TSMC to Start Mass Production of 28nm (A6) Chips in Early 2012, Hinting at iPad 3 Launch in Q1 2012

Submitted by lalit on September 9, 2011 - 8:08am.

Apart from the ongoing lawsuit problems between Samsung and Apple, one of the main reasons behind Apple’s switch to TSMC (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company) was their 28nm process technology for manufacturing ARM based chips. Till now Samsung has manufactured Apple’s A4 and A5 chips, but as anyone who has seen both the chip would know that A5 chip is almost double the size of A4 chip. The size difference is because both the chips are made with 40nm process technology, even though the A5 chip has dual core Cortex A9 processor and dual core PowerVR graphics engine, in place of single core process and graphics engine on A4 chip.

Apple’s next generation A6 processor will not only further increase the number of cores to 4 for both CPU and graphics, but also increase the size of cache on the chip, which would result in even bigger chip if they continue to use Samsung’s 40nm process technology. Samsung has announced that they will start using 28nm process for chip manufacturing soon, but they haven’t even started testing yet, whereas Apple and TSMC have already completed testing and are planning for production of A6 chips.

In fact, Digitimes is reporting that Shang-yi Chiang, VP of R&D at TSMC claimed that the company has received enough orders to fully utilize its 28nm production capacity. Indicating that not only Apple but also other companies like Qualcomm and NVIDIA have placed orders for 28nm chip. All the ARM chipmakers are moving to 28nm process technology because chips made with 28nm process offer between power efficiency, lower heat generation, significant performance gains and the overall size advantage. TSMC will start mass production of 28nm chips in first quarter of 2012.

It is rumored that Apple will use ultra-high resolution display (2048 x 1536) in iPad 3 and to power that kind of resolution they will definitely new a more powerful graphics engine than the one found on A5 processor (PowerVR SGX 543MP2). Apple will most definitely go for a quad-core graphics engine in A6 processor and the new A6 chip will be based on 28nm process technology to meet the size and power requirements.

This would mean that we wouldn’t see an iPad 3 launch before first quarter of 2012, even though there are rumors that Apple will introduce iPad 3 before holiday season this year.