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TSMC Likely to Secure Chip Orders from Apple with 20 nm SoC

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Digitimes research analyst Nobunaga Chai claims Apple will likely place an order with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) for an integrated AP/GPU solution using 20 nm SoC process technology.

TSMC aims to start early or "risk" production of 16 nm FinFETS in Nov. 2013
TSMC aims to start early or “risk” production of 16 nm FinFETS in Nov. 2013. Image credit EET.

Chai indicated that TSMC could now be working on engineering samples of Apple’s chips at 28nm although the foundry’s first chip orders from Apple are unlikely to happen in 2013.

The rumour of Apple shifting chip orders to TSMC from Samsung — as a result of their ongoing patent litigation – has been around for a while now, and some sources had already reported that the Taiwanese company had secured an order to manufacture Apple’s A6X chips in the first quarter of 2013.

The new 28 nm version of the A6X will power the upcoming generation of iPad and iPad mini devices, which are expected to be launched in the middle of this year, according to Chai, contradicting earlier rumours of a possible March launch. Fact is, Apple shuffled its product release cycle last year with the September launch of the iPhone 5, updating the iPad to the fourth generation in October alongside the introduction of the iPad mini.

However, Chai’s report suggests that another breakthrough product is on its way from Apple using TSMC’s 16 nm FinFET process, which is very similar to its 20 nm high-K metal gate SoC process.

Also, from what we’ve learned, the FinFET process will have the same leakage power characteristics as the 20 nm process on which it is based, but it will offer 35% higher performance and up to a 35% reduction in power consumption compared to the 20 nm technology.

Production is expected to start somewhere in November 2013, with the first breakthrough products shipping next year.

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