Apple begins receiving shipments of A-series processors from TSMC - report

Posted:
in iPhone edited July 2014
Following years of rumors, chipmaker Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. has begun production of Apple's A-series processors and the chips are now making their way to assembly plants, according to a Thursday morning report from Hong Kong.

TSMC Fab
TSMC's 12-inch wafer fab


TSMC started production on its 20-nanometer fabrication lines in the first quarter of 2014, with shipments commencing in the second quarter, the Wall Street Journal said. Samsung will reportedly remain one of Apple's top suppliers for now, but will split orders with TSMC for the near future.

"Apple's order is a big deal to the company. TSMC has assigned a large team to support Apple as you know this client is very picky," a person familiar with the Apple deal told the publication.

Whispers that TSMC had begun manufacturing so-called "A8" chips for Apple's next-generation iPhones and iPads surfaced in March. Those processors are though to be quad-core models, doubling the dual-core setup of the current-generation A7.

TSMC has been linked to the manufacturing of Apple's A-series chips numerous times over the years, but the company has not yet seen its silicon sit at the heart of iOS devices. The company does manufacture other custom chips for Apple, however, including the Touch ID sensors introduced with the iPhone 5s.

In addition to the 20-nanometer production, Apple and TSMC are believed to have agreed on a research and development collaboration that will see Apple move to 16-nanometer production next year. It is unclear what the process shrink means for the long-term future of Apple's partnership with Samsung, on whom the iPhone maker has reduced reliance as the companies battle it out on retail shelves and in courtrooms around the world.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 55
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 30,721member
    It's my understanding intel is already making chips in the 14 nanometer range. These TSMC chips are 20 nanometer?
  • Reply 2 of 55
    jusephejusephe Posts: 108member
    It was expected, not only samsung isn't a nice company but their process had fallen behind the shelude as we got 28 nm in 2012 from TSMC and in 2013 from samsung (exynos 5octa). Even when Apple was forced to go with samsung at 28 nm their process is somewhat less matured and more power hungry than TSMC's. Apple's push for 20 nm was obvious, it delivers at least 30% lower power consumption 2x higher transistor density, things that are needed for unified chips like A7, which are great for both iPhone and iPad because they combine low power consumption (like Apple A6) with no compromise performance (like Apple A6X)
    There has been so many shortages for 20nm ( from the beginning of 2014) that AMD,Nvidia and all ARM manufactures are angry... Possibly because Apple is sucking out entire 20nm manufacturing capability as their are planing to churn out 68 millions six's before end of the year.

    20nm is a huge win... Considering intels delay of 14nm to 2015, it will be the smallest node for some time... Like smaller node than in all computers ! At 20nm you can implement quand core, far beefier GPU have drastically lover idle AND busy power compustion and produce less heat (wasted power). Basically speaking A7 was so impressive from performance standpoint that traditional 2x performance gain is basically impossible without going to 20nm.
    And ultra bassically speaking, game over, time to upgrade, even from my 5S.
  • Reply 3 of 55
    neilmneilm Posts: 572member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post



    It's my understanding intel is already making chips in the 14 nanometer range. These TSMC chips are 20 nanometer?

     

    Intel's current Haswell processors use a 22 nm process, whereas the forthcoming Broadwell is 14 nm. However Intel has been experiencing product yield problems with their 14 nm process, resulting in Broadwell's delay from mid-2014 to an estimated 4Q-2014.

     

    Which is more important, bragging rights to the smallest process size, or having a product to ship?

  • Reply 4 of 55
    originalgoriginalg Posts: 381member

    Looking forward to seeing how big of an impact this will have on real day to day battery life. Can't wait!

  • Reply 5 of 55
    hattighattig Posts: 830member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post



    It's my understanding intel is already making chips in the 14 nanometer range. These TSMC chips are 20 nanometer?

    Intel might be starting to make them, but mass production is now expected in 2H 2015.

     

    In addition, one company's node size is not trivially comparable to another's...

  • Reply 6 of 55
    MacProMacPro Posts: 17,985member
    neilm wrote: »
    Intel's current Haswell processors use a 22 nm process, whereas the forthcoming Broadwell is 14 nm. However Intel has been experiencing product yield problems with their 14 nm process, resulting in Broadwell's delay from mid-2014 to an estimated 4Q-2014.

    Which is more important, bragging rights to the smallest process size, or having a product to ship?

    I wonder if Apple is also looking at alternatives to Intel for OS X too in their lower end Macs? It's not my area of expertise but I would imagine an optional BTO Intel chip could be added for those who requiring to run VMs or Bootcamp (does anyone bother with Bootcamp these days given the speed of VMs?).
  • Reply 7 of 55
    ingelaingela Posts: 217member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post



    It's my understanding intel is already making chips in the 14 nanometer range. These TSMC chips are 20 nanometer?

     

    They are trying to release 14nm chips, but have been delayed.

  • Reply 8 of 55
    mpantonempantone Posts: 1,350member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post



    It's my understanding intel is already making chips in the 14 nanometer range.

    Nope, as mentioned by NeilM, the 14nm transition has been very troublesome for Intel, which is why the Broadwell chips have been delayed.

     

    This is likely the fundamental reason why we haven't seen any new Macs for a while (apart from some very minor speed bumps).

     

    We will probably not see any new Macs until 4Q 2014. And it may be well into 2015 before we see Broadwell-equipped models for all Mac product lines since Apple doesn't release all new Mac product lines at the same time. Availability of new silicon is typically constrained by supply issues, and Apple typically handles this by staggering product line launches.

  • Reply 9 of 55
    mjtomlinmjtomlin Posts: 1,800member

    I think we'll see two versions of the A8, dual-core (A8) and quad-core (A8X). Quad-core processors in an iPhone are just not necessary when iOS makes so much use of other processors, including the GPU and ISP. iOS7+A7 proves that a dual-core system is still an extremely viable option.

     

    However, with Apple positioning the iPad in the enterprise, we will more than likely see a quad-core A8 that will run circles around anything competitors, including Intel, will be able to produce in terms of efficiency (performance per power consumption).

  • Reply 10 of 55
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,368member
    It's my understanding intel is already making chips in the 14 nanometer range. These TSMC chips are 20 nanometer?

    Intel is making a few smaller lower performance 14nm chips, just recently begun. But the majority of their 14nm production is well behind original estimates, by about two years! They've continually been delaying production. Quite frankly, 14nm is such a bear, that I was surprised that Intel announced, several years ago, that they would be continuing their two year tick tock cycle. It's at four years now, and running, as we won't know its second half of 2015 schedule which is now what they're are claiming, will be met until it's actually out.

    But, 22nm was delayed by six months as well, so we are really behind schedule. With TSMC now at 20nm, that's better than the majority of Intel's product lines. If TSMC comes out with 16nm for Apple's next september's production in 2015, they will be less than half a node behind.

    Intel is still claiming that 10nm will be on schedule, but I highly doubt that. Considering what we've seen in recent years, and with most microprocessor experts believing that 10nm is close to the end, I think that 10nm, which is still in the R&D stage, even though if Intel had been on schedule, it should be where they are now, I see many delays ahead for this too, Intel is now an entire node behind where they said they would be four years ago.

    What surprised me is that Intel is claiming on their production model roadmap that not only will they have 10nm, but 7 and even 5! I find this hard to believe, as they are presenting it as fact, even though most experts have significant doubts about 7, and many are skeptical about 5nm being achievable. We have to understand that the average atom is about .5nm in diameter, particularly the ones needed here, such as copper, silicon, etc. this means that a line that is 14nm wide is just 28 atoms wide, 10nm is 20, 7 is 14, and 5 is just 10 atoms wide.

    The problems that present themselves are lithography, which becomes exceeding more difficult. Some of the techniques used now are very clever, but won't carry down much below 14nm. Then we have the problem of the accuracy of the etching. If you look at a high magnification if a chip, you will see that structures are anything but smooth and even. They are bumpy and lumpy. This doesn't matter with larger structures, because those bumps and lumps are a small percentage of the thickness or width. But as line size becomes smaller, those discrepancies become a larger percentage of the feature, resulting in less predictable performance. This is a big problem.

    Then we have the quantum effects of tunneling, which is a major cause of leakage, though there are others as well. When a line is thick and wide, the electrons near the edges can tunnel out through the insulator, but the percentage is very small. But as line width and thickness becomes smaller, tunneling becomes a major issue. At some point soon, it will become unmanageable, as no materials or process techniques will be adequate to cut down on it enough. That's where the end comes.

    Will it be 10nm or 5nm? No one knows for sure. But once we're there, everyone will end up at the same node, giving no one a major advantage over another.
  • Reply 11 of 55
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,453member

    It does not matter what Intel is doing there chip designs are power hogs to begin with, they sited the reason for going to 14nm was to reduce power consumption by 30%, litho shrinks in the past were to get increase speed performance, well they hit the wall with that, it is now for size and power reductions. However, in Apple case they are shrinking to continue to increase performance as well as decrease power where possible.

     

    Unless Intel fundamentally changes their architecture they will continue to be power hogs. Apple would have stayed with the PPC if it was not for the fact they Freescale was not making any investments in it. It use far less power than a similar Intel design, but Intel got so far ahead of the performance curve and it power was equal to PPC for greater performance so Apple had not choose but make the move. But they have their own design processor now and are way ahead of the game than anyone else, which make Intel irrelevant.

  • Reply 12 of 55
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,368member
    neilm wrote: »
    Intel's current Haswell processors use a 22 nm process, whereas the forthcoming Broadwell is 14 nm. However Intel has been experiencing product yield problems with their 14 nm process, resulting in Broadwell's delay from mid-2014 to an estimated 4Q-2014.

    Which is more important, bragging rights to the smallest process size, or having a product to ship?

    That's an obsolete estimate, as it's been pushed back to second half of 2015.
  • Reply 13 of 55
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,368member
    I wonder if Apple is also looking at alternatives to Intel for OS X too in their lower end Macs? It's not my area of expertise but I would imagine an optional BTO Intel chip could be added for those who requiring to run VMs or Bootcamp (does anyone bother with Bootcamp these days given the speed of VMs?).

    If you need the full power of your graphics card, Bootcamp is still the only way to go. The same is true if you need all of your RAM.
  • Reply 14 of 55
    mpantonempantone Posts: 1,350member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by melgross View Post



    That's an obsolete estimate, as it's been pushed back to second half of 2015.

    Curiously, the Intel CEO recently promised 14nm Broadwell by the holidays (2014).

     

    http://www.pcworld.com/article/2156741/intel-guarantees-delayed-next-gen-broadwell-chips-will-be-in-pcs-this-holiday-season.html

     

    Is he lying? What would INTC shareholders say? (We realize that he was making a forward-looking statement.)

     

    Please provide a reference where it says that 14nm Intel is slipping to the second half of 2015.

  • Reply 15 of 55
    mjtomlinmjtomlin Posts: 1,800member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post





    I wonder if Apple is also looking at alternatives to Intel for OS X too in their lower end Macs? It's not my area of expertise but I would imagine an optional BTO Intel chip could be added for those who requiring to run VMs or Bootcamp (does anyone bother with Bootcamp these days given the speed of VMs?).

     

    We actually see Apple beginning to use lower-powered and much cheaper Intel CPUs for their low-end systems driving the cost and prices down. The CPUs used in these systems are more than adequate for casual computing use.

     

     

     

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Maestro64 View Post

     

    Unless Intel fundamentally changes their architecture they will continue to be power hogs. Apple would have stayed with the PPC if it was not for the fact they Freescale was not making any investments in it. It use far less power than a similar Intel design, but Intel got so far ahead of the performance curve and it power was equal to PPC for greater performance so Apple had not choose but make the move. But they have their own design processor now and are way ahead of the game than anyone else, which make Intel irrelevant.


     

    I honestly don't think Apple would've stayed with PPC. I think Apple (Steve Jobs) realized that they needed an "in" to the enterprise and switching to Intel was the path with the least obstacles. Regardless of how they compare to ARM, Intel CPUs have come a long way in efficiency starting with the Core line. The battery life of Apple's latest MacBooks is astonishing.

  • Reply 16 of 55
    MacProMacPro Posts: 17,985member
    melgross wrote: »
    If you need the full power of your graphics card, Bootcamp is still the only way to go. The same is true if you need all of your RAM.

    Right ... but a gamer would prefer a PC anyway surely, leaving most Mac users needing Windows as non gamers I would have thought ... thus my thought that VMware would suffice for the vast majority of Mac users needing Windows ... if you see what I mean. My new Mac Pro's Windows performance scores were pretty mind blowing. We've come a long way from the old emulation systems on OS 9 for sure! :D
  • Reply 17 of 55
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member

    Apple begins receiving shipments of A-series processors from TSMC


     

    These have to be perfect.



    Perfect.

     

    No BS like with nVidia where the card cuts out early in its life. Nothing.

     

    The iDevice lineup has to work.

  • Reply 18 of 55
    MacProMacPro Posts: 17,985member
    mjtomlin wrote: »
    We actually see Apple beginning to use lower-powered and much cheaper Intel CPUs for their low-end systems driving the cost and prices down. The CPUs used in these systems are more than adequate for casual computing use.

    Exactly and wouldn't their own chips, something akin to an A8 do the same job and help Apple make more profits? As I said, I realize that would be the end of running Windows ... not a great loss these days.
  • Reply 19 of 55
    auxioauxio Posts: 1,959member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post





    Right ... but a gamer would prefer a PC anyway surely, leaving most Mac users needing Windows as non gamers I would have thought ... thus my thought that VMware would suffice for the vast majority of Mac users needing Windows ... if you see what I mean.

     

    There are a fair number of apps other than games these days which take advantage of the GPU (most modern web browsers, for example).  Using the GPU under emulation is still pretty quirky.

  • Reply 20 of 55
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,453member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by mjtomlin View Post

     

     

    We actually see Apple beginning to use lower-powered and much cheaper Intel CPUs for their low-end systems driving the cost and prices down. The CPUs used in these systems are more than adequate for casual computing use.

     

     

     

     

    I honestly don't think Apple would've stayed with PPC. I think Apple (Steve Jobs) realized that they needed an "in" to the enterprise and switching to Intel was the path with the least obstacles. Regardless of how they compare to ARM, Intel CPUs have come a long way in efficiency starting with the Core line. The battery life of Apple's latest MacBooks is astonishing.


     

     

    That is because apple does power management far better than anyone else. Their very first laptop had better power management than some of the generic laptop on the market today. Power Management has been Apple shining star which no one notice. It is a the perfect example of when technology works so well you do not even notice it. Even today the same Intel process in competitor products do not get the same power performance as Apple and this has more to do with Apple than anything that Intel is doing to make things better.

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