Saturday, Jul 03, 2021, 21:17 Hardware

Nikkei: Apple's First 3nm Chips Expected Next Year – Clear Improvements To Performance & Efficiency

The current M1 Macs and iPads are equipped with chips produced using the 5nm production process. Come this fall, when Apple will present the next generation of products – and hopefully, the decked-out M1X chip, the chips used in the devices will still have been manufactured with the 5nm production process. However, Apple's chip production partner TSMC has just made the next important step in chip development – the chip manufacturer has announced that it is now able to produce 3nm semiconductor nodes for computer chips. Nikkei has recently reported on the 3nm innovation. As mentioned several months ago, the test production phase will begin this year – with finished chips heading from the assembly line to the market by 2022. This is remarkable, especially considering that the next step for the chip industry would technically be the 4nm production process – although it seems as if TSMC has skipped that step entirely.

2022 – 3nm Switch For The iPad
According to Nikkei, the iPad is going to be the first Apple device to receive the 3nm production process chips, however, this isn't likely to occur until after the next generation of the iPad Pro. Given that the number of iPads produced isn't as high as in the case of the iPhone, Apple sees little danger in doing this – despite the fact that a new production process often initially translates to expensive technical difficulties for technology companies. In addition to being costly, it can also severely limit production volume – which is why Apple is refraining from choosing an extremely high volume product
to undergo the switch first.

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iPhone: No Risk Approach – 4nm Preferred
Apple wants to be more careful with the iPhone and won't even bother trying to equip the device with 3nm chips come 2022. When the iPhone 14 arrives in the fall of next year, it will run on a chip produced using the 4nm process – which means that it will use a more powerful and efficient chip than the iPhone 13, whilst also coming with less risk than the use of a 3nm production process chip. Any sort of production bottlenecks for the iPhone 14 would be devastating for Apple, given the sheer volume of iPhones that the company throws at the market each year.

TSMC Manages To Do What Intel Can't
In official documents, TSMC has stated that the switch from 5 to 3nm enables an increase in performance of 15% with the same amount of energy usage. One of the success factors in Apple's recent foray into chip development has been TSMC's continued reliability in consistently downsizing chip components – whilst also avoiding major deficits or delays. This is especially impressive given that more and more reports have circulated over the years concerning companies having issues with such tasks. One such company, Intel, is now even petitioning for direct support from TSMC – its own competitor – and in the case of 3nm production process chips, Intel may just about to become TSMC's customer.

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