A6 SoC in iPhone 5 confirmed as being triple GPU by diffusion layer pic

Research analysis specialist UBM TechInsights has published the first diffusion layer image of the Apple A6, the system-on-a-chip found insider the iPhone 5, using scanning electron microscopy on a cross section of the chip.

The most important findings are that the A6 comes with three GPU cores, making it a near-certainty that the SoC is running on a PowerVR SGX543 MP3 graphics solution, and the die itself has a surface area of just over 95mm2. By way of comparison, the A5X had a 165mm2 die size (on a 45nm processor) and with the Apple A5 standing a 122m2.

This is still more than the quad core Nvidia Tegra 3 SoC which reaches around 88m2 on a 40nm manufacturing process. The A6 is build using Samsung’s 32mm manufacturing process, one that has been tested on a smaller scale previously on the second generation Apple A5 SoC found in the Apple TV v3 and which show quasi identical metal and dielectric layering.

The pics also show two 32-bit LPDDR2 memory channels and there are at least two cores as on the Apple A5 and A5X whose die shots you can view on Chipworks’ website. It is not possible at this stage to predict whether the A6 uses custom cores.

Apple opted for a triple GPU rather than a quad core one (as on the A5X) because the screen resolution of the iPhone 5 is only a fraction of that of the new Apple iPad.