Samsung formally announced its new 3nm chip technology a few weeks ago. But the Korean giant will reportedly showcase the world’s first such processor next week. Samsung unveiled the 3nm chip’s new Gate-All-Around (GAA) transistor architecture, which is supposed to be significantly more efficient and faster than current 5nm chips.
While Samsung has started mass-production on the new 3nm chips that will hopefully power flagship phones like the Galaxy S one day, it’s unclear what these devices might be. It’s also not clear if Samsung has a chance to actually steal any business from TSMC. The Taiwanese foundry builds the most important mobile processors in the world right now.
Samsung’s new 3nm chips look good on paper
Samsung said in its original announcement that the new 3nm GAA chips will offer plenty of reasons to upgrade from the current 5nm tech. The GAA tech will bring substantial efficiency gains that should improve battery life. That’s on top of significant performance improvements and size reduction:
In addition, the design flexibility of GAA is highly advantageous for Design Technology Co-Optimization (DTCO),1 which helps boost Power, Performance, Area (PPA) benefits. Compared to 5nm process, the first-generation 3nm process can reduce power consumption by up to 45%, improve performance by 23% and reduce area by 16% compared to 5nm, while the second-generation 3nm process is to reduce power consumption by up to 50%, improve performance by 30% and reduce area by 35%.
But the specs alone aren’t enough to guarantee the success of Samsung’s semiconductor business in winning 3nm chip orders from major companies.
TSMC continues to be the main Samsung rival. Among others, TSMC manufactures all the A-series and M-Series chips that Apple uses in iPhones, iPads, and Macs.
Even the Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 chips that will power many Android flagships in the second half of 2022 are coming from TSMC plants.
Not to mention that Samsung dropped the ball on the Exynos 2200, the equivalent of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1. The processor powers some Galaxy S22 versions, having caused a major PR nightmare for Samsung earlier this year.
Samsung also mass-produced the original Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor before Qualcomm moved to TSMC.
When will Samsung use 3nm chips in its Galaxy S smartphones?
Samsung vowed to create a new flagship chip for future flagship phones after the Galaxy S22 throttling disaster. The company didn’t offer specifics, and it’s unclear whether the chip will be based on the new 3nm GAA technology.
A report from Korea indicates that Samsung has scheduled a launch ceremony for the 3nm chips for July 25th. But the first company to purchase the new Samsung chip will be a Chinese cryptocurrency mining company. That’s not the kind of customer that will help Samsung steal business from TSMC.
Moreover, reports say that Samsung is still struggling to increase the yield of its 3nm chips to make them profitable. And Samsung is far from ramping up production of the new processors.
Meanwhile, TSMC will start manufacturing 3nm FinFET chips this month. GAA chips will follow in 2025.