[News] A battle on 4nm: AMD Teams Up with Samsung, while Google Weighs Supplier Split

2023-11-14 Semiconductors editor

Rumors swirl around AMD’s upcoming chip architecture, codenamed “Prometheus,” featuring the Zen 5C core. As reported by TechNews, the chip is poised to leverage both TSMC’s 3nm and Samsung’s 4nm processes simultaneously, marking a shift in the competitive landscape from process nodes, yield, and cost to factors like capacity, ecosystem, and geopolitics, are all depends on customer considerations.

Examining yields, TSMC claims an estimated 80% yield for its 4nm process, while Samsung has surged from 50% to an impressive 75%, aligning with TSMC’s standards and raising the likelihood of chip customers returning. Speculation abounds that major players such as Qualcomm and Nvidia may reconsider their suppliers, with industry sources suggesting Samsung’s 4nm capacity is roughly half of TSMC’s.

Revegnus, a reputable X(formerly Twitter) source, unveiled information from high-level Apple meetings, indicating a 63% yield for TSMC’s 3nm process but at double the price of the 4nm process. In the 4nm realm, Samsung’s yield mirrors TSMC’s, with Samsung showing a faster-than-expected yield recovery.

Consequently, with Samsung’s significant improvements in yield and capacity, coupled with TSMC’s decision to raise prices, major clients may explore secondary suppliers to diversify outsourcing orders, factoring in considerations such as cost and geopolitics. Recent reports suggest Samsung is in final negotiations for a 4nm collaboration with AMD, planning to shift some 4nm processor orders from TSMC to Samsung.

Beyond AMD, the Tensor G3 processor in Google’s Pixel 8 series this year adopts Samsung’s 4nm process. Samsung’s new fabs in Taylor, Texas, sees its inaugural customer in its Galaxy smartphones, producing Exynos processors.

Furthermore, Samsung announced that U.S.-based AI solution provider Groq will entrust the company to manufacture next-generation AI chips using the 4nm process, slated to commence production in 2025, marking the first order for the new Texas plant.

Regarding TSMC’s 4nm clients, alongside longstanding partners like Apple, Nvidia, Qualcomm, MediaTek, AMD, and Intel, indications propose a potential transition to TSMC’s 4nm process for Tensor G4, while Tensor G5 will be produced using TSMC’s 3nm process. Ending the current collaboration with Samsung, TSMC’s chip manufacturing debut is anticipated to be delayed until 2025.

Last year, rumors circulated about Tesla, the electric vehicle giant, shifting orders for the 5th generation self-driving chip, Hardware 5 (HW 5.0), to TSMC. This decision was prompted by Samsung’s lagging 4nm process yield at that time. However, with Samsung’s improved yield, industry inclination leans towards splitting orders between the two companies.