Apple A17 Bionic and M3 May Use TSMC’s 3nm Turbocharged Process


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Apple A17 Bionic and M3 May Use TSMC's 3nm Turbocharged Process

news agency sources Nikkei Asia indicate that the A17 Bionic and M3 processors, expected to make up Apple’s 2023 chip portfolio, should use the turbocharged version of TSMC’s 3nm manufacturing process.

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Expected to be applied in consumer products next year, the technology would provide marked leaps in transistor density, energy efficiency and, above all, performance, and should ensure massive gains for the Cupertino giant’s platforms.

According to the information, both the platform for iPhones and the family of chips for Apple computers will be manufactured using the still unpublished N3E, the second generation of the 3 nm process from the Taiwanese foundry that promises not only advances in performance and efficiency, but even greater ease. of manufacturing.

According to industry sources, Apple could be one of the first to use 3nm N3E lithography, employing it in the chips of upcoming iPhones and iPads.

The report also points out that the giant would be the first to adopt the first generation of TSMC’s 3nm lithography, the N3, using it in the chips that should equip the next wave of iPads. It is unclear whether the tablets in question will be among the models expected for an event speculated for next month, but considering that rumors indicate that they are the iPad 10 with A14 Bionic processor, it is likely that the new reports refer to the upcoming iPad Pro and Air.

Furthermore, the sources Nikkei Asia reinforce other recent rumors that indicate that Apple should maintain the strategy adopted with the iPhone 14 and 14 Pro, to further isolate the two series. Apparently, the A17 Bionic should be exclusive to the more advanced models, while the basic devices will adopt a different platform, possibly the A16 Bionic, in case we see a similar strategy to the recently launched cell phone.

N3E is up to 34% more efficient than 5nm

N3 Enhanced, or just N3E, is the second generation of TSMC’s 3nm lithography, which promises to deliver good improvements to manufacturing technology, making it even easier and less expensive to use. In more technical terms, and compared to the 5nm N5 process — a family of which the 4nm N4 used in the A16 Bionic chip is also a part —, N3E could deliver 15% to 20% faster speeds using the same amount of energy, or maintain performance while consuming up to 30% less.

One of the most interesting features of the N3E is its support for TSMC FinFlex, a technology that gives engineers more flexibility by offering 3 transistor configurations (Image: TSMC)

The advances are significant even when compared against the N3, with the improved lithograph version being about 15% better in both metrics. That said, both generations will have an important novelty that should significantly affect the results obtained by chip developers: the TSMC FinFlex, name in reference to the transistor format currently used by the Taiwanese foundry, the FinFET.

With the creation of FinFlex, the manufacturer sought to offer engineers greater flexibility by providing three transistor configurations: 3-2 Fin, focused on offering maximum performance; 2-1 Fin, intended to provide maximum energy efficiency; and 2-2 Fin, which seeks to balance the two extremes. The method also innovates by allowing, within the same processor, different configurations to be used.

Source: Nikkei Asia