Apple’s self-designed A6 chip is ‘laid out by hand’

Karen Haslam
27 September, 2012
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Not only did Apple mastermind the design of the CPU in the A6 processor, the chip is being manually laid out, according to experts.

iFixIt deconstructed the iPhone 5’s A6 processor with help from Chipworks. “It looks like the ARM core blocks were laid out manually – as in, by hand,” notes iFixIt. If the layout was done by hand if would have been much more expensive and time-consuming, but according to the site: “A manual layout will usually result in faster processing speeds”.

The manual layout theory also lends credence to the rumour that Apple designed its own custom processor, according to iFixIt.

“It just might be the only manual layout in a chip to hit the market in several years,” suggests the site.

Arstechnica speculates that the manual layout process is the reason why it’s taken Apple so long to start creating its chips itself, although Apple is still using Samsung’s production lines to create the A6 chip. The Apple A6 is fabricated by Samsung on their 32nm CMOS process. The A6 chip was designed Apple, not by Samsung though.

“Because Apple had complete control over the design of the processor, they were able to customise and tweak the performance to their liking,” writes iFixIt.

Accordng to iFixIt, the A6′s chip is based on the ARMv7s instruction set, the 1GB LP DDR2 SDRAM is provided by Elpida, also on the logic board is an Apple-branded 338S1077 Cirrus Logic digital audio chip, a Murata 339S0171 Wi-Fi module, and Qualcomm’s MDM9615 LTE modem and RTR8600 Multi-band/mode RF transceiver.

The A6 has CPU is based the ARMv7s architecture, it is said to be similar the to Cortex-A15. It has been noted that Apple couldn’t have picked a better time to ship a superior CPU than the competition as Apple can take advantage of the Christmas shopping season while Samsung struggles to catch up.

“It appears that the end result will be that Apple ships a Cortex-A15-class CPU about three months before arch-enemy Samsung does,” said Lynley Group head Lynley Gwennap.

Sony camera in the iPhone 5

Information has also come to light about the camera in the iPhone 5. ChipWorks has revealed that the 8-megapixel sensor in the camera is branded Sony.

On the other side, the Facetime camera uses a sensor from Sony competitor Omnivision.

According to ChipWorks, other iPhone 5 parts include:

STMicroelectronics L3G4200D 3 Axis gyro

STMicroelectronics LIS331DLH accelerometer

Texas Instruments touch screen controller

Hynix H2JT0G8UD2MBG NAND Flash

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