According to reports from Asian media, Apple and Intel are going to be the first chipmakers to leverage TSMC’s cutting-edge 3nm node in late 2022/early 2023, granting them an advantage over rivals AMD and NVIDIA. At present, the foundry’s 5nm EUV (and its 4nm derivative) is the leading process node in the industry and is utilized almost exclusively by Apple.
The source claims that Intel and Apple are both testing their upcoming architectures on TSMC’s 3nm process node, with plans for mass production slated for the second half of 2022. The foundry’s 3nm node is expected to provide a performance jump similar to what the 5nm process offered over its 7nm predecessor. We’re looking at performance gains of up to 10-15% or efficiency gains of up to 30% at the same performance points.
This is interesting news as AMD, Intel’s primary rival in the PC and server market also uses TSMC’s advanced nodes for most of its lineups. However, at the moment, the chipmaker is still limited to its 7nm-class nodes, with 5nm products slated for launch sometime in late 2022.
This means that while AMD, TSMC’s long-term partner is being given second priority, Intel is being offered the foundry’s finest process in the very first major shift to an external foundry. It’s worth noting that the latter’s own 7nm node (comparable to TSMC’s 5nm node) is slated to begin mass production in 2023, and it’s very likely that the server parts will be fabbed by its internal foundries.
Interestingly, in a first, it’s also being reported that Intel’s 3nm share will be larger than Apple’s. Traditionally, the latter has always gotten preferential treatment from TSMC, primarily due to its heavy investments into the R&D of advanced technologies. If Intel’s getting a larger share than Apple, then it means it has negotiated a significant number of 3nm wafers for its consumer chips with plans to invest in future technologies as well.