Processing technologies have become incredibly advanced over the last few years, with TSMC (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company) facilitating most breakthroughs.
Apple, AMD, Nvidia, Qualcomm, and many other companies have their processors or SoCs built by TSMC.
Apple, in particular, will be approaching TSMC for their future processors: the 'A15' and 'A16.' Let's take a look.
The A15 Will Utilize TSMC’s 5nm+ Process Node
According to a market report from TrendForce, Apple has approached TSMC and will be building their upcoming A15 SoC on their 5nm+ process node.
Looking ahead to 2021, in addition to Apple’s 5nm+ wafer input for the A15 Bionic SoC, trial production will also kick-off for a small batch of AMD 5nm Zen 4 CPUs. These products will help maintain TSMC’s 5nm capacity utilization rate at an 85-90% range next year.
The process node, or simply ‘node,’ upon which a chip is built will be a determining factor in its final size, efficiency, and power. Fewer nanometers yield higher real-world performance.
Apple’s current SoC, the A14 found in the iPhone 12 models, is built upon the N5 node. The N5 is TSMC’s name for their 5nm node.
Apple’s upcoming chip, hypothetically dubbed the “A15 Bionic SoC” by TrendForce, will reportedly be built upon TSMC’s N5P node. The N5P is TSMC’s smaller 5nm+ node.
The A16 Will Likely Utilize TSMC’s 4nm Node
Currently, TSMC is building the highest-end chips on its most advanced process node, the N5P. Now, TrendForce's report predicts that the next SoC after Apple’s ‘A15’ will be built on TSMC’s planned 4nm ‘N4’ node.
Furthermore, based on current data, Apple is highly likely to continue manufacturing its A16 SoCs with the 4nm process technology (a process shrink of the 5nm node).
Beyond that, TSMC’s 3nm process could be tapped for processors in 2021 and 2022, bringing up to 15% in performance gains over their current N5. Risk production for the N3 is planned to begin in 2021.
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