Apple and Intel will be the first to adopt the N3 (3-nm) manufacturing process from Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) when the contract manufacturer of chips launches in late 2022. Nikkei Asia news agency reported on Friday. Intel is expected to use the technology to make CPUs for PCs and servers, while Apple will use the node for its system-on-chips for client devices.
Apple and Intel are currently testing their chip designs made with TSMC’s N3 process, according to a Nikkei Report quoting several people with expertise. Given that N3 will “officially” go into risk-production mode in the coming weeks and the news agency’s information is accurate, we can speculate that Apple and Intel have already completed their N3 CPUs and SoCs. However, it is unclear whether they have functional silicon. Commercial production of these chips is expected to begin in the second half of 2022.
Intel should prepare at least two products to be manufactured with TSMC’s N3 node: one for notebooks, one for servers. Details on these processors are not yet available, but Intel has already inadvertently confirmed it Xeon SoCs manufactured by TSMC geared towards various niche markets. Intel confirmed months ago that it would be working with TSMC on its 2023 products, but will not reveal any details.
Earlier this year, Intel promised that its code name Meteor Lake and Granite Rapids processors for client PCs and high-end servers that are to be manufactured with the company’s own 7 nm manufacturing technology, should come onto the market in 2023.
The report also says Apple will use its N3 SoC for its iPad tablets, which are expected in late 2022 or early 2023. When you consider that Apple’s latest iPad Pros use the same SoCs as the company’s entry-level and mid-range Macs, there’s a chance the first N3 SoC will find its way into PCs as well. The following N3-based devices from Apple are used for smartphones. Apple didn’t comment on the story.
TSMCs N3 manufacturing process is the company’s brand new node that offers a complete node PPA (Performance, Power, Area) improvement over N5. The Foundry promises a performance increase of 10 to 15% (with the same performance and number of transistors), up to 30% reduction in performance (with the same clocks and complexity), up to 70% gain in logic density and up to 20% SRAM density gain. N3 will aggressively use extreme ultraviolet lithography (EUVL) for “over 20 layers”, ASML once said.
At its latest technology symposium, TSMC confirmed that N3 will support both smartphones and high-performance computing (HPC) applications from the start, so the company will offer both high-performance and high-density libraries with the Node. Such libraries will allow companies like Intel to maximize the performance of their CPUs while SoC designers can add more functionality to their products.