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

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014
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.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 38
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,148member
    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.
  • Reply 2 of 38
    pmzpmz Posts: 3,433member
    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.

  • Reply 3 of 38
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,475member
    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.
  • Reply 4 of 38
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,475member
    pmz wrote: »
    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.
  • Reply 5 of 38
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,148member
    pmz wrote: »
    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.
  • Reply 6 of 38
    thttht Posts: 3,110member

    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.

  • Reply 7 of 38
    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.

  • Reply 8 of 38
    melgross wrote: »
    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!
  • Reply 9 of 38
    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

  • Reply 10 of 38
    cnocbuicnocbui Posts: 3,613member

    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

  • Reply 11 of 38
    st88st88 Posts: 124member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by melgross View Post





    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.

     

    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.

  • Reply 12 of 38
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,148member
    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 ...
  • Reply 13 of 38
    st88 wrote: »
    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.
  • Reply 14 of 38
    st88st88 Posts: 124member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by jusephe View Post





    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.

    That has more to do with the four Cortex A15 cores running at 1.9GHz.

    The Tegra 4 SoC as a whole isn't anything too impressive, but saying it has poor graphical performance is just false.

     

    EDIT:

     

    Unlimited score for Futuremark's 3DMark Ice Storm:



    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

  • Reply 15 of 38
    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.
  • Reply 16 of 38
    14nm finFET or 16nm finFET? Nah, I'll wait for the Slave-1 Boba Fett :)
  • Reply 17 of 38

    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:

  • Reply 18 of 38
    st88 wrote: »
    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.
  • Reply 19 of 38
    st88st88 Posts: 124member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Suddenly Newton View Post





    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.

    The first part was talking about two SoCs currently on the market,  NVIDIA's Tegra 4 and Apple's A7.

     

    The second part was discussing that moving forward NVIDIA will be licencing out their designs starting with Mobile Kepler (2014) and later Mobile Maxwell (2015).  

     

    This thread is discussing speculation for something that might only come in 2016.  So don't try to lecture me with your bullshit.

  • Reply 20 of 38
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,475member
    vaporland wrote: »
    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.
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