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TSMC Preparing To Manufacturer A6X Chip As Apple Looks to Ditch Samsung 172

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the about-that-lawsuit dept.
An anonymous reader writes with reports that TSMC is preparing to do a first test run of Apple's A6X chipset currently manufactured by Samsung. The TSMC manufactured chips will feature a process shrink from 32nm to 28nm, and there's a good chance Apple will grant them the contract for the next generation A7 chip. From SlashGear: "The test will kick off in Q1 2013, The China Times reports, with TSMC producing a new, 28nm version of the existing 32nm A6X that Samsung has been producing for the full-sized iPad 4th-gen; the smaller chip, which will likely be more power efficient as well, will debut in a new iPad 5th-gen and iPad mini 2."
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TSMC Preparing To Manufacturer A6X Chip As Apple Looks to Ditch Samsung

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  • by gaspyy (514539) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @12:10PM (#42450731)

    At first I thought this was a hyperbole or just some anecdote, but it seems to be a legitimate issue: https://discussions.apple.com/thread/4034848 [apple.com]

  • by JDG1980 (2438906) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @12:14PM (#42450751)

    This is slightly different. The same chip is being produced (it's Apple's design), it's just a different manufacturer. No doubt Apple will be paying per chip and not per wafer, so if anything does fuck up it'll be on TSMC's head. Plus it's not like TSMC doesn't know a thing or two about producing chips.

    Remember "bumpgate"?

    I don't really care what TSMC's wafer yields will be; that's Apple's problem. What concerns me is that TSMC may make faulty chips that break down over time, so that iDevices start to malfunction shortly after the 1-year warranty is up.

    TSMC's record is not encouraging. They totally screwed up the transition to 28nm according to both nVidia and Qualcomm. And it is that process on which Apple plans to build.

    Apple needs to focus on building good products, not screwing over their competitors.

  • by alen (225700) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @12:30PM (#42450917)

    A6 is already a 100% Apple design since they have an architecture license from ARM. one of the few companies that have it.

    as long as their design tools match up with TSMC's production they should be OK

    A5 and earlier chips were modified Samsung designs

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @12:43PM (#42451069)

    Apple demands "Do it for us cheaper or we go elsewhere!".

    Samsung are merely stating that if they aren't going to be generating goodwill from Apple by kowtowing to that demand, why the hell give them preferential prices on their product?

    Samsung may not be able to sell quite as many chips as if they had Apple on board, but they'll make more per chip because Apple isn't gouging their profit margins.

  • by _xeno_ (155264) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @12:51PM (#42451145) Homepage Journal

    Somewhat hilariously if you Google IPS image retention [google.com], you will find a ton of articles about the MacBook Pro Retina display problems.

    Including this one, that explains the problem is basically limited to MacBook Pros with LG displays [extremetech.com], instead of the Samsung displays some use. The Samsung display also has better contrast and proper color calibration that the LG panels lack.

    I can't help but find the whole thing hilarious.

  • by tlambert (566799) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @01:02PM (#42451247)

    The A6X puts everything else in the mobile industry to shame.

    http://images.anandtech.com/graphs/graph6472/51764.png [anandtech.com]
    http://images.anandtech.com/graphs/graph6472/51759.png [anandtech.com]

    The first graph is a masure of memory bus bandwidth; while this has historically sucked on ARM in general, and Apple has had the lead in this area because they started life with their own memory controller design replacing the one normally supplied by the ARM folks, this lead has been significantly narrowed in the Samsung Exynos line. There are still some optimizations to be had to match the A6X speed, but it's close enough that for an optimized pipeline, it's not going to matter as much as the graph shows. nVidia's ARM offerings still have pretty sucky memory bandwidth, as do the Qualcomm chips, like the SnapDragon series.

    The second graph measures the GL pipeline, and since the Linux stack moves copies of surfaces rather than GL over the user/kernel boundary, there's significant overhead in the protection domain crossing, as well as in amount of data being moved (which devolves, again, to the memory bandwidth issue).

    Unless you go direct GL across the user/kernel boundary, and run the surface processing entirely in kernel space, if you are doing software compositing, even in the case of 2D, which applies to the vast majority of surface transforms, since people simply do not watch YouTube videos on rotating cubes or on spheres, you are talking 3 protection domain crossings to get the data from user space to the GPU, process it in the GPU, bring it back to user space, and then push it again across the boundary to get it into the frame buffer.

    Basically you are comparing a graphics stack that sucks with one that generally doesn't, except under specifically defined circumstances (and in those cases DirectX beats GL in terms of reduced system vulnerability to unbounded texture processing for both the Linux and MacOS X/iOS stacks).

    Either way, the comparisons in those graphs are not straight apples-to-apples unless you happen to be running Android on all your devices, and so have the additional expensive-on-ARM copy and protection domain operations on all the platforms.

  • by poetmatt (793785) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @01:03PM (#42451259) Journal

    TSMC is at the forefront of producing chips, yes. The word that's not there is successfully. It's not entirely their fault, except that it is.

    Examples: http://www.bit-tech.net/news/hardware/2012/04/19/qualcomm-28nm-capacity/1 [bit-tech.net]
    http://www.extremetech.com/computing/130937-tsmc-still-struggling-with-28nm-qualcomm-and-nvidia-threaten-to-jump-ship [extremetech.com]

  • by cheesybagel (670288) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @01:41PM (#42451823)

    same chip is being produced (it's Apple's design), it's just a different manufacturer

    Tell that to AMD. They have been trying to outsource CPU manufacturing for years and they kept failing along the way. First AMD wanted to outsource to Chartered which was supposedly using the same manufacturing process (developed jointly by IBM, AMD, Samsung, Chartered) but it turned out they couldn't just trivially port their design over. Then they considered switching to TSMC. Another fail. They also considered switching GPU manufacturing from TSMC to GlobalFoundries after purchasing ATI. Yet another fail. The more low level optimizations the chip has the harder it is to port it. You don't just hit a compile button and then the thing magically works. Each manufacturing process has its own little details you have to work around in order for the design to be manufactureable and hit the right performance and power consumption targets.

  • by immaterial (1520413) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @01:54PM (#42451983)
    What alen referred to was an ARM architectural license, not a standard ARM license. To jump back to the Wikipedia link you posted previously (I can't find a specific list on ARM's own site) there are only six companies listed as architectural licensees:

    Companies can also obtain an ARM architectural license for designing their own, different CPU cores using the ARM instruction set. Distinct ARM architecture implementations by licensees include Apple's A6, AppliedMicro's X-Gene, Qualcomm's Snapdragon and Krait, DEC's StrongARM, Marvell (formerly Intel) XScale, and Nvidia's planned Project Denver.

  • by oztiks (921504) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @02:15PM (#42452249)

    Apple vs Samsung is only an issue in the USA.

    Your own logical conclusion is faded by the fact that Apple didn't invent mobile phones. Apple may of invented the market space but they don't get the right to patent a specific market space otherwise MS would of owned the IT industry years ago and none of this would be a point of contention.

    Company A supplies Company B with chips for Company B's products.
    Company A decides the money made off supplying parts is not enough and decides to compete with Company B directly by supplying products with very similar designs to Company B.

    PSST! America stop giving your IP Asian companies. As far as Apple vs Samsung is to the rest of the world, we are simply passing around the popcorn because most of the arguments shown between the two companies in other countries are either being thrown or setted / awarded for small fractions of the $1bn Judge Lucy Koh verdict. A citation to that sentiment must be the apology letter written by Apple addressed to Samsung over in the UK. It's a joke everywhere else except the USA why can't you see that?

    There are two key producers (other than big oil) that the US has to the rest of the world, Hollywood and Silicon Valley. Hollywood is not scalable because of what's been done with technology likewise with technology itself because the US chose to use Asian vendors to create the goods. Maybe you could try and bomb China to try to keep them in line but I really don't like your odds on that one but I think that's all what it boils down to here, control, nothing else. IP is just the glamoured excuse used in the press.

    Trying to use the law to patch up Pandora's box is not really going to do much other than perpetuate these inherent weaknesses. Kind of like putting a band aid on a ruptured artery. Samsung may of been sneaky business people but it was Apple's visionless greed that started and it's that very same visionless greed which is also perpetuating it and will also be responsible for it falling flat on it's ass.

    Change your stance and evolve / adapt around this or become one of the 1% (as they say). Eitherway, it doesn't look good for the average Apple using US citizen because they are just as much the victim as the factory workers at Foxconn. What is it now, six month product release cycles?

  • by X.25 (255792) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @02:50PM (#42452667)

    I've heard there are problems with some LG-make screens but not everyone is running into the store for an exchange. The nice thing is Apple is exchanging them if you notice a problem. I wouldn't call it a fiasco.

    I presume you've read this, then?

    https://discussions.apple.com/thread/4034848?start=0&tstart=0 [apple.com]

    You can start from page 420 (heh), and go backwards.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @07:44PM (#42456051)
    The fab is never "just a fab". The fab has their own design rules which are utilized by the layout tools for warnings, etc (things like lambda size, minimum widths, required delta distances, etc - it's been several years since I was laying anything out for fabrication). Besides the rules particular to the fabricator you'll also find rules particular to their process/technology. And beyond the design rule differences there can be other wrinkles between different fabs that affect a chip's layout and/or yield.

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