Word is going around that Apple is preparing to dump Samsung and switch its chip production to Taiwanese foundry TSMC. X-bit Labs recites a new report that claims TSMC will start trial chip production for Apple in Q1 2013, using a 28nm process node.
TSMC will produce Apple A6X application processor with two Apple Swift general-purpose cores (believed to be derived from ARM Cortex-A15, ARMv7-compatible), PowerVR SGX 554MP4 graphics sub-system with four GPU domains as well as dual-channel LPDDR2 memory controller. According to Commercial Times, TSMC utilizes one of its 28nm process technologies to produce the system-on-chips for Apple, most probably HKMG-based CLN28HPL or CLN28HPM versions.
Since TSMC uses gate-last approach to high-K metal gate technology (HKMG), it is unlikely that the A6X chips produced using 28nm at TSMC will be considerably smaller [and hence cheaper to make] compared to A6X application processors made by Samsung Electronics using 32nm (32LP) fabrication process as the latter uses gate-first HKMG approach to minimize die size. Had Apple wanted to lower power consumption or improve performance of A6X, it would have chosen Samsung’s 28LPP or 28LPH manufacturing technologies, especially due to remarkably simple migration path from Samsung’s 32LP node. Considering the lack of major advantages TSMC can provide Apple at the moment, the production is just an experiment, which should show Apple advantages and disadvantages of working with TSMC in general.