Hidden in a Nikkei mobile chipset foundry report about TSMC’s future plans is the newsflash that Apple will be first to adopt its upcoming 3nm/4nm processor production node. Now, which Apple devices will be the first to adopt the latest and greatest chipset production tech?
Well, tucked among the main topic about the first 3nm clients being Intel and Apple, is the nugget that “Apple’s iPad will likely be the first devices powered by processors made using 3-nm technology.” Add to this the tip that “commercial output of such chips expected to start in the second half of next year,” and it becomes fairly clear which iPad will get the new chips.
OLED iPad Air 2022 processor specs
The 2020 iPad Air was released in September, so the first OLED iPad will likely see a similar launch schedule, which jibes with the “second half of next year” 3nm processors tapeout schedule tipped in the report.
According to TSMC’s production schedule we will see up to 15% performance gain, 30% power reduction, and a logic density gain of up to 70% over the current 5nm process, or a combination between the three, as is usually the case. Not too shabby.
The iPhone 14 processor specs and performance
The bigger design win, however, is in power draw reduction, so that each processor generation consumes less energy than the previous one and/or takes less space on the motherboard, depending on what mix of features the phone manufacturer has ordered.
Unfortunately, this is not exactly the case with the 4nm process, as TSMC considers it more of an extension to the second-gen 5nm nodes than anything else. The foundry did say that the 4nm processors that will grace the iPhone 14 will have some worthy performance increase, power draw reduction and chip density improvements, but it hasn’t really quantified them just yet, as it did for the upcoming 3nm chippery.
The bigger goal is to actually ensure compatibility with the 5nm design ecosystem, and, given that the iPhone 14 will be produced in many milllions of units more than the iPad Air 2022, the “scheduling reasons” to go with the 4nm process for it become apparent. Apple usually puts more powerful processor designs in its iPads compared to their release year’s corresponding iPhones, denoting the tablet’s processors with “X” after the model number, and that will seemingly be the case next year as well.