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TSMC and Imagination Working on 16nm FinFET Graphics Chip


TSMC will be be able to produce 20nm chips next year, and they should also be able to jump to 16nm FinFET a year after that (2015), closing almost completely the gap between them and Intel in process node technology. Nvidia has already promised that Tegra 6/Parker will be use FinFET technology, and since Nvidia usually uses TSMC as a foundry, then they should be using TSMC’s 16nm FinFET process, too, in 2015, when Tegra 6 is supposed to come out, and be their first 64 bit Denver chip with Maxwell graphics.

TSMC is also helping Imagination make a 16nm chip, and is already working on a 16nm FinFET reference board. Apple is also rumored to most likely use TSMC as a foundry, even though some rumors try to sidetrack us by saying Intel has a chance of getting Apple’s business. They do not. If anything, Apple is planting the news to get TSMC to lower the fees they are charging, or perhaps Intel thinks that by making this rumor public, it would somehow get community support to get Apple to make the contract with them. But this partnership between TSMC and Imagination gives us even more hints that Apple will be using TSMC, too. It would be much easier to have the whole Apple SoC (which includes Imagination’s GPU) to be made by the same foundry.


In the same time, let’s not forget that Imagination bought the MIPS CPU architecture, and they must have their own plans for a MIPS/PowerVR SoC. I don’t expect such SoC to come out for another 2 years or so, but that’s just about when TSMC should start shipping FinFET chips.

Imagination sees ARM as its main competitor in the long term, and I believe they would also like to one day become their main competitor in terms of architecture, too, which is why they’ve bought the MIPS CPU architecture, so one day they can license CPU’s and GPU’s, just like ARM. The chance  they’ll ever become a serious threat to ARM on the CPU side (they clearly dominate on the GPU side) is very small. However, I’d be glad to see competition not just between 2 main architectures, like the ARM one and Intel’s x86, but between 3 architectures, with MIPS included. This would only give us faster processors with more power efficiency and lower prices.

[Via ElectronicsWeekly]

About Lucian Armasu

Technology enthusiast and founder of technology news and articles website, TechDomino.com
  • Exophase

    “In the same time, let’s not forget that Imagination bought the MIPS CPU
    architecture, and they must have their own plans for a MIPS/PowerVR SoC.”

    Based on what?

    Both IMG and MIPS have been IP-only vendors for several years. When you merge two IP-only companies you are more likely to end up with one company that is still IP-only, not one suddenly making their own SoCs. And even as an IP-only company IMG would want to work with TSMC so they can provide hard-macros optimized for TSMC’s process. The source article even calls them reference design flows and silicon implementations, implying they’re to be licensed.

    • I don’t think Imagination bought a relatively “dying” architecture just to have a “patent/licensing cash cow”. They seem ARM as a big threat for them, ever since ARM started making their own graphics (Mali), and they probably believe in controlling their own future, and making their own CPU, too, instead of depending on whatever design quirks ARM puts in their architecture.

      For example ARM made it so Cortex A15 CPU’s and beyond work in a much more harmonious way with their Mali graphics, by sharing the cache. This is something AMD and Intel are working on, too, and it’s probably one of the reasons Nvidia is going to make a custom Denver CPU, too. This probably works a lot better/faster when you build the CPU and GPU yourself. Imagination must be thinking years ahead, and they don’t want to be left out. I for one welcome a third main (and popular) CPU architecture as an alternative to x86 and ARM. It will breed more competition, if Imagination can bring it to that point, that is. It might takes years more, though, since even the next-gen CPU’s after the proActiv ones are most likely part of the old pipeline, and Imagination won’t be able to change much about them.

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