TSMC reveals potential performance, power improvements in 'A14' chipset

Apple vendor TSMC detailed some of the performance or power improvements in its new 5nm chip manufacturing process, which is expected to be used in the “iPhone 12”.

The A14 chipset is rumored to be the first major Apple silicon to be based on TSMC’s 5nm process node, which will improve the performance or power efficiency of Apple’s flagship iPhones.

At its annual tech symposium, TSMC itself gave figures on how the new 5nm chips could improve on Apple’s past silicon. AnandTech provided a graph of improvements, based on these numbers.

Credit: AnandTech

The current A13 chipset is based on TSMC’s 7nm process node, represented by the designation N7. Category N5 represents TSMC’s 5nm process node, which is expected to be used in Apple’s A14 chipset.

Compared to the N7 A13 chip, an Apple A14 chip could be either 15% faster at the same amount of power or 30% more power efficient. It can also be somewhere in the middle. Apple, for its part, has historically focused on the energy efficiency of its iPhone processors. But what Apple does with these gains in Apple Silicon Macs remains to be seen.

According to AnandTech, TSMC also mass-produces 5nm chipsets at its production facilities. Apple’s next-generation system on a chip (SoC) – the A14 processor – is expected to be among the first candidates to use the new process.

TSMC also gave a future look at its 3nm chip manufacturing process, which could be 25% to 30% more energy efficient or 10% to 15% more efficient than the 5nm process. The chipmaker’s 3nm silicon is expected to go into production by the second half of 2022.

Of course, these numbers represent only material gains. Apple can further optimize performance or energy efficiency in iOS, or through hardware and software optimization.

Apple is expected to launch four iPhone models in 2020: the 5.4-inch and 6.1-inch “iPhone 12” models and the 6.1 and 6.7-inch “iPhone 12 Pro” devices. All are expected to sport a new square design, support for 5G, and other upgrades.

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