Earlier this year Apple updated the Apple TV with new internals. There was no press release and no public statement of any kind, just a slightly updated model trickling its way into inventory. Well, MacRumors got their hands on one, took it apart and found what looks to be an even smaller version of the Apple A5 system-on-a-chip. Eric Slivka reports:
The original A5 chip introduced in 2011 for the iPad 2 was built on a 45-nanometer process, measuring 10.09 mm by 12.15 mm, while the first die-shrunk A5 introduced in 2012 for the third-generation Apple TV and the tweaked iPad 2 measured 41% smaller at 8.19 mm by 8.68 mm.
This new A5 found in the tweaked third-generation Apple TV is considerably smaller still, with our measurements putting the chip at just 6 mm by 6 mm.
Chipsets are primarily named for marketing reasons, not for technology identification purposes (that's what part numbers of for). Brian Klug of AnandTech pointed out on Twitter that Apple can screen any label they want on the chipset, and that it'll take a Chipworks-level look inside the package to really know what's going on in there.
Why does it matter? It may not. Typically smaller dies save power and better fit limited size casings. They're invaluable for mobile devices like the iPhone and iPad, but for something like the Apple TV that's relatively large and always plugged in?
Speculation has included a test run for a new, non-Samsung foundry, to a test for a new, smaller process, or for something destined for lower-end, next-generation mobile devices. Given the hobby-status of the Apple TV, maybe that makes sense. We'll only know for sure when the chip gets the once-over, and next-generation mobile devices ship.