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Rumor: Apple to shrink A-series chips to 14nm in 2015, TSMC to lead production

post #1 of 32
Thread Starter 
A new report out of Taiwan suggests that Apple will not only diversify the supply chain for its next-generation A-series processors, but that the company will also make the leap to a much more advanced fabrication process.

TSMC Fab
TSMC's 12-inch wafer fab


Taipei, Taiwan-based TSMC is expected to handle 60 to 70 percent of Apple's processor fabrication business in 2015, according to a report from Taiwanese trade publication Digitimes. South Korean conglomerate Samsung, Apple's current fab partner, is said to have secured the balance of Cupertino's order.

The numbers match up with an earlier report from The Korea Economic Daily.

Along with the supplier change, the paper speculates, will come a shift to a new, 14- and 16-nanometer FinFET-based fabrication process. Apple's A7, which powers the iPhone 5s, iPad Air, and iPad mini with Retina display, is built exclusively by Samsung on a 28-nanometer process fab.

Apple is believed to be preparing to manufacture its next-generation "A8" chip using TSMC's 20-nanometer process in 2014. TSMC has recently begun ramping production on its 20-nanometer lines and analysts believe Apple's business could comprise as much as 10 percent of TSMC's 2014 revenues.

TSMC CEO Mark Liu has predicted that the company's 16-nanometer fab would be up and running by the end of 2014, while Samsung has said their 14-nanometer process would be ready at approximately the same time. However, the companies' move to the new FinFET-based processes could prove difficult, industry experts have told AppleInsider.

Jumping from, for instance, the 28-nanometer node to the 20-nanometer node is largely an exercise in making things smaller. Moving from traditional planar transistors to FinFET --?essentially a new, "three dimensional" type of transistor --?on the other hand means an entirely new manufacturing process.

As it stands today, only Intel has the capability to manufacture FinFET-based devices in commercial quantities.
post #2 of 32
This must be shaking up the industry! I wish Apple would develop their own GPUs too. I am so sick of the Achilles' heel of Macs, Nvidia et al.
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post #3 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post

This must be shaking up the industry! I wish Apple would develop their own GPUs too. I am so sick of the Achilles' heel of Macs, Nvidia et al.

What is your complaint with NVIDIA graphics, specifically? They are not all that bad from what I understand.

post #4 of 32
They don't do these things quickly. They will have a test plant up and running for at least a year before they can be assured that production will function the way they expect.

The one thing I get nervous about TSMC is their problems with new process technologies. They always have problems.
post #5 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by pmz View Post

What is your complaint with NVIDIA graphics, specifically? They are not all that bad from what I understand.

What does Nvidia have to do with Apple's "A" series of chips? They use Imagination's GPUs. The Nvidia ARM graphics performance is terrible. Apple would never go to them, and they don't offer it anyway.

I know he mentioned Nvidia and Macs, but this is the wrong forum for that.

But I would love to have Apple convince Imagination to give them an architecture license, the way they have one from ARM. As Apple owns 11% of Imagination, one wonders if they have enough influence to convince them to do that. And exclusive license for that would be great.

Apple has bought a number of small GPU design companies over the past few years. I've never seen anything that could be said to have come out of those purchases.
post #6 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by pmz View Post

What is your complaint with NVIDIA graphics, specifically? They are not all that bad from what I understand.

MacBook Pro failure rates over the years .... I wasn't thinking the Mac Pro cards, sorry that was misleading in a Mac Pro thread.
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post #7 of 32

I've got some skepticism that TSMC will be able ship 14 nm parts in 2016, let alone late 2015. The foundry's definition of being ready is basically totally different from the expectation of when you'll see actual shipped parts.

 

There's been very little news on TSMC's readiness with 20 nm for 2014. There have been 2 SoCs announced that I'm aware of for 2014: the Snapdragon 805 (with 32 bit Krait 450 cores) for 1H 14 and the Snapdragon 410 (with 64-bit Cortex-A53 cores) for 2H 14. They are both 28 nm SoCs. Nvidia Tegra SoC and GPU news are unreliable. Kind of worrisome for a prospective 20 nm Apple A8 SoC.

 

Now, TSMC is saying they are going to be ready with 14nm in late 2015? I think we'll be lucky to see 14 nm parts from TSMC in 2H 2016. It may even slip to 1H 2017.

post #8 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post


MacBook Pro failure rates over the years .... I wasn't thinking the Mac Pro cards, sorry that was misleading in a Mac Pro thread.

which is misleading in a iDevice Thread.

post #9 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by melgross View Post

They don't do these things quickly. They will have a test plant up and running for at least a year before they can be assured that production will function the way they expect.

The one thing I get nervous about TSMC is their problems with new process technologies. They always have problems.

Taiwan is in a seismically sensitive area. Here's hoping no earthquakes in 2014-2015 & beyond!
post #10 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by THT View Post
 

I've got some skepticism that TSMC will be able ship 14 nm parts in 2016, let alone late 2015. The foundry's definition of being ready is basically totally different from the expectation of when you'll see actual shipped parts.

[...]

 

Now, TSMC is saying they are going to be ready with 14nm in late 2015? I think we'll be lucky to see 14 nm parts from TSMC in 2H 2016. It may even slip to 1H 2017.

 

I think you’re asking the wrong question…   The right question is ‘What’s Apple’s fallback plan’….

 

Remember...

a) Digitimes… at best they have half the story right

b) Apple is funding this.

 

c) Apple is smart at this stuff.

d) if the 14nm part is true... and diversification is truly part of apple's game... then the logical next question is 'who else is part of the 14nm supply stream to reduce Apple’s Risk on TSMC history of blown deadlines and quality issues?’   

e) the only answer for ‘d’ right now is 

 

        Intel

post #11 of 32

This article seems to have been given spin to make it look as if TMSC will be using a smaller scale process than Samsung, which seems a bit odd given another article I read elsewhere today which implied the opposite:

 

Quote:

Apple will once again be partly relying on its chief rival Samsung to produce its next-generation smartphone application chips. The chips will be used in 2015 and will be produced using the 14/16nm FinFET processes. This information comes from those inside Apple's supply chain. The same sources say that TSMC is locked up as the main supplier for Apple's next 20nm A-series chips for next year's Apple iPhone. TSMC also will be producing some of the 14/16nm FinFET chips along with Samsung.

According to the report, the sources add that Korean based Samsung will be using the 14nmFinFET process to manufacturer A-series processors for the 2015 iPhone. TSMC will use its 16nm FinFET process to produce the same chip.

 

http://www.phonearena.com/news/Apple-to-rely-on-Samsung-and-TSMC-for-chips-over-the-next-two-years_id50453

post #12 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post

MacBook Pro failure rates over the years .... I wasn't thinking the Mac Pro cards, sorry that was misleading in a Mac Pro thread.

LOL, I meant that ... too excited about new Mac Pro to think straight ...
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post #13 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by st88 View Post

The iPhone 5S @ 1136 x 640 scores 2088 frames and the NVIDIA Shield @ 1280 x 720 scores 2149 frames in GFXBench 2.7 T-Rex HD.

Mobile Kepler (coming 2014) can be licensed to any manufacturer, and it already has a few advantages over PowerVR 6 series.  An early tablet version was shown running games such as Battlefield 3.  Mobile Maxwell will follow in 2015.

Tegra in shield is under a fan, running at ridiculously high clock speed, backed up with notebook sized battery, that don't have to power an notebook sized display.
Pover Vr 6 is so effecient you can put it in a phone without problems.

This is not an performance war, this is war of efficiency.
Edited by jusephe - 12/18/13 at 10:52am
post #14 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post

MacBook Pro failure rates over the years .... I wasn't thinking the Mac Pro cards, sorry that was misleading in a Mac Pro thread.

Fret ovet failure "rate"? Sounds like something a statistician would care about. Because most people only care if one MacBook Pro fails: theirs.

"Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone."

John C. Dvorak, 2007
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"Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone."

John C. Dvorak, 2007
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post #15 of 32
14nm finFET or 16nm finFET? Nah, I'll wait for the Slave-1 Boba Fett 1smile.gif
post #16 of 32

I agree with tht. I don't think TSMC will get up to speed until 2016/2017 and we'll see it in the A10 chip. Though I'm sure that chip will have amazing performance/battery life at 14nm. Just in time to upgrade from the iDevice you buy today :smokey:

Help! I'm trapped in a white dungeon of amazing precision and impeccable tolerances!

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Help! I'm trapped in a white dungeon of amazing precision and impeccable tolerances!

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post #17 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by st88 View Post

The iPhone 5S @ 1136 x 640 scores 2088 frames and the NVIDIA Shield @ 1280 x 720 scores 2149 frames in GFXBench 2.7 T-Rex HD.

Mobile Kepler (coming 2014) can be licensed to any manufacturer, and it already has a few advantages over PowerVR 6 series.  An early tablet version was shown running games such as Battlefield 3.  Mobile Maxwell will follow in 2015.

Here we go with the code names and specs. Yes, let's all pretend its 2015. How glorious the year 2015 and a bazillion frames per second will be. Meanwhile, there's the A7. For those who want to use technology, as opposed to just bragging about it.

"Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone."

John C. Dvorak, 2007
Reply

"Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone."

John C. Dvorak, 2007
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post #18 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by vaporland View Post

Taiwan is in a seismically sensitive area. Here's hoping no earthquakes in 2014-2015 & beyond!

Remember that they have a plant here in upstate New York, and will be expanding it, or building another.
post #19 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by st88 View Post

The iPhone 5S @ 1136 x 640 scores 2088 frames and the NVIDIA Shield @ 1280 x 720 scores 2149 frames in GFXBench 2.7 T-Rex HD.

Mobile Kepler (coming 2014) can be licensed to any manufacturer, and it already has a few advantages over PowerVR 6 series.  An early tablet version was shown running games such as Battlefield 3.  Mobile Maxwell will follow in 2015.

You should go to Anandtech and look at the testing he does there.
post #20 of 32
Wasn't TSMC supposed to be taking on the lions share of A series production this year? Yeah.
I understand many Apple users want Samsung to go away, but TSMC has a lot to do before they're ready to be the major supplier, and wishful thinking won't magically make it so.
post #21 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by Suddenly Newton View Post

Fret ovet failure "rate"? Sounds like something a statistician would care about. Because most people only care if one MacBook Pro fails: theirs.

Sorry off topic : I my case, my best buddy 2, me 1. All Nvidia issues. Mine was replaced by Apple under AC I am happy to say. My friend was shit out of luck with two 17" MBPs.
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post #22 of 32

Apple must be hiding some new innovation or something. I can't figure out why they aren't working with Intel to make their chips. They need top quality at obscene volume and it'd be assuring to have the 800 lb gorilla in your corner. So I wonder....does TSMC have something cool cooking in their fabs?

 

Also, I love those pics of the wafers with the zillions of colors and transistors. Why aren't these things square? Seems like a lot of waste at the edges.....

post #23 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by st88 View Post

The iPhone 5S @ 1136 x 640 scores 2088 frames and the NVIDIA Shield @ 1280 x 720 scores 2149 frames in GFXBench 2.7 T-Rex HD.

Mobile Kepler (coming 2014) can be licensed to any manufacturer, and it already has a few advantages over PowerVR 6 series.  An early tablet version was shown running games such as Battlefield 3.  Mobile Maxwell will follow in 2015.
Those numbers are so close they could be flipped just by altering the RAM speed or bumping the GPU clock. Beyond that, this is mobile, without thermal numbers the numbers don't mena much.
post #24 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by bugsnw View Post
 

Apple must be hiding some new innovation or something. I can't figure out why they aren't working with Intel to make their chips. They need top quality at obscene volume and it'd be assuring to have the 800 lb gorilla in your corner. So I wonder....does TSMC have something cool cooking in their fabs?

 

Also, I love those pics of the wafers with the zillions of colors and transistors. Why aren't these things square? Seems like a lot of waste at the edges.....

 

IF they were hiding something they would keep it from samsung, but even they have 30-40% of this chip spend.  

 

And you do realize that TSMC is the 800 lb gorilla when it comes to contract chip foundries, and Samsung is quickly catching up.  Intel is only about a 200lb gorilla in the ‘contract’ chip fab business (‘foundry model’)  

 

Playing the devils advocate….

 

Intel wasn’t even in the contract Fab until this fall… so to answer your question… Apple wasn’t asking, because Intel didn’t even have a product.

 

And if Apple was asking, Intel may not be giving as good a price.   These seductions take a while, and Intel doesn’t like to play from a position of weakness, which, is where Apple is used to keeping it’s supply chain vendors.   

 

A couple more bad years of x86 sales, coupled excess capacity in the fabs, and the story might be different.  Remember… on an intel designed chip, intel gets to charge the IP (publisher’s) premium.   On a contract chip… They effectively get to charge only a few percent over their (printer’s) cost to make the chip.   This is new business for Intel, and one that is margin poor compared to their x86 line.   

 

I doubt Intel’s pricing model (or commitment) is yet trustworthy.  Really, do you think Intel would really commit (block from x86 production) 10-25% of their 14nm capacity at, say, 20% margin [sell a $10 for $12 for 50 million chips] , vs  a corporate 1000% margin [selling a $10 chip for  $12 to Intel’s division who then sells it for $100] on the same capacity to expand their x86.

 

 

as for wafer roundness… google Czochralski Growth Method. 

post #25 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cash907 View Post

Wasn't TSMC supposed to be taking on the lions share of A series production this year? Yeah.
I understand many Apple users want Samsung to go away, but TSMC has a lot to do before they're ready to be the major supplier, and wishful thinking won't magically make it so.

I highly doubt that Apple wants to rely upon one foundry any more. Such a situation made sense when just getting started with DIY SoC's but Apple is in a different league now. They literally have volumes that go beyond what a single factory can handle. Note the rumors that Samsung had to go to Global Foundries to handle excess demand.

Rumors are rumors of course but Samsung has already had to expand the factory in Texas and Apples need for chips expands almost every day. I could see Apple using a two or three foundry strategy from this point on. Frankly it has nothing to do with Samsung and everything to do with the old saying about having all of ones eggs in one basket.
post #26 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by bugsnw View Post

Apple must be hiding some new innovation or something. I can't figure out why they aren't working with Intel to make their chips. They need top quality at obscene volume and it'd be assuring to have the 800 lb gorilla in your corner. So I wonder....does TSMC have something cool cooking in their fabs?
I've heard rumors that TSMC is indeed doing better with sub 20 micron than might be expected. That doesn't mean much of course.
Quote:

Also, I love those pics of the wafers with the zillions of colors and transistors. Why aren't these things square? Seems like a lot of waste at the edges.....
It is due to the manufacturing process and how the silicon is grown.
post #27 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by TheOtherGeoff View Post

 



IF they were hiding something they would keep it from samsung, but even they have 30-40% of this chip spend.  

 



And you do realize that TSMC is the 800 lb gorilla when it comes to contract chip foundries, and Samsung is quickly catching up.  Intel is only about a 200lb gorilla in the ‘contract’ chip fab business (‘foundry model’)  

 



Playing the devils advocate….

 



Intel wasn’t even in the contract Fab until this fall… so to answer your question… Apple wasn’t asking, because Intel didn’t even have a product.

 



And if Apple was asking, Intel may not be giving as good a price.   These seductions take a while, and Intel doesn’t like to play from a position of weakness, which, is where Apple is used to keeping it’s supply chain vendors.   

 



A couple more bad years of x86 sales, coupled excess capacity in the fabs, and the story might be different.  Remember… on an intel designed chip, intel gets to charge the IP (publisher’s) premium.   On a contract chip… They effectively get to charge only a few percent over their (printer’s) cost to make the chip.   This is new business for Intel, and one that is margin poor compared to their x86 line.   

 



I doubt Intel’s pricing model (or commitment) is yet trustworthy.  Really, do you think Intel would really commit (block from x86 production) 10-25% of their 14nm capacity at, say, 20% margin [sell a $10 for $12 for 50 million chips] , vs  a corporate 1000% margin [selling a $10 chip for  $12 to Intel’s division who then sells it for $100] on the same capacity to expand their x86.

 



 



as for wafer roundness… google Czochralski Growth Method. 

So Intel wane along with Microcrap.
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post #28 of 32

What TSMC and Samsung designate as 14- and 16-nanometer FinFET-based fabrication process is their 20nm process with FinFet.

post #29 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by st88 View Post

He uses GFXBench 2.7 and 3DMark Ice Storm in his testing.  

The numbers I've used are the most recent and come directly from the GFXBench and Futuremark websites.

Even based off of his outdated numbers that tested a single device:

NVIDIA Shield (reviewed in July) @ 1280 x 720 - 38 fps

iPhone 5S (reviewed in September) @ 1136 x 640 - 37 fps

GFXBench 2.7 T-Rex HD (Onscreen):

58171.png
56819.png 

-

Futuremark's 3DMark Ice Storm 
Unlimited:



NVIDIA Shield (Tegra 4) - 16,519

Apple iPad Air (A7) - 14,913

Xiaomi MI-3 (Tegra 4) - 14,632

Apple iPhone 5S (A7) - 14,191

Comparing it to the shield proves little. You need a comparable device.
post #30 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by st88 View Post

Yes and no, do keep in mind the Shield is pushing ~21% more pixels  1136x640 =/= 1280x720.  The thermals on the Tegra 4 are without a doubt higher, but that's more due to the four Cortex A15 cores clocked at 1.9GHz. 

The 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited results for the Xiaomi MI-3 (Tegra 4) smartphone are about the same as the iPhone 5S.

Xiaomi MI-3 (Tegra 4) - 14,632
Apple iPhone 5S (A7) - 14,191

A couple other factors that could have changed results: 
[*] Neither of the Tegra 4 devices listed above are even running the latest version of Android which is 4.4 (both are running 4.2).  For reference, a 
Nexus 5 (Snapdragon 800)
 running 4.4 was able to score 16,260, while its sister device, the LG G2 running 4.2 scored 15,043.  The performance gap between 4.2 and 4.4 is ~7.5%.


[*] The 3DMark results above are running the 32-bit version of Ice Storm.  The 64-bit version would offer up to 7% improved performance. "Once we had a 64-bit build we tested an iPhone 5s under controlled conditions in our Test Lab. As expected, we found that the results from the 64-bit version were similar to the 32-bit version, with only a 7 percent improvement. That is not enough to change the ranking of the iPhone 5s in our Best Mobile Devices list."  Futuremark. 

  
 

The only reason I posted this information was in response to 
melgross
' claim that, "
Nvidia ARM graphics performance is terrible".  As I've displayed above, the graphical capabilities of Tegra 4 would not be considered "terrible", in fact, quite the opposite.

It is terrible, and it always has been terrible. Your comparison has little meaning. You NEED a phone to similar sized tablet comparison to have any meaning. The Shield is a very specialized device. Unless that very same chip is running in similar devices to others, it makes for a poor standard to compare to. That should be obvious.
post #31 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by st88 View Post

It helps when you actually read the entire post.  The Xiaomi MI-3 is a smartphone.

Once again:

Futuremark's 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited:

NVIDIA Shield (Tegra 4) - 16,519
Apple iPad Air (A7) - 14,913

Xiaomi MI-3 (Tegra 4) - 14,632

Apple iPhone 5S (A7) - 14,191

Ok, fair enough. But that's just one benchmark. What about all the others?
post #32 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by st88 View Post
 

I'm not necessarily sure Intel is too worried.  Their focus of x86 into the mobile market has been scoring them some very big design wins over ARM with companies such as Acer, ASUS, Dell, Fujitsu, HP, Lenovo, Sharp, and Toshiba.  Samsung has also been spotted with Bay Trail tablets in testing. 

I wasn't predicting, just scenario-izing.    I wouldn't be surprised if Intel rebounded really well this year and next.  

 

But their focus on the mobile market has been there for years,and by most accounts, has been less than amazing in terms of performance envelope in real world implementations.

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