apple TV, the iPad Mini, and the new version of iPad 2 (version iPad2,4).[33] The chip in the Apple TV has one core disabled.[34][35] The markings of the square package indicates that it's named APL2498, and in software, the chip is called S5L8942. The 32 nm variant of the A5 provides around 15% better battery life during web browsing, 30% better when playing 3D games and approximately 20% better battery life during video playback.[36]

In March 2013, Apple released an updated version of the third generation Apple TV (AppleTV3,2) containing a smaller, single-core version of the A5 processor. Unlike the other A5 variants, this version of the A5 is not a package-on-package (PoP), having no stacked RAM. The chip is very small, just 6.1×6.2 mm, but as the decrease in size is not due to a decrease in feature size (it is still on a 32 nm fabrication process), this indicates that this A5 revision is of a new design.[37] Markings tell that it's named APL7498, and in software, the chip is called S5L8947.[38][39]

Apple A5X[edit]

Main article: Apple A5X

The Apple A5X is a system-on-a-chip (SoC) designed by Apple that was announced on March 7, 2012 at the launch of the third generation iPad. It is a high performance variant of the Apple A5; Apple claims it has twice the graphics performance of the A5.[40] It was superseded in the fourth generation iPad by the Apple A6X processor.

This SoC has a quad-core graphics unit (PowerVR SGX543MP4) instead of the previous dual-core as well as a quad-channel memory controller that provides a memory bandwidth of 12.8 GB/sec, roughly three times more than in the A5. The added graphics cores and extra memory channels add up to a very large die size of 165 mm²,[41] for example twice the size of Nvidia Tegra 3.[42] This is mainly due to the large PowerVR SGX543MP4 GPU. The clock frequency of the dual ARM Cortex-A9 cores have been shown to operate at the same 1 GHz frequency as in A5.[43] The RAM in A5X is separate from the main CPU package.[44]

Apple A6[edit]

Main article: Apple A6

The Apple A6 is a package on package (PoP) system on a chip (SoC) designed by Apple that was introduced on September 12, 2012 at the launch of the iPhone 5. Apple states that it is up to twice as fast and has up to twice the graphics power compared to its predecessor the Apple A5.[45] It is 22% smaller and draws less power than the 45 nm A5.[46]

The A6 is said to use a 1.3 GHz[47] custom[48] Apple-designed ARMv7 based dual-core CPU, called Swift,[49] rather than a licensed CPU from ARM like in previous designs, and an integrated 266 MHz triple-core PowerVR SGX 543MP3[50] graphics processing unit (GPU). The Swift core in the A6 uses a new tweaked instruction set, ARMv7s, featuring some elements of the ARM Cortex-A15 such as support for the Advanced SIMD v2, and VFPv4.[48] The A6 is manufactured by Samsung on a high-κ metal gate (HKMG) 32 nm process.[51]

Apple A6X[edit]

Main article: Apple A6X

Apple A6X is a system-on-a-chip (SoC) designed by Apple, introduced at the launch of the fourth generation iPad on October 23, 2012. It is a high performance variant of the Apple A6. Apple claims the A6X has twice the CPU performance and up to twice the graphics performance of its predecessor, the Apple A5X.[52]

Like the A6, this SoC continues to use the dual-core Swift CPU, but it has a new quad core GPU, quad channel memory and slightly higher 1.4 GHz CPU clock rate.[53] It uses an integrated quad-core PowerVR SGX 554MP4 graphics processing unit (GPU) running at 300 MHz and a quad-channel memory subsystem.[53][54] Compared to the A6 the A6X is 30% larger, but it continues to be manufactured by Samsung on a high-κ metal gate (HKMG) 32 nm process.[54]

Apple A7[edit]

Main article: Apple A7

The Apple A7 is a package on package (PoP) 64-bit system-on-a-chip (SoC) designed by Apple. Its first appearance was in the iPhone 5S, which was introduced on September 10, 2013. Apple states that it is up to twice as fast and has up to twice the graphics power compared to its predecessor the Apple A6.[55]

The A7 features an Apple-designed 1.3[56]–1.4[57] GHz 64-bit[58] ARMv8-A[59][60] dual-core CPU,[56] called Cyclone,[59] and an integrated PowerVR G6430 GPU in a four cluster configuration.[61] The ARMv8-A architecture doubles the number of registers of the A7 compared to the A6.[62] It now has 31 general purpose registers that are each 64-bits wide and 32 floating-point/NEON registers that are each 128-bits wide.[58] The A7 is manufactured by Samsung on a high-κ metal gate (HKMG) 28 nm process[63] and the chip includes over 1 billion transistors on a die 102 mm2 in size.[56]

Apple A8[edit]

Main article: Apple A8

The Apple A8 is a package on package (PoP) 64-bit system-on-a-chip (SoC) designed by Apple. Its first appearance was in the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.

"S" series[edit]

Apple S1[edit]

Main article: Apple S1

The Apple S1 is an integrated computer designed by Apple and as such it includes memory, storage and support circuits like wireless modems and I/O controllers in a sealed integrated package. It was announced on 9th of September 2014 as part of the "Wish we could say more" event. It will make its first appearance within the Apple Watch arriving in early 2015.[64]

List of Apple SoCs[edit]

Name Model no. Image Semiconductor technology Die size CPU ISA CPU CPU cache GPU Memory technology Introduced Utilizing devices
APL0098 S5L8900.jpg 90 nm[4] 72 mm2[2] ARMv6 412 MHz single-core ARM11 L1: 16 KB Instruction + 16 KB Data PowerVR MBX Lite @ 103 MHz 16-bit Single-channel 133 MHz LPDDR-266 (532 MB/sec)[65] June 2007
APL0278 S5L8720.jpg 65 nm[2] 36 mm2[2] ARMv6 412–533 MHz single-core ARM11 L1: 16 KB Instruction + 16 KB Data PowerVR MBX Lite @ 103–133 MHz 32-bit Single-channel 133 MHz LPDDR[citation needed] September 2008
APL0298 S5L8920.jpg 65 nm[4] 71.8 mm2[13] ARMv7 600 MHz single-core Cortex-A8 L1: 32 KB Instruction + 32 KB Data, L2: 256 KB PowerVR SGX535 @ 150 MHz (1.2 GFLOPS) 32-bit Single-channel 200 MHz LPDDR (1.6 GB/sec) June 2009
APL2298 S5L8922.jpg 45 nm[2] 41.6 mm2[2] ARMv7 600–800 MHz single-core Cortex-A8 L1: 32 KB Instruction + 32 KB Data, L2: 256 KB PowerVR SGX535 @ 150–200 MHz (1.2–1.6 GFLOPS) 32-bit Single-channel 200 MHz LPDDR (1.6 GB/sec) September 2009
  • iPod Touch (3rd gen.)
A4 APL0398 Apple A4 Chip.jpg 45 nm[2][13] 53.3 mm2[2][13] ARMv7 0.8–1.0 GHz single-core Cortex-A8 L1: 32 KB Instruction + 32 KB Data, L2: 512 KB PowerVR SGX535 @ 200–250 MHz (1.6–2 GFLOPS)[66] 32-bit Dual-channel 200 MHz LPDDR (3.2 GB/sec) March 2010
A5 APL0498 Apple A5 Chip.jpg 45 nm[32] 122.2 mm2[32] ARMv7 0.8–1.0 GHz dual-core Cortex-A9 L1: 32 KB instruction + 32 KB data, L2: 1 MB PowerVR SGX543MP2 (dual-core) @ 200–250 MHz (12.8–16 GFLOPS)[66] 32-bit Dual-channel 400 MHz LPDDR2-800 (6.4 GB/sec) March 2011
APL2498 Apple-A5-APL2498.jpg 32 nm HKMG[33] 69.6 mm2[33] ARMv7 0.8–1.0 GHz dual-core Cortex-A9 (one core disabled in Apple TV) L1: 32 KB instruction + 32 KB data, L2: 1 MB PowerVR SGX543MP2 (dual-core) @ 200–250 MHz (12.8–16 GFLOPS)[66] 32-bit Dual-channel 400 MHz LPDDR2-800 (6.4 GB/sec) March 2012
APL7498 Apple-A5-APL7498.jpg 32 nm HKMG[39] 37.8 mm2[39] ARMv7 Single-core Cortex-A9 L1: 32 KB instruction + 32 KB data, L2: 1 MB PowerVR SGX543MP2 (dual-core) @ 200–250 MHz (12.8–16 GFLOPS)[66] 32-bit Dual-channel 400 MHz LPDDR2-800 (6.4 GB/sec) March 2013
  • AppleTV 3 (AppleTV3,2)
A5X APL5498 Apple A5X Chip.jpg 45 nm[41] 165 mm2[41] ARMv7 1.0 GHz dual-core Cortex-A9 L1: 32 KB instruction + 32 KB data, L2: 1 MB PowerVR SGX543MP4 (quad-core) @ 250 MHz (32 GFLOPS)[66] 32-bit Quad-channel 400 MHz LPDDR2-800[67] (12.8 GB/sec) March 2012
A6 APL0598 Apple A6 Chip.jpg 32 nm HKMG[51][68] 96.71 mm2[51][68] ARMv7s 1.3 GHz[69] dual-core Swift[48] L1: 32 KB instruction + 32 KB data, L2: 1 MB[70] PowerVR SGX543MP3 (tri-core) @ 266 MHz (25.5 GFLOPS)[50] 32-bit Dual-channel 533 MHz LPDDR2-1066[71] (8.528 GB/sec) September 2012
A6X APL5598 Apple A6X chip.jpg 32 nm HKMG[54] 123 mm2[54] ARMv7s 1.4 GHz dual-core Swift[53] L1: 32 KB instruction + 32 KB data, L2: 1 MB PowerVR SGX554MP4 (quad-core) @ 266 MHz (68.1 GFLOPS)[53][72] 32-bit Quad-channel 533 MHz LPDDR2-1066 (17 GB/sec)[73] October 2012
A7 APL0698 Apple A7 chip.jpg 28 nm HKMG[63] 102 mm2[58] ARMv8-A[59] 1.3[56] GHz dual-core Cyclone[59] L1: 64 KB instruction + 64 KB data, L2: 1 MB, L3: 4 MB[59] PowerVR G6430 @ 450 MHz (115.2 GFLOPS)[61][72] 64-bit Single-channel LPDDR3-1333[59] September 2013
APL5698 Apple A7 S5L9865 chip.jpg 28 nm HKMG[74] 102 mm2[74][58] ARMv8-A[59] 1.4[57] GHz dual-core Cyclone[59] L1: 64 KB instruction + 64 KB data, L2: 1 MB, L3: 4 MB[57] PowerVR G6430 @ 450 MHz (115.2 GFLOPS)[72] 64-bit Single-channel LPDDR3-1333[59] October 2013
A8 APL1011 Apple A8 system-on-a-chip.jpg 20 nm 89 mm2[75] ARMv8-A 1.4 GHz dual-core PowerVR Series 6 LPDDR3[76] September 2014
S1 Apple-S1-heatspreader.jpg September 2014

See also[edit]

Similar platforms[edit]

References[edit]

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