That $399 budget iPad 2 has precious silicon inside

In the market for an iPad? You might want to take a closer look at the iPad 2. It uses a chip that in some respects is more advanced than the new iPad's.

iPad 2
iPad 2 Apple

Think the new $399 iPad 2 is just a cheaper knockoff of the original? Think again. There's some premium silicon inside.

The $399 Wi-Fi iPad 2 -- the only new iPad 2 that Apple now sells -- uses a more advanced version of the dual-core Apple A5 series chip, according to chip review site Anandtech.

That more advanced A5 chip is built on a cutting-edge Samsung manufacturing process, Anandtech says. Hardly a trivial difference.

As a chip's geometries shrink -- going from 45-nanometer to 32-nanometer, for example -- a lot of things can happen. All of them good. The die (the actual chip minus the packaging) can become smaller and the chip can get more power efficient and faster.

New manufacturing processes can yield smaller, faster, or more power efficient chips.
New manufacturing processes can yield smaller, faster, or more power efficient chips. Chipworks

In this case, the $399 iPad 2 uses an A5 chip made on Samsung's advanced 32-nanomter manufacturing process as opposed to the previous A5 and current A5X, which are both made on an older 45-nanometer process.

"The interesting other question is whether iPad2,4 (the $399 iPad 2) owners have improved battery life compared to those with iPad2,1 (previous Wi-Fi model)," wrote Anandtech's Brian Klug.

And Apple's use of the more advanced chip doesn't stop there. The chip is also used in the Apple TV, though it's a single-core version, meaning one of the processor cores is likely disabled, according to Chipworks.

And this is probably just the beginning. It wouldn't be outrageous to expect that the iPhone 5 would use either the same chip as the new $399 iPad or a close cousin.

About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.

 

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