Apple invites us to dream…



Lyon, France, May 26th, 2022 – The devices that handle most of the computing needs of today’s consumers are either smartphones, tablets, or PC . In terms of shipped quantity, smartphones take the lion’s share, with more than three times the amount of annual shipments as tablets, laptops, and desktops combined, according to Yole Développement (Yole)’s market data. In terms of value to processor vendors, however, the playing field is a little more balanced, as desktop and laptop processors generated over US$40 billion for chipmakers in 2021 versus US$37.8 billion for smartphones. Underlying this is the difference in applications, of course, but more specifically there is the difference in instruction set architecture. Smartphones and tablets are mainly the domain of Arm-based processors. The PC environment has largely been the domain of x86-based processors, but recently we can start to see more and more blurring of this trend.

With little exception, high-end PCs have run on x86-based processors, primarily the domain of Intel and AMD, while Arm-based architecture deployment was limited to a subset of ultra-light PCs and Chromebooks. The tectonic shift initiated by Apple’s M1 project is a major proof that high-end PCs can be successfully run-on Arm-based architecture. Apple’s M1 showed that this architecture can compete in mainstream consumer platforms in both power consumption and performance. The impact on the technological makeup of the market has been profound, as from 2019 to 2021, Arm-based processors in PCs increased almost seven-fold, predominantly due to Apple’s shift to in-house processors for Mac. With the upgrades of the M1 Pro and M1 Max and eventually the M1 Ultra, Apple is showcasing the remarkable scalability of their project and inviting industry observers to dream of what could come next, much like the company has done time and again in the smartphone arena.

System Plus Consulting and Yole Développement have followed Apple and its activities closely for a while. Both partners investigate the technology choices made by this leading smartphone manufacturer and have taken a step back to analyze in-depth the impact on the mobile industry. Today, analysts provide you with a snapshot of Apple’s latest innovations and remind you of the underlying industrial context. This analysis is extracted from the Apple M1 Max System-on-Chip and Apple M1 Pro System-on-Chip reports and the Processor Quarterly Market Monitor.

As upgraded versions of the Apple M1 SoC , the M1 Pro and Max massively expand the die size, complexity of IP design, and even physical structure. By measuring the SRAM size and the gate/fin pitch from high-resolution SEM photos, we confirm that the M1 Pro and M1 Max SoC dies are both manufactured in TSMC’s 5nm FinFET technology, the TSMC N5P process which has the same design rule as the original N5 platform. While keeping the same finFET structure and SRAM density, we observe from the die cross-section that both the M1 Pro and Max have the same metal interconnect stack but more levels than the previous M1. The configuration of the final product assembly is the same as the first M1 generation. The M1 Pro and M1 Max both include one SoC die and LPDDR5 DRAM memory packages. To be more specific, the M1 Pro includes two LPDDR5 components, while the M1 Max has four.

Apple continues to use memory components from various suppliers. System Plus Consulting’s teardown of multiple MacBook Pro units revealed memories supplied by both Samsung and Hynix. Since the DRAM providers are all building to the same standard, the final assembly is manufacturer agnostic. Regarding the overall product assembly, SiP technology is applied to both the M1 Pro and Max – the SoC die shares the same substrate with DRAM packages and multilayer ceramic capacitors (MLCCs) while several IPDs are embedded in the backside of the substrate. The whole chip assembly ends with an IHS on the top while the bottom is soldered to the mother board which is shared with other components and power modules, using a BGA.

Apple’s silicon design team has now expanded the M1 line into the realm of the professional user demanding much more computing power. Near the end of last year, Apple launched the M1 Pro and M1 Max generations of their processor line. More recently, the M1 Ultra was announced to round out a product line to address everything from serious amateurs to the most demanding professional applications like video editing.

The latest processors from Apple have obviously come a long way from the first A4 and A5 mobile applications processors on 45 nm process technology to today’s devices on the most advanced 5 nm finFETs from TSMC.

But the Apple story is more about the strides made by their own design team rather than their silicon vendor… To read the full article, click here.

System Plus Consulting and Yole Développement will pursue their investigations and invite you to stay tuned for future teardowns and market analyses!

This press announcement is fully dedicated to the Apple M1 Max System-on-Chip and Apple M1 Pro System-on-Chip reports.
Related products: Processor Quarterly Market Monitor – Computing and AI Technologies for Mobile and Consumer Applications 2021 – Advanced Packaging Quarterly Market Monitor

PC: Personal Computers
Soc: System-on-Chip
FinFET: Fin Field-Effect Transistor
SiP: System-In-Package
IPD: Integrated Passive Devices
IHS: Integrated Heat Spreader
BGA: Ball Grid Array