Hot on the heels of their Samsung 28nm confirmation, Chipworks just sent over the first die shot of a delayered Apple A7. An annotated version is following early next week, but I've highlighted two sections of interest:

In yellow we have what appears to be the two Cyclone CPU cores. If those are indeed the two CPU cores, the layout does seem different than what we saw last year with Swift in the A6. Also note that the percentage of die area dedicated to the CPU appears to have grown a small amount (now roughly 17% of the total SoC area). 

To the lower right I found four replicated blocks with some shared logic in between (highlighted in light blue). I'm wondering if this area isn't the 4-cluster PowerVR G6430 from IMG. All of this is just a quick educated guess of course. 

Apple A7, Photo from Chipworks, annotations mine

Apple A6, Photo & Annotations from Chipworks

Apple has already confirmed die size (102mm^2) and roughly confirmed transistor count (over 1B) of the A7 so everything else is mostly a known quantity at this point. 

Apple A7 vs A6 SoCs
  Apple A7 (2013) Apple A6 (2012)
Manufacturing Process Samsung 28nm HKMG Samsung 32nm HKMG
Die Size 102mm2 97mm2
Transistor Count "Over 1B" ?
CPU 2 x Apple Cyclone ARMv8 64-bit cores 2 x Apple Swift ARMv7 32-bit cores
GPU IMG PowerVR G6430 IMG PowerVR SGX 543MP3


Source: Chipworks

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  • bartoni - Friday, September 20, 2013 - link

    The A6 Swift cores were full-custom stack-based physical design, but these A7 Cyclone cores appear to be sea-of-gates with custom arrays like the rest of the SoC blocks. So the Cyclone cores may have much higher areal logic density than the Swift.
  • MrSpadge - Saturday, September 21, 2013 - link

    Considering the performance massive increase at the same clock speed of Cyclone over Swift it's actually surprising the cores are not much larger. Could be the increased packaging density (in addition to the process shrink) which bartoni mentioned, though.
  • Khato - Sunday, September 22, 2013 - link

    I'm still waiting for more information/analysis before agreeing with the conclusion that there was no change in clock speed between A6 and A7. As per Anand's review, all programs that he ran pointed to the CPU cores still running at 1.3 GHz, but there's still the possibility of the software being incorrect/not reporting burst frequencies or the like.

    To put it into perspective, the size of gains the A7 is showing over the A6 in geekbench are comparable to a 3GHz Core 2 Duo against a 3GHz Pentium 4. For that to happen at the same frequency, especially with only a year between the designs, is rather difficult to believe. Especially when the scores are basically in-line with what's typically seen for a refinement of a design if a ~30% increase in core clock is applied to the A7.
  • strappe - Friday, September 20, 2013 - link

    The L1 instruction & data caches were doubled in size to 64KB in Cyclone. L1 caches are usually virtually addressed, so with the move to 64-bit virtual addresses the cache address tag RAM would more than double in size also. This could account for much of the increase in the die area devoted to the CPU.
  • Wilco1 - Friday, September 20, 2013 - link

    I-cache is virtually addressed but always physically tagged (VIPT). This means the number of bits in the tag is small. Given Apple doesn't need more than 4GB of DRAM on their 64-bit CPU, they only need the usual 20 tag bits.
  • A5 - Friday, September 20, 2013 - link

    So the cores are called "Cyclone" now? I liked Oscar better :-p
  • tipoo - Friday, September 20, 2013 - link

    "Oscar is a CPU core inside M7, Cyclone is the name of the Swift replacement."
    From the 5S review.

    Incidentally, M7 doesn't exist as a separate chip according to ifixit, as Apple seemed to imply. Instead it's integrated in A7.
  • jasonelmore - Friday, September 20, 2013 - link

    the m7 is a separate chip, it was just hidden under some padding.
  • easp - Saturday, September 21, 2013 - link

    And, no surprise, it is a commodity MCU.
  • solipsism - Saturday, September 21, 2013 - link

    How do you get "commodity" out of the link supplied?

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