Apple’s A6 processor for iOS devices: 28-nm, 3D IC and likely made by TSMC; could show up in future Macs

“The next Apple processor [A6] will be made by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. and will be a 3D IC 28-nanometer low-power powerhouse, sweetly tucked inside your iPhones and future model iPads,” Jonny Evans reports for Computerworld.

“The new processors could in theory be so powerful at such low heat yields that it might even make sense to put them inside future model MacBook Airs, though the next iterations of those products will stick with Intel,” Evans reports. “A 3D IC is a chip in which two or more layers of active electronic components are integrated both vertically and horizontally into a single circuit.”

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“Meanwhile, as all the rumor coagulates in one large fire of speculation, it seems the A5 processor may be proving challenging to put inside iPhones, with reports the chips overheat,” Evans reports. “TSMC has a solution. It is developing an implementation of 3D-IC chips which SemiWiki claims “is said to achieve performance gains of about 30 percent while consuming 50 percent less power.” That’s even before bringing the tri-gate tech currently championed by Intel into the frame.”

Evans reports, “The ball seems firmly in TSMC’s court. The company must work to ensure it can supply these processors in the kind of quantities and quality that Apple’s mobile devices require. If it fails to achieve this, then Apple will very likely stick with Samsung.”

Much more in the full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Fred Mertz” for the heads up.]

Related articles:
TSMC in trial manufacture of Apple ‘A6′ chips – July 15, 2011
With ‘A6′ chip, Apple likely to move SoC production away from Samsung in 2012 – June 27, 2011
RUMOR: Apple inks deal with TSMC foundry for A5 processor; possible setback for Samsung – March 9, 2011
RUMOR: Apple to dump Intel for Apple ARM-based chips within 24-36 months – May 6, 2011


  1. the only way we’ll se an ARM chip inside a “real” Mac is if it’s cheap enough for Apple to add it in addition to the x86 chips. It makes no sense to use a chip that will always be a poorer performer than x86.

    It’s true that it’s getting more powerful with each iteration, but then, so is x86. The A6 will compete with Ivy Bridge, which will be several times as powerful. It’s not going to catch up. We can see with the new Air designs that Apple has no problem with a 17 watt chip.

    We’ll see Apples’ tablet catch up to the lowest end notebook in a couple of years, but they will have moved on from there as well.

    1. Apple uses a range of processors for a range of Macs. The chip that is in MacBook Air does not need to compete with the chip that is in iMac and larger MacBooks, in terms of performance.

      Or think of it another way. My iMac is a Late 2006 (2.0 GHz Core 2 Duo) model. Its processor and supporting components are far inferior to current iMacs. Yet it runs Snow Leopard very well, and for what do with it, there is no performance issue. It will run Lion when released, and it will probably be fine for the next two years during Lion’s run. (What a great investment!)

      A MacBook Air designed around an “A6” will be at least as powerful as my old iMac, and run far more efficiently. MacBook Air is about efficiency, not absolute performance.

      However, I think the A-transition for SOME Mac models will not start until the Mac OS after Lion is released, in about two years. That release of the Mac OS will be a major overhaul, and support both Intel and Apple’s chips, just as Leopard supported both PowerPC and Intel. By that time, it will be an “A7.”

  2. “Meanwhile, as all the rumor coagulates in one large fire of speculation, it seems the A5 processor may be proving challenging to put inside iPhones, with reports the chips overheat,”

    First the G5, now the A5 – seems Apple has bad luck with chips overheating if they have a “5” in their name. 😉

    1. There are many potential solutions to an IC thermal challenge. The only question is whether or not Apple is willing to make the design compromises required to use the A5, or chooses to wait for the more power-efficient A6.

      Meanwhile, is their anyone claiming that the iPhone 4 is too slow?

  3. I don’t think there is a heat issue with A5. Heat results from consuming electrical power. The inefficiency is the heat.

    A5 is in iPad 2, which is much thinner than the original, making it more challenging to dissipate heat, yet it does not overheat. The thinner and lighter design means the battery is probably smaller (or at least not any bigger), yet it still has equivalent battery life compared to the original. It is very efficient while providing better performance, compared to A4.

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