|Sony CXD5315GG in the PlaySation Vita|
Inside we found the usual set of wireless chips, motion sensors, and memory, but the key to the increased performance of the PS Vita is the Sony CXD5315GG processor, a quad-core ARM Cortex-A9 device with an embedded Imagination SGX543MP4+ quad-core GPU.
Above I said that we found memory, but actually the only discrete memory that we found on the motherboard was 4 GB of Toshiba flash; and Sony’s specification states that there is 512 MB (4 Gb) regular RAM, plus 128 MB (1 Gb) VRAM (video RAM). In a phone that would tell me that there is memory in a package-on-package (PoP) configuration, mobile SDRAM in the top part and the processor in the bottom part.
However, when we took the part off the board and did a set of x-rays, the side view proved me wrong – it’s a stack, and the close-up shows that there appear to be five dies in there, a thick die at the base, a thinner one immediately on top and three smaller die on top of that. The second die down could be a spacer, since there don’t seem to bond wires going to it.
|Side x-ray images of Sony CXD5315GG|
This immediately led us to speculate – if the second die up is the VRAM, is it wide I/O DRAM, and is it using through-silicon vias (TSVs)? Time for a real cross-section to check that out, and almost predictably we were disappointed:
|Sony CXD5315GG package cross-sectioned|
This type of face-to-face connection showed up back in 2006 in the original Sony PSP, and Toshiba had dubbed it “semi-embedded DRAM”, now they are calling it “Stacked Chip SoC”. The ball pitch is an impressive ~45 µm, almost as tight as TI’s copper pillars, but they are staggered to achieve 40-µm pitch.
So what are the five chips that are in the stack? At the base we have the processor chip; face to face with it is a Samsung 1-Gb wide I/O SDRAM; and the top three dies comprise two Samsung 2-Gb mobile DDR2 SDRAMs, separated by a spacer die, and conventionally wire-bonded. The base die is ~250 µm thick, and the others ~100 – 120 µm.
When we look at the die photos of the processor and the 1-Gb memory, we can see that they are purposely laid out for the stacked-chip configuration, since in the centres of both is an array of matching bond pads.
|Die photos of the Sony CXD5315GG (left) and Samsung 1-Gb wide I/O SDRAM with bond pad arrays annotated|
Close examination reveals that there are 1080 pads in two blocks of 540 (2 sub-blocks of 45 rows of 6 pads), so likely 2 x 512 bit I/O operation, possibly sub-divided into 4 x 128.
|Wide I/O bond pad arrays in Sony CXD5315GG (top) and Samsung SDRAM|
Last year at ISSCC Samsung described a similar wide I/O DRAM using TSVs , claiming a data bandwidth of 12.8 Gb/s, four times the bandwidth of an equivalent LPDDR2 part. I doubt that the authors expected their design to be in a volume consumer device before the end of the year, but that seems to be what happened!
|Chip architecture of Samsung 1Gb Wide-I/O DRAM and SEM image of microbumps (Source: Samsung/ISSCC)|
This uses similar I/Os, but not the same as, the JEDEC wide I/O standard issued earlier this year (which calls for 50 rows of 6 pads in each block), and of course it predates it by about a year.
 J-S. Kim et al., A 1.2V 12.8GB/s 2Gb Mobile Wide-I/O DRAM with 4Ã??128 I/Os Using TSV-Based Stacking, ISSCC 2011, pp. 496 – 498.