The iPhone 15 may land older 3nm processor tech as TSMC catches up to Samsung for 2nm in 2025

The makers of Apple’s iPhone chipsets, TSMC, will be expanding their portfolio with 2nm processors in 2025, the foundry announced in a press release it sent us detailing its presence at the 2022 North America Technology Symposium. Before that, however, TSMC will be stepping on Samsung’s toes with its own 3nm node development later this year.

The 3nm chips are likely destined for Apple’s iPhones as TSMC will be shipping them to customers in 2023. The 3nm node will be around with five major iterations until at least 2025, said TSMC and will enhance the power/performance ratio by various means like higher transistor density and adjustable voltages. 

Speaking of voltages, TSMC’s FinFlex toolkit will be present in its 3nm gear, letting Apple, Qualcomm, and all other customers to play around with different options for balancing the power draw and performance at will to land their sweet spot for cost efficiency.

  • TSMC FINFLEXTM for N3 and N3E – TSMC’s industry-leading N3 technology, set to enter volume production later in 2022, will feature the revolutionary TSMC FINFLEXTM architectural innovation offering unparalleled flexibility for designers. The TSMC FINFLEXTM innovation offers choices of different standard cells with a 3-2 fin configuration for ultra performance, a 2-1 fin configuration for best power efficiency and transistor density, and a 2-2 fin configuration providing a balance between the two for Efficient Performance. With TSMC FINFLEXTM architecture, customers can create system-on-chip designs precisely tuned for their needs with functional blocks implementing the best optimized fin configuration for the desired performance, power and area target, and integrated on the same chip.

TSMC 2nm processor specs

The 2nm node is more interesting, though. As the production process shrinks from the current 4nm/5nm flagship processors, the performance bumps become ever so negligible and the focus is on auxiliary features that chip designers tack on.

The new 2nm node, however, will be made with the fresh GAA FET (Gate All Around Field-Effect Transistors) technology that Samsung will use in 3nm chips as soon as this year. While TSMC will be a couple of years late to the GAA FET party, it promises up to 15% performance increase or up to 30% power consumption drop in the same footprint as 3nm chipsets.
  • N2 Technology – TSMC’s N2 technology represents another remarkable advancement over N3, with 10-15% speed improvement at the same power, or 25-30% power reduction at the same speed, ushering in a new era of Efficient Performance. N2 will feature nanosheet transistor architecture to deliver a full-node improvement in performance and power efficiency to enable next-generation product innovations from TSMC customers. The N2 technology platform includes a high-performance variant in addition to the mobile compute baseline version, as well as comprehensive chiplet integration solutions. N2 is scheduled to begin production in 2025.

In reality, customers opt for some combination of these options and we typically end up with well-balanced processors that are only marginally faster than their predecessors on benchmarks, yet run in a more stable and frugal manner.

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