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Intel to utilize TSMC 3nm technology as it struggles to move to 7nm process, says report

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What you need to know

  • Intel and Apple will reportedly be the first adopters of TSMC's 3nm chip manufacturing technology.
  • TSMC claims that chips built with the 3nm process will perform up to 15% better and use up to 30% less power than those made with 5nm tech.
  • Intel famously had to delay its move to 7nm technology.

Intel and Apple will be the first adopters of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.'s (TSMC) 3nm chip technology, according to a report by Nikkei Asai. Several sources told Nikkei Asia that commercial output of the chips should start in the second half of 2022. Intel will reportedly work with TSMC to make CPUs for notebooks and data centers using the 3nm process.

Intel has famously delayed its move down to smaller nanometer technology. Recent reports suggest that the company's 7nm Meteor Lake chips are set to be released in 2023. By working with TSMC, Intel can move to chips made with a 3nm process while it works on improving its own technology.

AMD, which competes with Intel in the computing space, is reportedly set to use TSMC's 5nm technology for notebook processors in 2022.

3nm refers to the measurement between transistors on a chip. Generally, smaller gaps indicate better processors.

TSMC claims that 3nm technology can improve computing performance by between 10% and 15% over 5nm tech. The technology also reduces power consumption by between 35% and 30%, according to TSMC.

Nikkei Asia's sources indicate that Apple's iPad will likely be the first device powered by chips made with 3nm technology. While Apple's hardware may be the first to run on the new chips, a source told Nikkei Asia that Intel may order more of the new processors, "Currently the chip volume planned for Intel is more than that for Apple's iPad using the 3-nanometer process."

Intel confirmed that it is working with TSMC for its 2023 product lineup to Nikkei Asia but did not specify which process will be used in that project. TSMC and Apple have not shared comments on the story at this time.

Our sister site iMore covers the same news with an emphasize on how it affects Apple's hardware.

Sean Endicott
Sean Endicott

Sean Endicott is the news writer for Windows Central. If it runs Windows, is made by Microsoft, or has anything to do with either, he's on it. Sean's been with Windows Central since 2017 and is also our resident app expert. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at sean.endicott@futurenet.com.

14 Comments
  • Intel has no choice but to pay the premium to be the first in line alongside Apple for 3 nm. As if AMDs computex claims pan out then (most likely they will). With Genoa and Bergamo looming over Intel. So they had to make drastic moves or risk getting their ashes turned into fine particles by AMD. Given that Sapphire rapids is delayed again to 2022 (second half or so).
  • I find difficult to understand how they can outsource 3nm production to TSMC and in the meantime developing their own 7nm node which will be released together or even later.
  • I too would like this explained.
  • I assume it's because they have a different methodology of chip design that they're struggling to further minimize. I think outsourcing to TSMC is seen as more of a stopgap until Intel can get their own fabs down to 7 and 3 nm. Intel needs to still produce at least some chips within the US for government and defense customers. I imagine the plan is to continue running government stuff in the US and consumer stuff through TSMC until they can improve their own manufacturing domestically.
  • @Francesco Brenna to add what Hanley Gibbon has said. Look at it this way, by doing this Intel doesn't have all their eggs in one basket.
  • Intel and TSMC measure things differently too. What Intel is calling 7nm is not the same as what TSMC is calling 7nm. So there may be less of a difference than what that apparent gap would suggest between Intel's 7nm node and TSMC's 3nm node.
  • Try this: there is more to the semiconductor/CPU markets (plural) than the high end PC business. Even in the PC business there is big money in the "less capable" Atoms, Celerons, and Pentiums. If anything, there might be more money (certainly more customers, globally) in second and third tier product lines. In fact, back in the day that is what kept AMD afloat.
    Intel has sunk a lot of time and money in their tech and they need to recoup as much of it as possible, even if they can't charge a premium for those chips. They'll find plenty of customers.
  • Outsourcing will bring its own problems! It is very concerning to me that Intel cannot fabricate anything close to Amd (of which I am glad of course)... Rest assured AMD nailing 7nm, will bring them that much closer to a 5/3nm process... Intels complacency has cost them generational leaps in fabrication technology, along with the obvious performance benefits and reduced energy consumption they provide, from which amd is now reaping the benefits :)
  • @PortsideTWD Complacency and Greed is what has gotten Intel where they are now. If you look at the historical patterns both AMD and Intel have had their ups and downs. However, what's different now is the rapid cycle of technology as several decades ago for example news was not 24 hours, most common medium was newspapers, word of mouth and social media didn't exist - nor did the Internet as we know it exist. Now, with 24 hours news and social media - something that happens on one side of the planet can become a global phenomenon in less than a few hours.
  • How can TSMC do so much for so many companies? 😅
  • Awesome. I honestly don't care who's making the chips or who owns the patents for what, so long as consumers win.
  • I don't care much either as long as it's a company based in the US or in one of our allies. Taiwan counts as an ally as long as we don't let China take it over as they would like to.
  • @GraniteStateColin the old fashion mentality of national security advantage is what got us into the is mess. As that mentality does not discriminate, it's prevalent across the board. Along with the greed of Corporations as they were far too happy farming out everything to China. What else did the expect, the chinese would sit back and be exploited as factory labourers? Hell no. They were going to take advantage of the technical know how that was thrust upon them by making the products for everyone else. Anyone else would have done the same. Folks need to seperate people from governmental policies, the CCP is the problem not the general population. It's the CCP that is responsible for the human rights abuses of their own people and other ethnicities. On balance, colonialism is also responsible for human rights abuses of their own people and other ethnicities. People cannot pick and choose what to be morally outraged about - that's just hypocritical. People should be disgusted and morally outraged by human rights abuses whereever it takes place. Right now, that's the CCP and cultural genocide of the Uighurs and Israeli Government's systemic, oppressive, apartheid regime upon Palestinians. Then you have treatment of Rohingya's by Myanmar's military. As well as the systemic racisim and incarceration of black people in the US. Furthermore, slavery as a forms of punishment is still legal in the US. So it's only natural, the Black Lives Matter movement will have solidarity with Palestinians. Due to the systemic oppression and violent policies mandated by the israeli government. At the end of day, we're all people, we all inhabit this one planet and if people do not get out of this isolationist mentality. Factionism is going to rise and we all know how that went. Needless loss of lives during WWI and WWII as well as all conflicts before, between and current.
  • If you can't make it, buy it.