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Qualcomm and other Samsung clients could get a boost from novel power-saving gate design

At the Intel Develop Forum, the world's largest maker of traditional PC central processing units and server chips, Intel Corp. (INTC) is fond of expressing how it's crushing its rivals in process technology.  But by the looks of it the rest of the pack may not be as far behind as Intel would like to have you believe.

On Friday, Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (KSC:005930announced that it had successfully taped out a 14 nm FinFET transistor chip.  For those who don't avidly follow the CPU design industry, most traditional transistors are flat multi-layer designs (think a sandwich).  By contrast the FinFET uses a tall wall-like gate, which towers over the nanoscopic surface like a fin.  The novel 3D design allows leakage to be significantly reduced -- a key source of loss in reliability and power at sub 40-nm designs.

Intel was the first player to get FinFETs, with its 22 nm Ivy Bridgelaunched earlier this year.  It plans to roll over the technology into its mobile offerings next year.  But by the sound of it Samsung won't be far behind.

Samsung worked with a chip-optimizing firm called Synopsys to perfect the difficult process of producing the delicate FinFETs at such a small node.

A MOSFET FinFET [Image Source: Brews Ohare/Wikipedia]

Samsung LSI vice president Dr. Kyu-Myung Choi cheers, "FinFET transistors can deliver lower power consumption and higher device performance, but they also bring tough challenge.  We chose Synopsys as our FinFET collaboration partner to solve these challenges, because of our successful history together at 20 nanometer and other nodes. We continue to pool our expertise to deliver innovative FinFET solutions."

Synopsys's expertise helped Samsung characterize the prototype chips and to remove so-called "parasitic" impurities.

The chipmaking duo did not announce a time frame for commercial rollout.  But when Samsung does achieve commercial mass-production of 14 nm FinFETs, one interested party will surely be Qualcomm, Inc. (QCOM) whose SnapDragon 4 system-on-a-chip (SoC) design Samsung recently began producing at its monolithic Texas chipmaking facilities.

Source: Samsung [press release]

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Not impressed with Samsung
By MartyLK on 12/21/12, Rating: 0
RE: Not impressed with Samsung
By menting on 12/21/2012 1:36:04 PM , Rating: 5
you can't really compare CPUs unless you run the same software, or run a benchmark that only looks at pure CPU performance.

RE: Not impressed with Samsung
By Mitch101 on 12/21/2012 1:54:50 PM , Rating: 3
Would be a good opportunity for AMD to look at getting their next gen chip manufactured through Samsung instead of TSMC/GF. Jumping a die shrink on Intel might get them an advantage since the next revision of BD is supposed to fix the IPC issues.

RE: Not impressed with Samsung
By menting on 12/21/2012 2:27:28 PM , Rating: 2
they have a long term contract with Global Foundries. I would also think they're much more likely to go with TSMC than Samsung.

RE: Not impressed with Samsung
By MartyLK on 12/21/2012 2:07:57 PM , Rating: 2
you can't really compare CPUs unless you run the same software

That's the thing, both phones, the phones with the Qualcomm and the Nexus S, run the same software. They are all rooted and run the same versions of Android. The total-stock version of Android 4.1.1 is the best performing Android Jelly Bean for the NS. The very same version of Android Jelly Bean for the Qualcomm phones runs and works better.

Going to a custom ROM for the NS makes things rough and sluggish. And the same type custom ROM for the Qualcomm phones shows no degradation of perceivable performance.

RE: Not impressed with Samsung
By Kurz on 12/21/2012 3:12:39 PM , Rating: 3
Umm... there is a huge difference in hardware, drivers, and what not.

You need to use a Specific CPU stress test and get the values from each.

RE: Not impressed with Samsung
By MartyLK on 12/21/12, Rating: -1
RE: Not impressed with Samsung
By Kurz on 12/22/2012 9:59:32 AM , Rating: 2
You are evaluating the entire package then, not just the CPU.
There are dozens of components in these phones, Camera, Wifi, GPU, Ram, etc...

Each of these has their own set of drivers.
For all we know that there is a particular component that is holding back the rest of the device because of some bad coding/bad design.

CPU stress testing takes out most of those other factors to give you just the CPU performance. You can't base your assumption just on the CPU performance alone when you are talking about overall performance.

Hell you can have the same CPU perform poorly in one phone and amazing in another phone.

RE: Not impressed with Samsung
By MartyLK on 12/22/12, Rating: 0
RE: Not impressed with Samsung
By thesavvymage on 12/23/2012 4:38:54 PM , Rating: 1
holy crap how thick are you? He's saying its probably something else, not the processor, but youre saying that since theyre a different processor that instantly makes the qualcomm superior. If you take a 400hp engine and a 100hp engine but give the 400 such a shitty suspension that it cant turn quick and is thus beaten by the 100hp engine, does that mean the 100 is a better faster engine? No, it means the car was tuned better and the rest of the parts work well together.

What you REALLY want to say, is you are unimpressed with the NS. Not the samsung chip inside. Your logic is totally flawed

RE: Not impressed with Samsung
By MartyLK on 12/23/12, Rating: -1
RE: Not impressed with Samsung
By MartyLK on 12/23/2012 5:03:01 PM , Rating: 2
You're trying to say that it's okay if a Samsung product underperforms because of other non-optimized components. It's still all Samsung. You're trying to excuse Samsung any way you can.

A person would think that an all-Samsung product could perform better than a non-Samsung product of the same speed.

RE: Not impressed with Samsung
By ShieTar on 12/24/2012 5:59:32 AM , Rating: 2
Not if you keep insisting on comparing a single-core samsung to a dual-core qualcomm device, like you do with the Nexus S and the Galaxy S3.

If you compare the Samsung-powered S3 with the Qualcomm alternative, samsung wins most races, unless you specifically use only a single thread:

RE: Not impressed with Samsung
By Tony Swash on 12/21/2012 4:57:03 PM , Rating: 1
Especially if it involves more of this.....

Apparently they weren't holding it right

RE: Not impressed with Samsung
By momorere on 12/22/2012 12:37:52 PM , Rating: 2
Don't you mean this ? If you're going to continue to be bias, at least try not to look as stupid.

RE: Not impressed with Samsung
By bug77 on 12/21/2012 3:59:21 PM , Rating: 1
When I bought my AT&T-branded Galaxy S3, I was a little disappointed it couldn't have the Samsung Exynos quad-core because of incompatibility with LTE networks. The AT&T GS3 comes with a dual-core Qualcomm

I don't suppose you're aware one is Cortex-A9 and the other is Cortex-A15.

RE: Not impressed with Samsung
By SmackJack on 12/21/2012 4:36:42 PM , Rating: 2
The Snapdragon S4 is not a Cortex A-15 implementation, but a custom SoC design borrowing many elements from the A-15 architecture, and made compatible with ARMv7 instruction set, akin to Apple's Ax series.

On the other hand, the Exynos series are pure Cortex/Mali architecture implementations (with the exception of Exynos 3 Single as it used a PowerVR GPU instead), with the Exynos 4 Dual and Quad being Cortex-A9 processors with Mali T-400MP4 GPUs and Exynos 5 Dual (in the Nexus 10) being a dual core Cortex-A15 processor with a Mali T-604MP4 GPU. The Exynos 5 Quad (rumoured to début in the Galaxy S4) will be having quad A15s coupled with quad A7s in the big.LITTLE architectural configuration and will have the Mali T-658MP4 as the GPU.

The 28nm Exynos 5 Quad will be a true performance beast (with really low power consumption thanks to the big.LITTLE implementation) and will be the benchmark against which all mobile SoCs will be pitted against.

Samsung's pure Cortex/Mali implementations and their performance have been nothing short of stellar as compared to similar class devices. And Samsung skipping a couple of generations to produce a 14nm die demonstrates the progress they're making in the semiconductor industry.

RE: Not impressed with Samsung
By Jeffk464 on 12/21/2012 7:01:25 PM , Rating: 2
Yup an A15 on 14nm should be a pretty impressive performer. I think they will be powerful enough for laptop/desktop use.

RE: Not impressed with Samsung
By Jeffk464 on 12/21/2012 7:05:38 PM , Rating: 2
I think a mini pc android device based on A15 might actually be good enough to replace my secondary HTPC's. They should handle web browsing and streaming HD content with ease.

RE: Not impressed with Samsung
By SAnderson on 12/24/2012 12:43:42 PM , Rating: 2
A new process tech doesn't make the same chip more powerful, only more power efficient.

RE: Not impressed with Samsung
By bug77 on 12/22/2012 12:27:41 PM , Rating: 2
I was too lazy to type all that, but in short I was just trying to make the OP realize he's comparing apples and oranges.

RE: Not impressed with Samsung
By chick0n on 12/23/2012 11:47:32 AM , Rating: 1
you are such an idiot

you don't even know what you are talking about

come back when you do.

but before then, how about just stfu ?

Intel taped-out 14nm six months ago...
By CharonPDX on 12/21/2012 2:09:41 PM , Rating: 3
Although this is impressive, only a 6-month lag. Intel often has a MUCH longer lead on new processes. And had functional CPUs on 14nm at least in September - this looks like Samsung has just taped out the process itself, and haven't gotten a functional chip on it yet. (Although that could be fast behind.)

RE: Intel taped-out 14nm six months ago...
By ltcommanderdata on 12/21/2012 2:18:45 PM , Rating: 2
Samsung's currently shipping chips on their 32nm process. 28nm chips come in 2013. After that is their 20nm process. As such, I really don't expect any Samsung 14nm chips to be in consumer hands until at least 2015. Intel should be shipping 14nm chips in 2014. The 1 year gap between Intel and the rest of the industry is pretty standard and it doesn't really seem to be closing despite what the article says.

RE: Intel taped-out 14nm six months ago...
By Master Kenobi on 12/21/2012 4:30:42 PM , Rating: 2
That is largely because Intel's R&D budget is massive. Their microarchitecture is always pretty good but they back it up with always having the best process in the industry.

RE: Intel taped-out 14nm six months ago...
By dark matter on 12/22/2012 9:46:30 AM , Rating: 1
Samsung isn't no small fry.

And I think IBM wants a word with you about your last statement.

RE: Intel taped-out 14nm six months ago...
By Samus on 12/23/2012 2:11:51 AM , Rating: 4
I agree, IBM is far ahead of anybody in manufacturing concepts (carbon nanotubes, anyone?) but when talking scale, Intel's manufacturing process matures very quickly and they produce TONS of wafers at very high yields.

I also wouldn't call Intel R&D lax. I still have a Core i7-950 that's almost 5 years old, and is still faster than 95% of the computers on the market. 5 years old and faster than 95%. I wouldn't call that bad R&D.

RE: Intel taped-out 14nm six months ago...
By ShieTar on 12/24/2012 5:44:32 AM , Rating: 1
Your own research is a little questionable though. How do you figure that less than 5% of computers on the market include a Ivy Bridge or Sandy Bridge Quad-Core; nevermind any Intel Hexa-Cores? And hey, even AMDs FX-8350 will be faster then the i7-950 in almost every situation.

So what, did you include all the netbooks and tablets in your 95%-Analysis?

By maxxcool on 12/26/2012 2:28:46 PM , Rating: 2
Please... my 4ghz i-750 would bend any amd fake 8 core cpu over a barrel.

By NellyFromMA on 12/26/2012 1:23:10 PM , Rating: 2
Double negative, nooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! lol

By maxxcool on 12/26/2012 2:32:48 PM , Rating: 2
IBM really ? the people who could not make a simple G5 run at 3ghz reliably...

RE: Intel taped-out 14nm six months ago...
By Shadowself on 12/21/2012 4:36:28 PM , Rating: 5
Yes, there is a huge difference in taping out a chip and mass producing it. In one case it is a first cut at the completed design (tape out) and the other is actually mass producing devices in quantities of millions. This article seems to make it feel like going from one stage to the other is trivial. It is not. (The perfect example is the Motorola G5 chip. It taped out then took many, many months to get from test batches to pre production. When the pre production chips were tested in the field errors were found that would have caused a vast chip redesign -- some of which were process based -- so Motorola killed it. For the past decade or more for CPUs/GPUs process and architecture are closely integrated -- hence Intel's tic-toc approach to try to deal with this by decoupling it as much as possible.)

Additionally, the article does not say the number of gates or transistors in the design. Was this design just for a 1,000 transistor proof of concept? If so, then don't expect to see 14 nm FinFET CPUs from Samsung for a few more years!

By Gondor on 12/23/2012 4:45:00 PM , Rating: 4
I believe I saw other tech news sites state that Samsung has used Cortex-A7 as its test vehicle and has produced a functional chip. It's nowhere near as complex as current top of the line x86 CPUs but it's no 1000 transistor chip either.

By SAnderson on 12/24/2012 12:42:57 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, time between tapout and qual is going to be 1-2 years. Tapout, eng samples, etc, etc and finally qual before any of this gets sold to Tier1 customers.

By Jeffk464 on 12/21/2012 6:57:12 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, but samsung will be competing in the ARM market so being way ahead on the 14nm should be a big boost for them. Samsung hasn't directly competed with intel as of yet.

World Dominance
By Donkey2008 on 12/21/2012 1:19:15 PM , Rating: 2
Samsung is mastering almost every consumer technology market. They already dominate the one's that most people have exposure to. Going forward into the future, they scare me.

RE: World Dominance
By superstition on 12/22/2012 12:35:13 AM , Rating: 1
Samsung is really good at lying about the power usage of its SSDs.

Samsung, for instance, claims .13 watts as the load power usage for the 830 series and .15 watts for the 840.

Anandtech's own charts, used in the review of the Neutron, show the highest power usage of all of them for the 830.

Funny how no one bothers to call them out on their lies.

RE: World Dominance
By messele on 12/22/2012 9:13:19 AM , Rating: 1
Planty do make that call but any truths pointed out about Samsung ( for example, that the owners are a family of crooks) is something immediately seen as pro-a-certain-competitor.

What chance others are keeping their powder very dry and are not crass propaganda machines? It's not lik e Samsung haven't ripped off competitors in every realm they operate in (ask Hyundai, Boss Trucks, Mitsubishi, Sony, LG, Fujitsu...)

RE: World Dominance
By NellyFromMA on 12/26/2012 1:24:42 PM , Rating: 2
Samsung has certainly legitimized itself as a tech powerhouse. What I'm not so sure about is if it has the finesse Apple had in expanding into so many markets simulatenously and consolidating those into in-house processes. I don't see the same level of attention to hardware from Samsung as I do from Apple. We'll see, I'd certainly like to see it myself.

Tapeout not Fab
By Hector2 on 1/5/2013 2:57:52 AM , Rating: 2
"Tapeout" is relatively cheap --- it's all done with software on a computer. I'll get interested when they actually spend the money to make masks and build wafers on a 14nm process. Until then, it's just a software & CAD exercise

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