Apple procures TSMC's entire supply of 3nm chips, insiders say

Shawn Knight

Posts: 14,815   +181
Staff member
In brief: Apple is reportedly going all in on TSMC's first-generation 3nm (N3) manufacturing process. Sources in the semiconductor supply chain told DigiTimes (paywalled, via MacRumors) that Apple has laid claim to 100 percent of TSMC's initial N3 supply. The contract manufacturer put its 3nm chips into mass production at the tail end of 2022 and has gradually ramped up output ever since.

At the going rate, sources anticipate output to reach 45,000 wafers in March.

Most expect Apple to utilize 3nm-based A17 Bionic SoCs in this year's higher-end iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max. If history is any indicator, the entry-level and mid-tier iPhones will get the A16 Bionic from the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max, which are made using 4nm process tech.

Next-gen MacBook Airs due out later this year could also ship with 3nm-based chips.

According to TSMC, its 3nm tech can offer up to a 15 percent speed improvement and up to 30 percent power reduction at the same speed compared to its N5 technology.

Late last year, Bloomberg's Mark Gurman claimed Apple was preparing to overhaul its 2023 iPhone lineup by replacing the flagship Pro Max model with a handset called the iPhone Ultra. If you recall, Apple launched a rugged version of its Apple Watch using the Ultra moniker back in September. A revised prediction suggests the iPhone Ultra won't arrive until 2024 but when it does finally drop, it will sit above the Pro Max as an entirely new edition.

An iPhone Ultra could offer exclusive features and specifications not found on lower-tier models such as a higher quality display, an even faster processor with access to more memory, an improved camera system, premium build materials with enhanced durability or higher storage capacity options. Apple could also use it to experiment with forward-looking features like a portless design that relies entirely on wireless charging, or even a foldable design.

Either way, you can bet it will carry a premium price tag. For reference, the iPhone 14 Pro Max starts at $1,099.

Image credit: Maxence Pira, The Registi

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kira setsu

Posts: 567   +581
I dont understand fabs.

so is there only 1 type of 3nm chip that fits all tech or do they mean apple bought all of the manufacturing capacity so they can only build chips of apples design @ 3nm?
 

Bullwinkle M

Posts: 911   +815
"According to TSMC, its 3nm tech can offer up to a 15 percent speed improvement and up to 30 percent power reduction at the same speed compared to its N5 technology."
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Hmmmmmmmmm

I wonder how they get a 15% "speed improvement" @ the "same speed"

Please explain further
(inserts other foot)
 

yRaz

Posts: 5,322   +7,205
"According to TSMC, its 3nm tech can offer up to a 15 percent speed improvement and up to 30 percent power reduction at the same speed compared to its N5 technology."
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Hmmmmmmmmm

I wonder how they get a 15% "speed improvement" @ the "same speed"

Please explain further
(inserts other foot)
more smaller = more density = more transistors = more instructions per clock
I dont understand fabs.

so is there only 1 type of 3nm chip that fits all tech or do they mean apple bought all of the manufacturing capacity so they can only build chips of apples design @ 3nm?
the second one. What puzzles me is that over all chip shipments are down, people aren't upgrading and Apple managed to snag ALL their 3nm capacity? Apples new chips are pretty incredible but I don't think there is enough market incentive for Apple to MAX OUT TSMC's 3nm capacity.

So either they're going to try to resell unused manufacturin(like nVidia had to do when they tried reducing chip supply with the 40 series) at a profit, stalling AMD's move to 3NM will incentive people to buy Macs or they honestly think their chips are so good that they will sell everything TSMC can put out
 
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neeyik

Posts: 2,752   +3,335
Staff member
more smaller = more density = more transistors = more instructions per clock

the second one. What puzzles me is that over all chip shipments are down, people aren't upgrading and Apple managed to snag ALL their 3nm capacity? Apples new chips are pretty incredible but I don't think there is enough market incentive for Apple to MAX OUT TSMC's 3nm capacity.

So either they're going to try to resell unused manufacturin(like nVidia had to do when they tried reducing chip supply with the 40 series) at a profit, stalling AMD's move to 3NM will incentive people to buy Macs or they honestly think their chips are so good that they will sell everything TSMC can put out
When the likes of TSMC says "more performance for the same power" they're referring to clock speeds.

tsmc-finflex-june-2022_575px.png
 

dangh

Posts: 986   +1,651
I dont understand fabs.

so is there only 1 type of 3nm chip that fits all tech or do they mean apple bought all of the manufacturing capacity so they can only build chips of apples design @ 3nm?
What is here to not understand? Blocking competition from technology is the best Apple innovation...
 

neeyik

Posts: 2,752   +3,335
Staff member
I replied with an increase instructions per clock due to the die shrink
Which is still not what TSMC is talking about. Regarding Bullwinkle M's query, the performance gains stated are purely from clock speed increases. Besides, using a smaller process node has no direct bearing on a processor's instruction per clock rate -- take AMD's Vega 10 and Vega 20 GPUs, as an example. The former was manufactured on GlobalFoundries 14nm node, whereas the latter used TSMC's N7, yet they have exactly the same IPC per Shader Engine/Compute Unit.
 

WhiteLeaff

Posts: 183   +312
As always, Apple is the sole customer for TSMC's first wave of chips for risk production in each new manufacturing process, which is unsurprising. However, other companies are unlikely to release 3nm products anytime soon.
 
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kiwigraeme

Posts: 1,589   +1,147
This is probably a good thing - Apple/TSMC probably work really well together - ironing out the kinks - Apple able to fund sizeable production runs.

Who should be worried ? Samsung - well their foundry company just needs to get cracking on - think vaguely they are promising big advancements

Base Ipads good value - won't change

as for gamers - nah they want PCs , steam decks etc
Most phones are fast enough - most buyers want cheaper phones outside Samsung/Apple

Nah the interesting question - if less power hungary - will Apple do it's usual to make battery smaller again - past actions say Yes - they love doing that - none of the iPhone users really care for a 5 day phone
 

Random Commenter

Posts: 19   +13
Then you are describing a 15% "PERFORMANCE" improvement at the same clock speed

The speed remains the same

Words have meanings
I read this as a compound statement, although ambiguously written.

1. It can achieve higher speeds.
2. It uses 30 less power (than 5nm?) when running at the same speed.
 

Lounds

Posts: 1,359   +1,317
Maybe they're hedging their bets on this XR headset or whatever it'll be called. More chips = lower price per chip = more profit.
 

Darth Shiv

Posts: 2,354   +874
"According to TSMC, its 3nm tech can offer up to a 15 percent speed improvement and up to 30 percent power reduction at the same speed compared to its N5 technology."
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Hmmmmmmmmm

I wonder how they get a 15% "speed improvement" @ the "same speed"

Please explain further
(inserts other foot)
They mean they can achieve 15% higher performance (presumably there is clock rate increases as part of that) but when comparing power usage, you use the original clock rate to compare efficiency of the architectures.
 

hahahanoobs

Posts: 4,835   +2,781
Apple gets access to N3B. The first and least optimized node and not IP compatible with N3E which means most customers will wait for that.

N3 consists of 5 variations:
N3B, N3E, N3P, N3X and N3S
 

Tams80

Posts: 203   +153
"According to TSMC, its 3nm tech can offer up to a 15 percent speed improvement and up to 30 percent power reduction at the same speed compared to its N5 technology."
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Hmmmmmmmmm

I wonder how they get a 15% "speed improvement" @ the "same speed"

Please explain further
(inserts other foot)

Because processing speed and power consumption are not linear. It's harder to increase the processing power than it is not make the existing processing power more power efficient.
 

CapNemo72

Posts: 34   +64
Well, Apple has that kind of cash because they make their customers pay to upgrade from 512Gb to 1Tb 200USD (or worse from 256Gb to 512Gb for the same 200USD!! Logic be damned) which costs them around 15 USD.
The margins they have on upgrades are insane, and the way they configure their basic models is that often you are pushed to go for more RAM or more SSD.

They can afford to be overpriced by TSMC because they make their customers pay that and then some.
Intel, AMD, and Nvidia do not have that kind of margin on all of their products and thus can not go in bidding for the first run of the new tech. Intel, the big Intel will have to wait almost one year before they can get their hands on 3nm!
 

Bullwinkle M

Posts: 911   +815
get a 15% "speed improvement" @ the "same speed"Because processing speed and power consumption are not linear. It's harder to increase the processing power than it is not make the existing processing power more power efficient.
Your comment is completely unrelated to the topic at hand

Maybe this will explain it better >

Pick the least inaccurate statement

(A) Now with a 15% higher speed @ the exact same speed
(B) Now with a 15% better efficiency level @ the same level of efficiency
(C) Now with a 15% lower operating temperature @ the exact same temperature
(D) None of the above

Hint:
If you still can't figure it out, the correct answer is (D)

Regardless of what you heard, words "STILL" have standard meanings
 
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Darth Shiv

Posts: 2,354   +874
Your comment is completely unrelated to the topic at hand

Maybe this will explain it better >

Pick the least inaccurate statement

(A) Now with a 15% higher speed @ the exact same speed
(B) Now with a 15% better efficiency level @ the same level of efficiency
(C) Now with a 15% lower operating temperature @ the exact same temperature
(D) None of the above

Hint:
If you still can't figure it out, the correct answer is (D)

Regardless of what you heard, words "STILL" have standard meanings
(A) Is possible if the architecture becomes more efficient PER CYCLE. The wording you used is clumsy and not representative of how it actually works. IPC = instructions per cycle is the average instructions processed per clock cycle. This generally goes UP with architectures. In the Pentium 4 for example, it went DOWN a LOT which is why P4 had a lot of issues as they decided to introduce shorter pipeline stages for clock rate increase but lost IPC from LOTS of pipeline stalls.

The rest of your cases are nonsensical as you clearly didn't understand the terminology correctly in the first place and the distinctions they were making.

"According to TSMC, its 3nm tech can offer up to a 15 percent speed improvement" referring to the overall processor offerings. This was a distinctly different point to the second half of the sentence "and up to 30 percent power reduction at the same speed compared to its N5 technology" which is clearly just talking about relative power efficiency.

The sentence structure is SLIGHTLY ambiguous and YOU chose to interpret it the way that makes no sense.
 

Bullwinkle M

Posts: 911   +815
The rest of your cases are nonsensical as you clearly didn't understand the terminology correctly in the first place and the distinctions they were making.

The sentence structure is SLIGHTLY ambiguous and YOU chose to interpret it the way that makes no sense.
I chose to interpret the sentence structure exactly as it was stated

If you wish to make a case that there is a 15% uplift in IPC @ the same clock speed, then you should state it that way

"a 15% uplift in IPC @ the same clock speed"

Until you can clearly state it so that it can be understood the way you meant it, the correct answer is

(D) None of the above
 

Darth Shiv

Posts: 2,354   +874
I chose to interpret the sentence structure exactly as it was stated

If you wish to make a case that there is a 15% uplift in IPC @ the same clock speed, then you should state it that way

"a 15% uplift in IPC @ the same clock speed"

Until you can clearly state it so that it can be understood the way you meant it, the correct answer is

(D) None of the above
No you didn't. "and" can and often does mean two unrelated points.