updated 10:15 am EDT, Mon October 24, 2011
TSMC 28nm chips start up ahead of iPad, AMD, more
TSMC on Monday said it had started full-scale production of 28 nanometer chips. Designs that meet its criteria for Low Power (28LP), High Performance (28HP), and High Performance Low Power (28HPL) are all ready now with a High Performance Mobile Computing (HPM) due for later in the year. Even with the significant shrink down from the old 40nm process, it had gotten to full volume faster than before and with better yields of working chips.
In some cases, the smaller and more efficient chip process is already expected to lower power use by half, even as it increases performance.
Actual shipping products might not arrive until 2012, but TSMC has already identified NVIDIA and Qualcomm as some of the first customers that the public is likely to face. NVIDIA expects it to first show in future GeForce graphics cards and Tesla rendering systems. Qualcomm has already said 28nm is key to the Snapdragon S4, which should find its way into smartphones and tablets in up to quad-core versions.
AMD's next-generation processors and graphics should also be built on 28nm.
Not mentioned is what's rumored to be TSMC's most important new customer, Apple. Multiple tips have asserted that TSMC is making at least some A6 chips for the iPad 3 and, eventually, the iPhone 5. The quad-core part would not only be key to driving a major performance leap but to keeping an edge over NVIDIA. Its Tegra 3 (Kal-El) chip, destined for tablets like the ASUS Transformer Prime, is saddled with a 40nm process due to NVIDIA's rushed schedule and won't necessarily be as efficient or powerful as Apple's design.