Price, cost comparisons between Apple’s A5X versus Intel’s processors

According to Chipworks, the A5X processor in the new iPad measures 12.82 mm x 12.71 mm for an area of 162.94 mm². iSuppli estimates that Apple is paying Samsung $23 to manufacture the chip. It becomes very surprising when you compare this to Intel’s Core i5 processor for laptops with 149mm² die area that sells for $225. Apple gets a 162.94 mm² chip for $23, Intel sells a 149mm² chip for $225. If the cost estimate from iSuppli is true, I think it shows that Intel has a huge margin for its processors and/or Apple might be getting a pretty good deal from Samsung (basically Samsung’s foundry margins are low). Intel’s margin gets even crazier for processors in higher-performing laptops such as the Intel Core i7 2960XM that measures 216mm² and sells for $1096. One thing to note is that the two Intel processors I mentioned here use 32nm, while Apple’s A5X uses 45nm, allowing Intel’s processors to fit in more functionality per unit area and charge higher prices (which is the reason Moore’s law keeps going on. Fit in more functionality per unit area, charge more for the same cost).

Why did iPad use two 512MB DRAM packages for 1GB memory?

Looking at the teardown image from iFixit, you can see that the iPad contains two DRAM packages (in yellow square) for a total of 1GB memory.

Compare this to Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1, that has the same total memory of 1GB, but instead uses a single package (image from TechRepublic). The DRAM package is the black one right above the green Tegra three processor.

Using a single package 1GB DRAM would save PCB area, but I think there might be two problems. First, it might cost more than using two 512MB packages. Second, a 1GB DRAM package might be thicker than a 512MB package if the 1GB stacks larger numbers of DRAM dies in a single package. Maybe Apple had  enough PCB area to fit in two DRAM packages and made the decision based on cost. Maybe Apple was willing to use more PCB area to reduce thickness by placing two thinner 512MB packages side-by-side.

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