Samsung’s new technology sounds small, but is a major world first

Samsung says yes started mass production of faster and more efficient chips based on the 3 nanometer process, making it the first company in the world to do so and gain a market leadership position over key rival TSMC. Samsung uses the new GAA (Gate-All-Around) technology to create the 3nm chips, which brings some notable improvements to the table.

Take, for example, the current crop of mobile processors like the Tensor SoC inside the Pixel 6 series, which is based on Samsung’s 5nm process node. Compared to the 5nm process, Samsung says the first-generation 3nm process upgrade will provide a 23% jump in performance while consuming 45% less power. As refinements take place over time and the second-generation 3nm process is developed, performance gains will reach 30%, while energy efficiency will increase to 50%.

Samsung is launching the first application of the nanosheet-transistor with semiconductor chips for high-performance, energy-efficient computing applications and plans to expand to mobile processors.

— Samsung Semiconductor (@SamsungDSGlobal) June 30, 2022

Samsung is initially targeting the 3nm-based chips at customers with “high performance, low power computing applications” and will eventually expand to mobile processors. However, the company has not said when the first mobile SoC based on the 3nm process will make its way to a smartphone or PC.

Why bother about nanometers?

When it comes to processors, the nanometer rating advertised by chipmakers and consumer electronics brands broadly refers to the size of transistors. These transistors are the fundamental computing units for a processor, just as plant cells act as the individual power generating plants for plants. Modern processors have billions of transistors packed on a small wafer, which switch on and off via electrical signals to perform calculations.

Samsung GAA transistor architecture

The more transistors you can put on a chip, the more powerful it becomes. But for gadgets like a phone or a smartwatch, the space inside is scarce. To overcome the space limitation, transistors must be miniaturized. As the fabrication process decreases in nanometer size, the transistor density increases, providing more power while improving efficiency.

In a nutshell, the smaller the nanometer number for a chip, the higher its performance and efficiency. It is an important area of ​​development for key players such as TSMC, Intel and Samsung as they all compete to deliver more powerful products. Here, Samsung has just taken a remarkable lead.

What does Samsung have in the future?

Samsung’s chip foundry makes processors for its own gadgets, such as the Exynos 1280 chip in the Galaxy A53 5G, and provides chip manufacturing services to customers such as Google. So far, Samsung has not disclosed the name of the customers who will be using its 3nm chip manufacturing services.

While Samsung’s achievement is remarkable, the road ahead will not be easy, especially when it comes to bringing in wealthy customers like Apple and Qualcomm. Not only will Samsung have to undermine TSMC in terms of pricing, but it will also have to demonstrate that its 3nm chip manufacturing process is more efficient and can handle volume orders better than TSMC’s own 3nm offering, which is expected to enter mass production in the second half of 2022. In addition, TSMC currently has plans to make 2nm chips by 2025.

As nodes shrink and performance needs grow, IC designers face challenges in processing massive amounts of data to verify complex products with more features and tighter scalability.

— Samsung Semiconductor (@SamsungDSGlobal) June 30, 2022

Samsung’s own Exynos chips have sometimes failed to match the power of competing processors from TSMC for years, despite the nanometer-scale manufacturing process. But Samsung has been making positive strides lately. Last year, the company announced plans to pump $132 billion into its logic chip and foundry business by the end of 2030. AMD’s expertise in making GPUs for its mobile processors, giving them an extra touch of graphical grunt to handle demanding tasks like games. It remains to be seen whether 3nm is finally the territory in which Samsung can overtake, or even surpass, TSMC.

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