New Apple TV could hint at A5X iPad mini with Retina display

iPad mini (flat, finger)

The unknown ‘Apple TV 3,2’ device caused a lot of commotion when it was first discovered in iOS 6.1 earlier this week. It has a faster processor than the current model, and a lot of folks figured it was the next-gen Apple TV.

Apple, however, crushed the hype when they announced yesterday that the 3,2 ATV was nothing more than a component change. But according to some recent chatter, there may be more to the device than meets the eye…

First, let’s take a look at what we know. We know that, thanks to the smart folks over at AnandTech, this new Apple TV features an A5X chip. That’s the same one Apple used in its third generation iPad with Retina display.

But the A5X chip in the iPad 3 was big, and ran hot. So why would Apple be using it in its tiny set-top box? Well according to reports, the A5X used in the new Apple TV is likely a process-shrunken version of the original.

From Brian Klug at AnandTech:

Update: I should note that S5L8945 is the original 45nm Samsung produced A5X, S5L8947 is the A5XR2 that is in this unannounced Apple TV. Note that previously the A5 underwent a similar plus 2 offset, from S5L8940 (A5) to S5L8942 (A5R2) which changed process geometry from 45nm to 32nm HK-MG at Samsung. It’s possible we’re also looking at a process node change with the A5X to A5XR2 here.”

He’s referring to the smaller, more efficient 32-nm (die shrunk) A5 chip that Apple uses in its third-gen Apple TV. It appeared, almost, as if the company was using the ATV3 to test the chip before using it in its retooled iPad 2.

So the theory that’s making its way around the blogosphere this week is that Apple is doing the same thing here: testing a smaller, more efficient version of the A5X in its 3,2 ATV, before using it in a new product. But what is it?

A new iPad mini with Retina display is a pretty good guess (first suggested by MacRumors). The A5X has the necessary power to drive a Retina display. And a smaller, more efficient version of it would fit nicely in the next-gen mini.

Sure, this is all supposition at this point. But it makes a good case for an A5X iPad mini 2 with Retina display appearing later this year. Recent reports say that the tablet is expected to hit in October, alongside a redesigned iPad 5.