An in-depth look at Apple’s A7 chip and M7 motion coprocessor

a7 large iphone 5s

While we had seen iPhone 5s teardowns just a few hours after the device went on sale, we didn’t know much about Apple’s new A7 chip. Chipworks and iFixit have now taken an in-depth look at various iPhone 5s components including the A7 chip, the M7 coprocessor and the new iSight camera sensor.

As had been pointed out earlier, the A7 chip, with its new 64-bit architecture, is again manufactured by Samsung using its 28 nm process node. Apple has long been rumored to move away from Samsung, and shift production of its A series chips to TSMC, but it looks like TSMC’s facilities aren’t ready yet for Apple’s scale.

A look at the cross-section view of the A7 and A6 chips reveals that the distance between transistors has reduced from 123nm to 114nm, which helps Apple pack in more processing power in the same physical area. The CPU on the A7 chip, is in fact larger than the one on the A6, which means that it not only benefits from the higher density but even from the larger area. The high density also enabled Apple to add a billion transistors to the A7 chip, as the company boasted in its iPhone keynote.

a-chip-comparison

The M7 coprocessor is actually a chip made by NXP called the NXP LPC18A1, and is used in the Oculus Rift too. The M7 is composed of a gyroscope, an accelerometer and a compass — all three of which were present in previous generation iPhones too — but the main advantage of the M7 chip lies in its low power consumption and its independence from the CPU. Most apps need motion data in the form of roll, pitch, and yaw, which are obtained by applying matrix math to data from the three sensors. The M7 chip is optimised to perform such calculations without consuming a lot of power, letting apps constantly access this data without significantly impacting battery life.

m7 die

The detailed teardown also takes a look at the iSight camera, the Wi-Fi module and the LTE modem, so if you’re interested head over to iFixit.