Turns out that the new Apple TV CPU isn’t a die-shrunk A5X as AnandTech predicted, which throws a wrench in my theory that it would be a trial production run preceding future use in a Retina iPad Mini.
Mac Rumors got their hands on the newly revised Apple TV:
Most notably, the tweaked third-generation Apple TV does not contain an A5X chip. Instead, it contains an A5 chip like its predecessor, although the new chip is considerably smaller than the previous one.
When we thought it was an A5X, it was quite interesting, since there’s not much reason for an Apple TV to use an A5X. It was easy to draw the Retina iPad Mini conclusion, since not much else made sense.
Now that we know it’s most likely the same CPU as before but die-shrunk again, it’s much less interesting: it could be a trial run of TSMC’s fabs to move more of Apple’s component business away from Samsung, it could be a 28nm-process test preceding large-scale use in a future “A7” CPU, it could be gearing up to be used in a cheaper iPhone or iPad Mini, or it could just be a way to get a bit more profit and battery life from silent revisions of existing products.
We can still reasonably assume that the Apple TV doesn’t justify custom processors on its own, but since the A5 is used in multiple products in mostly uninteresting ways, we can no longer infer anything more interesting than a manufacturing detail — like an upcoming Retina iPad Mini — from this.