Apple’s A6 Processor May Not Be Ready Yet

IT Management

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There’s new information about the A5X processor that appears to be going into Apple’s forthcoming iPad 3. It seems that the quad-core A6 processor that Apple had planned to put into the tablet will not be ready in time, prompting Apple to put an enhanced dual-core processor, the A5X, in the new iPad.

It looks like the explanation is actually pretty simple: Apple’s suppliers aren’t quite ready to produce the A6 yet. Industry analyst Steve Mullane told AllThingsD that the presumably 28-nanometer A6 chip is too small for Samsung’s current manufacturing facilities, which are currently tooled for 45 and 32 nanometer chips. According to Mullane, Samsung’s Austin facility is ramping up production on the 32 nm chips, which he says “validates the recent rumors that the iPad 3 will likely use a higher speed, die-shrink version of the A5 dual-core processor.”

In early January we reported that iOS developers had found references to a quad-core processor, presumably called the A6, in the code for the beta version of iOS 5.1, which will likely be launching with the iPad 3 (next week?). About a month later came apparent confirmation of the quad-core rumor when screen shots of a diagnostic report apparently run on a prototype iPad 3 showed that the device was running on a quad-core processor. Last week, though, an apparent image of the iPad 3’s logic board leaked. It showed a processor labeled A5X instead of the anticipated A6.

Yesterday, however, evidence surfaced that Apple had apparently been developing the two chips simultaneously. References to both chips were found in the current beta version of iOS 5.1. The reference to both chips sparked quite a bit of speculation as to why Apple would develop both chips at once. Mullane’s statement appears to confirm what we speculated in yesterday’s report, that the A5X is intended as a substitute for the A6, which isn’t ready yet.

Of course, the iPad 3 isn’t out yet, so we’ll still have to wait for it to be released before anything is confirmed, but it looks like iPad users won’t be getting the the quad-core A6 after all.