Is it true that the smaller the chip, the more advanced it will be?

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2022-08-09 02:26:09

Manufacturers of semiconductors for smartphones, TVs and other electronic devices love to show off the “power” of their components. They are proud that the chip they own can perform all the most complex functions, with an increasingly compact size.

This race is heralding major breakthroughs in the processing speed and power consumption of each chip, thereby helping manufacturers win many “fat” contracts.

However, the battle for dominance in the semiconductor industry seems to be plagued by some misconceptions, according to the WSJ. For many years, it was believed that the smaller the nanometer (the width between transistors on a chip) the more advanced, difficult, and expensive the chip would be to fabricate. However, new standards are being set by manufacturers for themselves.

Recently, Samsung Electronics held the world’s first 3 nanometer (nm) semiconductor chip shipment ceremony, thereby marking an important milestone in today’s most advanced chip manufacturing race.

This breakthrough is said to happen faster than rival TSMC of Taiwan (China), which is expected to bring Samsung many customers who are looking for powerful, fast and efficient chip products.

Samsung chip factory

However, while Samsung executives are busy celebrating this historic moment, TSMC and Intel semiconductor group don’t want to be left out. “Please don’t focus on the number 3′‘, said Jui-Lin Yang, consulting director at a research center with close ties to TSMC.

According to Harvard professor Willy Shih, it is still unclear whether Samsung’s 3-nanometer chip is better than TSMC’s 4-nanometer chip based on nanometer claims alone. Other factors such as computer performance and power consumption will need to be compared to reach a conclusion.

In response, Samsung declined to comment and compared its products with TSMC. The company says its latest chip has been vastly improved over previous products that used 5 nanometer processing technology.

The semiconductor industry has traditionally followed general metrological definitions, namely Moore’s Law. They predict that the number of transistors on a chip will double every year, then adjust to about every 2 years. Breakthroughs in chip size have made laptops, refrigerators and smartphones smaller.

Due to the intense level of competition, the number of companies pursuing the most advanced chip has dropped from dozens to just 3: TSMC, Samsung and Intel. This has created the motivation for the 3 giants to race to occupy the No. 1 position in the market.

Is it true that the smaller the chip, the more advanced it will be?  - Photo 2.

Mr. Pat Gelsinger, CEO of Intel

However, as the number of nanometers gradually approaches 0, the standard for naming a chip gradually becomes “loose”. According to the WSJ, Intel has lagged behind TSMC and Samsung in technology improvements. Last year, the group changed the name of the 10-nanometer chip to “Intel 7.”. At the time, CEO Pat Gelsinger admitted that chip companies were no longer “refer to any more specific nanometer measurements“.

Before that, in 2015, the chip industry saw a nanometer crisis. This causes no one to care about the size of a standard semiconductor chip anymore.

Apple, during the production of the iPhone 6S line, hired both TSMC and Samsung to make the chip, which is essentially the brains of the smartphone. Samsung then supplied Apple with a 14-nanometer chip; while TSMC offers 16 nanometer chips. After the iPhone 6s was released, technology experts jointly tested the performance and concluded that the iPhone using TSMC’s chip performed slightly better than Samsung, with less heat and battery performance. better. Therefore, Apple so far, is still “shaking hands” with TSMC to order memory chips for its iPhone.

Follow: WSJ

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