A while back, it was reported that AMD will continue to rely on TSMC’s N5 and N3 nodes for the next two generations of its CPUs and GPUs. The story came from JP Morgan’s Research on the foundry business which highlighted Intel’s growing reliance on external fabs, and TSMC’s near-dominance in the pure-play foundry sector. A new report from Business Korea claims the opposite. As per the outlet, AMD and Qualcomm are knocking on Samsung’s door to diversify their supply lines and lower reliance on TSMC.
This isn’t the first time such a report has popped up. A while back, the Taiwanese outlet DigiTimes had reported something similar. The early access to advanced foundry nodes, along with lower prices offered to Apple is something that may actually persuade AMD and Qualcomm to offload (at least) part of their production to Samsung’s 3nm GAA node. That is, if the production is sufficient, and yield rates are high enough.
TSMC has been hiking foundry prices across the board during the chip shortages. Furthermore, being the primary foundry of most US semi companies, it has seen its supply chain strained and stretched thin. As such, specific clients are preferred over the rest for the most advanced process nodes. A good example is the preferential treatment received by Apple over the past several years. The Cupertino-based giant got exclusive access to TSMC’s 7nm, 6nm, 5nm, and soon 4nm nodes ahead of virtually every other competitor.
This has forced chipmakers like AMD and Qualcomm to look towards Samsung for greener pastures. While the Korean foundry’s 5nm node was a mess, it looks like the next-gen 3nm GAA process may be much more stable and competitive. As such, AMD might leverage it to power its Zen 5-based products (following Zen 4 which will use TSMC’s 5nm/N5 process). It’s too early to confirm anything, but by the looks of its I’d say both AMD and Qualcomm are looking to diversify their supply chains for both, better profit margins and supply.
Qualcomm has already confirmed that it’ll produce its 1st Gen Snapdragon 8 SoCs using Samsung’s 4nm node. The fabless chipmaker was one of the few to leverage Samsung’s 5nm process for some of its flagship SoCs. Limited supply and yields, however, forced the company to switch to TSMC earlier this year.
AMD is also rumored to have reserved part of Samsung’s 4nm node for its low-volume Chromebook processors. Whether the partnership grows or fades will ultimately depend on TSMC’s 5nm supply (Intel, Apple, NVIDIA, Qualcomm, MediaTek are all stakeholders in the 5nm capacity) and the yield rates of Samsung’s own 3nm process.