Skip to main content

3nm Apple Silicon: What Is It and Why Does It Matter?

Apple's custom silicon is expected to leap to 3nm, a next-generation manufacturing technique, later this year, but what exactly does the enhanced process mean for the company's next-generation chips?

Semiconductor fabrication is the process used to make chips. The "node" of the process is, in simple terms, a measure of the smallest possible dimension used in manufacturing, measured in nanometers (nm). The node of a chip helps to determine its transistor density, as well as its cost, performance, and efficiency.

The link to actual physical dimensions has become hazy in recent years as advancements have slowed and marketing has become more important, but it still broadly denotes how advanced the chip technology is.

What Nodes Does Apple Use Currently?

Apple made the last big fabrication process jump in 2020, when it moved to TSMC's 5nm process with the A14 Bionic and the M1 chip. Some chips, such as the S6, S7, and S8 in the Apple Watch have continued to use a 7nm fabrication process because they are based on the A13 Bionic – Apple's final 7nm chip designed for the iPhone.

Apple introduced the A16 Bionic chip with the iPhone 14 Pro and ‌iPhone 14 Pro‌ Max last year. Apple claims that it is a 4nm chip because it uses TSMC's "N4" process, but in reality it is made with an enhanced version of TSMC's 5nm N5 and N5P processes.

What Will 3nm Bring?

At minimum, 3nm should provide the biggest performance and efficiency leap to Apple's chips since 2020. The increased number of transistors that are made possible by 3nm allows the chip to perform more tasks simultaneously and at a faster rate, while using less power.

The next-generation production technique allows chips to use up to 35 percent less power while providing better performance compared to the 5nm process that Apple has used for all of its A- and M-series chips since 2020.

3nm chips could also allow for more advanced dedicated chip hardware. For example, a 3nm chip could potentially support more advanced artificial intelligence and machine learning tasks, as well as more advanced graphics capabilities.

Apple was rumored to have engineered a new CPU with ray-tracing capabilities for the A16 Bionic but scrapped the technology late in the A15 Bionic's development process, reverting to the CPU from the A15 Bionic. As such, built-in ray tracing support with the first 3nm chips seems highly likely.

It is worth noting that moving to a smaller chip size can also present some challenges, such as increased power density, heat generation, and manufacturing complexity. This is one of the reasons why major fabrication process leaps occur increasingly less often.

According to The Information, future Apple silicon chips built on the 3nm process will feature up to four dies, which would support up to 40 compute cores. The M2 chip has a 10-core CPU and the ‌M2‌ Pro and Max have 12-core CPUs, so 3nm could significantly boost multi-core performance.

When Are the First 3nm Chips Coming?

TSMC has ramped up its testing on 3nm production since 2021 but this year the technology is expected to be mature enough to be commercially viable. TSMC is expected to begin full commercial production of 3nm chips in the fourth quarter of 2022. The production schedule is believed to be going to plan.

Apple's order of 3nm chips is thought to be so large that it occupies TSMC's entire production capacity for the node this year. Recent reports suggest that the supplier is struggling to produce enough 3nm chips to meet demand for Apple's upcoming devices.

Analysts believe TSMC is having issues with tools and yield, impacting the ramp up to volume production of the new chip technology. There is a chance that some M3 devices maybe slightly delayed on account of these problems, but it seems unlikely that Apple would want to delay the launch of the A17 Bionic and iPhone 15 Pro models.

Once 3nm production is well established, TSMC will move on to 2nm. It is expected to start production on the 2nm node in 2025.

What Upcoming Devices Will Feature 3nm Apple Silicon Chips?

This year, Apple is widely rumored to introduce at least two chips made with TSMC's 3nm process: the A17 Bionic and the ‌M3‌ chip. The first devices containing the A17 Bionic are likely to be the ‌iPhone 15 Pro‌ and the ‌iPhone 15 Pro‌ Max, which are expected to launch in the fall.

The first ‌M3‌ devices are expected to include an updated 13-inch MacBook Air, 24-inch iMac, and iPad Pro. The ‌iPhone 15 Pro‌ and ‌iPhone 15 Pro‌ Max are the only devices rumored to contain the A17 Bionic chip, but it is likely to come to the iPhone 16 and ‌iPhone 16‌ Plus next year, and potentially other devices like the iPad mini and Apple TV in the years ahead.

Apple is working on multiple ‌M3‌ chips, codenamed Ibiza, Lobos, and Palma. Looking further ahead, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo believes that new 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro models coming in 2024 will feature ‌M3‌ Pro and ‌‌M3‌‌ Max chips.
This article, "3nm Apple Silicon: What Is It and Why Does It Matter?" first appeared on

Discuss this article in our forums

Source: TechRadar

Popular posts from this blog

Android 12 will bring the end of third-party share menus

Apps like Sharedr will no longer be able to replace the default share dialog. What you need to know Third-party apps will not be allowed to replace the Android share menu in Android 12. You will no longer be able to set apps like Sharedr as the default. Google says it never intended to allow third-party apps to replace the official Sharesheet. One of Android 12 's biggest highlights is the new Material You design language, which brings major changes to nearly every key UI component. Android 12 will also introduce a major change to the way users share links and photos, according to a report from XDA Developers . On Android 11 , Google allows third-party apps and OEMs to fully customize the Android Sharesheet, which is the reason why the share dialog differs from one app to another. It is even possible to completely bypass the official Android Sharesheet by setting an app like Sharedr as the default Sharesheet. In addition to providing a more consistent experience, Sharedr

The new Amazon Fire HD 10 is growing into a viable productivity tablet

An already good entertainment device finally gets productive. Amazon has been busy churning out a whole host of new devices and upgrades to existing devices over the past several months. Earlier this year, I reviewed the excellent Echo Buds (2nd Gen) , and even the fantastic Echo Frames (2nd Gen), have since been updated to include options with sunglass and blue light filtering lenses . In early May, we also learned that Amazon was refreshing the Echo Show 5 and Echo Show 8 and that it was even rolling out its first Echo Show for kids . While newer and more novel products like the ones mentioned above often see a faster update cycle, more mature devices like Kindle e-readers and Fire tablets go longer between new versions. In fact, the last update to the Fire HD 10 line was back in 2019, so, understandably, Amazon was ready to reinvigorate its flagship tablet. Not only did it update the specs and colors on the Fire HD 10, but it also gave us a second version in the Fire HD 10 Plu

Wondershare Photo Collage Studio

Wondershare Photo Collage Studio Studio integrated workshop create albums of your digital photos Yes with this program you can create Albums wonderful from your digital photos and keep them you can create albums stunning so wonderful additions distinctive not imagine it The program supports hundreds of templates and frameworks that can be used during the creation of your album from your digital photos and keep your album in a computer Create beautiful albums and you can add a lot through this program distinctive and you can with this program, add effects beautiful and can set the time to add effects and allows you to program import all image formats and also features a unique interface easier for the professional user and the novice to use this program if you want to view images through your computer, this program will add a great aesthetic touch to browse your photos through this program is a wonderful experience import all image formats

Save $30 on Echo Dot (3rd Gen) Kids Edition

Echo Dot (3rd Gen) Kids Edition Echo Dot (3rd Gen) Kids Edition, an Echo designed for kids with parental controls - Blue List Price: $69.99 With Deal: $39.99 You Save: $30.00 (43%) Designed with kids in mind - They can ask Alexa to play music, hear stories, call approved friends and family, and explore a world of kid-friendly skills. Buy from USA Buy from UK .