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Apple has booked the initial production capacity of 4nm chips with long-time supplier TSMC for its next-generation Apple silicon, according to industry sources cited in a new report today from DigiTimes.

m1-4nm-feature2.jpg

From today's report:
Apple has already booked the initial capacity of TSMC's N4 for its new-generation Mac series, the sources indicated. Apple has also contracted TSMC to make its next-generation iPhone processor dubbed A15, built using the foundry's N5 Plus or N5P process node, the sources said.

TSMC is expected to kick off production for Apple's A15 chip that will power the upcoming iPhone 13 series by the end of May, the sources noted.
The latest Apple silicon, the M1 chip, is the first of its kind in the industry based on the 5nm process. The A14 Bionic chip in the iPad Air and iPhone 12 lineup is also based on the 5nm process. According to the report, Apple is already looking to the 4nm chip process for its next-generation Apple silicon.

A timeframe for when these new 4nm chips will debut isn't provided, but DigiTimes does report that TSMC will move to volume production of the new process in Q4 of 2021, ahead of the previously set 2022 timeframe. Additionally, Apple plans to use an enhanced version of the 5nm process for the A15 chip in the iPhone 13, with production set to get underway by the end of May.

The smaller process reduces the chips' actual footprint and provides better efficiency and performance. Apple's expected to launch multiple new Macs this year with more powerful Apple silicon chips; however, there's no indication that any will be based on the 4nm process.

Article Link: Apple Orders 4nm Chip Production for Next-Generation Macs
 
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acalegari

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Feb 21, 2019
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I wonder when we'll transition to pn (picometers) instead
The silicon atom is about 0.3 nanometers; A 10 nanometers process have a transistor with about 70 atoms. I guess we are reaching the very physical limit, and apple is light years ahead intel in that space. I don’t think can miniaturise much more than probably a 1 nm. Who knows though!
 

leman

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Aye but they will have their 7nm soon and Apple will be able to buy capacity there and make even more chips without relying on one supplier. And Intel 7nm != TSMC 7nm.

Intel 7nm is not coming in any reasonable quantities before 2023-2024... and it will probably be roughly comparable to TSMC 5nm at best. I am quite confident that TSMC will keep their process lead at least until 2025 or maybe even later...
 

Homme

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Aye but they will have their 7nm soon and Apple will be able to buy capacity there and make even more chips without relying on one supplier. And Intel 7nm != TSMC 7nm.

ok to correct your post

1. What the heck do you mean “soon”. It’s 7nm chips have been confirmed to be out in 2023 ( and most likely between now and 2023 there will be another delay) and bear in mind they were supposed to release a 7nm chip this year or last year instead of a huge delay like this (not surprising)


and secondly do not compare Intel with TSMC either even if Intel does release 7nm in 2023, TSMC has had 7nm since 2018 and I find it much harder for Apple to buy from Intel than TSMC especially since the principal company themselves did the stupidest of all stupidity and attacked Apple with ads before offering Apple to make they’re own ARM Processors, it’s unlikely Apple will do that move
 

leman

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and secondly do not compare Intel with TSMC either even if Intel does release 7nm in 2023, TSMC has had 7nm since 2018 and I find it much harder for Apple to buy from Intel than TSMC especially since the principal company themselves did the stupidest of all stupidity and attacked Apple with ads before offering Apple to make they’re own ARM Processors, it’s unlikely Apple will do that move

Intel and TSMC use different terminology, so TSMC's 7nm is said to be roughly equivalent to Intel's 10nm. It's all very confusing. Best treat node names just as names, with very little practical significance behind the numbers.
 

Homme

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Jun 17, 2014
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Intel and TSMC use different terminology, so TSMC's 7nm is said to be roughly equivalent to Intel's 10nm. It's all very confusing. Best treat node names just as names, with very little practical significance behind the numbers.

that maybe (and I understand the confusing part) but it’s still embarrassing anyway for Intel to see TSMC advance this fast within a matter of time unlike Intel in which I don’t have to explain a long list of crap but it’s gotten to a embarrassing point when they have to recently rely on TSMC themselves (as also shown on link)?
 
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leman

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that maybe (and I understand the confusing part) but it’s still embarrassing anyway for Intel to see TSMC advance this fast within a matter of time unlike Intel in which I don’t have to explain a long list of crap but it’s gotten to a embarrassing point when they have to recently rely on TSMC themselves (as also shown on link)?

Yeah, Intel has totally messed up their process schedule where TSMC was able to deliver reliable steady increments.


Can we deduct a launch window for the A1x chips rumored for the upcoming MacBook Pros with this?

The 4nm is most likely for the M2 series. I am sure we will see some more M1 family chips this year (between now and autumn).
 

Bug-Creator

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and apple is light years ahead intel in that space.

Ermmm, nope....

TSMC is about 1 or 2 generations ahead of the competition, which makes up for much of the performance/power advantage Apple has at the moment.

Add:

- ARM-ISA being better suited for long pipelined CPUs then AMD-64 (aka Intel)
- M1/A14 not supporting 32Bit (not sure, but wouldn't make sense since both iOS and macOS have been 64Bit-only for a while) removing some complexity
- a little bit of actual Apple magic in implementing stuff better
 

leman

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TSMC is about 1 or 2 generations ahead of the competition, which makes up for much of the performance/power advantage Apple has at the moment.

I think you might be underestimating the microarchitecture superiority here. The 5nm will give you what, 20-30% advantage at best? And yet Apple is able to match the performance of AMD's 5nm CPUs at 1/4 power consumption. You don't get to these kind of impressive figures by process advantage alone — extremely wide backend and deep out of order execution really shine on Apple Silicon.
 

Bug-Creator

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The 5nm will give you what, 20-30% advantage at best?

It will (should) give you lower currents needed to flip a bit and shorter signal paths allowing for lower voltages (and to reduce the pipeline while maintaining the same clock).

One could off course extrapolate the gains by going back to an A10 but that would also be guesswork.


The point I was trying to make is that none of the items can make up the difference on it's own.

Apple's design team being 4 times or "just" 2 times better then Intel/AMD just doesn't sound plausible so it must be a combination of the above and apart from the ARM vs AMD64 everything can be made up relatively quickly, and that doesn't even comes into play for other ARM based CPUs.
 
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manu chao

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Jul 30, 2003
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Yeah, Intel has totally messed up their process schedule where TSMC was able to deliver reliable steady increments.
This graph is from a year ago, but it clearly shows the long period Intel staid at 14 nm:

13402352-1587229500654763.png


Source: Seeking Alpha, y-axis is millions of transistors per mm²

This graph predicts that TSMC and Intel will move into a something like a parallel path by 2022 with each periodically leapfrogging the other. But those are of course mere announcements/predictions in regard to the timing (and there is some wriggle room as to defining what constitutes the availability of a new process node). Moreover, number of transistors per area naturally isn't the only relevant benchmark.

BTW, the 173 million transistors per mm² (the second highest TSMC line in this graph) corresponds to what Wikipedia sums up under '5 nm'. While the 97 mT/mm² TSMC number and 101 mT/mm² Intel number are listed there under '7 nm'.
 
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