TSMC plans to outrace Global Foundries and Samsung to 16nm FinFET chips, and they expect to have them in silicon by the end of the year. Don’t get too excited yet, though, as that still means we’re at least another year and a half away on top of that, until we actually see devices with 16nm FinFET chips, and we still have to see the 20nm chips first, at which the next-gen Krait, Cortex A15, and perhaps even Tegra 5 will be made.
Nvidia also promised Tegra 6 will be made at 16nm FinFET (they are TSMC customer), but we won’t see that until 2016. TSMC also has plans for 10nm chips, and utilizing EUV (extreme ultra-violet) litography, but that seems to pose some challenges for now, so they are also researching e-beams in parallel. TSMC founder believers Moore’s Law should last us at least another 7-8 years:
“It looks like we have another 7 to 8 years ahead in advances — maybe more — we can see in technology down to 10 and even 7 nm,” said Morris Chang, founder and chief executive of TSMC, speaking to a small group of press after a keynote here.
“Moore’s Law is going to go on and we will be there — if anyone pursues it, we will pursue it,” he told an audience of several hundred chip designers.
TSMC will have 20 tapeouts for its 20nm process this year (the regular kind, not the experimental 20nm FinFET process), and expects mass production for next year. According to them, a Cortex A57 chip at 20nm should be 40% faster than a Cortex A9 at 28nm, and at 16nm FinFET it should be 90% faster, all at the same clock speed.
If their EUV litography is ready for the 10nm process, they will get another 35% performance improvement over the 28nm Cortex A9, at the same power consumption, or a 40% increase in power consumption, at the same performance. What we’ll probably see is a compromise between the two, though.
What this increased competition between the foundries means, is that ARM chips will soon catch-up with Intel, at least on the mobile side. Intel’s Bay Trail Atom will be made at 22nm, and will be released at the end of the year, while next-gen ARM chips will be released at 20nm only a few months later (but the node is also slightly smaller, so a little ahead of Bay Trail). Plus, right now ARM chips like the Cortex A15 have significantly higher performance than Atom already, and the same ARM chips also tend to have much higher GPU performance.
TSMC, Global Foundries, and Samsung should become increasingly more dangerous competition, as their chips get to be made at around the same node and around the same time, and their ARM chips get higher and higher performance that is “good enough” for most people, while costing OEM’s much less than what Intel is charging, and with plenty of chip makers that OEM’s can select.