Apple TV contains custom A5 chip not found in any other Apple product

Apple’s new Apple TV is an interesting device and that’s even before you know that it contains custom silicon.

It’s right there in the new Apple TV specifications list:

Apple single-core A5 chip

Nothing else that Apple makes currently uses a single-core A5 chip. All other A5 chips, like the one found in iPhone 4S, are based upon the dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore CPU with NEON SIMD accelerator and a dual core PowerVR SGX543MP2 GPU.

MacDailyNews Take: How other companies think they can compete with Apple using off-the-shelf chips is unfathomable. They’re dreaming. Apple TV can achieve its remarkable performance at such low price because Apple has the resources and ability to roll custom silicon – for a “hobby,” no less! And this is just the beginning. Good luck trying to keep up with Cupertino in smartphones, tablets, and whatever else Apple dreams up, patent-infringing also-rans.

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


    1. I was wondering if this was the case myself. This reminds me of the Intel Core Solo processors in the lower-cost early Intel Mac mini and some PCs, I had read they were essentially Core Duo chips with a failed core that was disabled. New multi-core chip designs have a significant failure rate, and this would be the way to make use of those processors.

  1. That would be a wise business move (if kept hush) but poor move to us consumers with regards to quality perspective; if true.

    Apple says they don’t make or sell junk. A flawed A5 dual-core chips (damaged but one core functions) so sell it in the AppleTV – if it didn’t make the grade for the iPhone4s – I think NOT – can’t be true.

    1. Of course it’s not true.

      Apple knows exactly what each device requires to run most efficiently. They have repeatedly demonstrated their expertise in creating these works of art. That the Apple TV requires only a single core means just that – it doesn’t require a more complicated chip to carry out the task for which it was designed.

    2. Its not flawed. Its more an issue of yield. Not every processor is going to pass at its intended rating. It is common to disable cores or clock them lower in these cases.

      Flawed would be apple stuffing these procs into an ipad

    3. This is VERY common practice in microprocessors. It’s no different than selling a cut of meat. A Porterhouse Steak can be had in Choice or Prime cuts. The Choice steak isn’t damaged or flawed; it’s still edible and delicious. Just not quite as delicious as the Prime steak.

      1. No… The A5X in the iPad has some other things, like the quad-core graphics.

        This is the new low-end A-chip, not a defective high-end chip. If there are not enough defective ones coming off the production line to meet demand, are they going to start intentionally crippling good ones? No, that would be stupid.

        I wouldn’t be surprised if the next iPod touch used this single-core A5, since that’s a $199 product with no subsidy to pad the profit (like iPhone). Also, since the Apple TV mini-box uses it, the rumored complete “iTV” will probably use it too.

  2. As stated before i’d say it’s the iPhone 4Ss’ A5 that didn’t make the grade. Again, this is VERY common among chip makers.

    – The Cell CPU in the Playstation 3 actually has 8 SPE’s on the chip, but 1 is intentionally disabled. This significantly improved yields.
    – Nvidia routinely creates a high end GPU and then rebadges the ones that have faulty cores as lesser models. There were even occasions where you could ‘upgrade’ your GPU simply by flashing an appropriate firmware.

    This is possibly why Apple can also sell the Apple TV so cheaply. The faulty chips that only had 1 working core would otherwise be written off as a loss.

    It’s also been asked as to what would happen if all the chips were good and Apple didn’t have any ‘duds’ to use. Well quite frankly this will never happen. A yield of 75 – 80% is considered extremely good when making chips like that. Apple make a heck of a lot more iPhone 4S’s than they do AppleTV’s. Thus I doubt they would ever be in a situation where they would run out.

    1. No, this is not about trolls, this is simple economics.
      You remember when late 80’s the cheap ram modules came to market? What happened there? Simple, people picking up wafers with non-functional memory.

      But, at that time, 2mb modules where made of 2x1mb chips. If one of two faulty, move to the next.
      So when picking up those wafers, people took those wafers and just took of the good ones with no cost at all to make 1mb ic’s at bargain prices. Nothing new, happened for 30 years by now.

      Same happening now but internally.

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