New chips from TSMC could power advanced gaming consoles, cell phones

The race to shrink microprocessors is never-ending.  Intel announced plans for processors composed of 22nm transistors, which will arrive in 2011.  AMD has not yet aired concrete plans that far in advance, as it about to hit 45nm at last at the end of the year.  IBM recently announced it will hit 32nm in 2009 and may be the first to hit 22nm in 2010 by using a unique process that allows 32nm equipment to be adapted to 22nm use.

With IBM, Intel, and AMD in heated competition for high end CPUs for computer processors, gaming consoles and other devices, the other two realms seeing competition are memory and gadget processors.  Memory on the 45 nm node is currently being deployed by Intel and Texas Instruments.  Both companies will soon be looking to transition to 32 nm.

In the realm of gadgets processors, there is perhaps an even greater demand for smaller, more energy efficient, and more powerful processors leading to even greater pressure to reach die-shrinks.  Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd (TSMC), the world's largest contract chip maker, whose production is largely geared towards gadget-level processors found in such devices as phones and MP3 players, announced plans to start using 28nm technology in its fabs by 2010

Competitor United Microelectronics Corp (UMC) and other smaller companies are also racing to reach 22nm or 28nm nodes, but TSMC believes it will be smallest when its chips hit the market.

Jason Chen, a TSMC vice president stated, "Product differentiation, faster time-to-market and investment optimization are the three most important values TSMC delivers to our customers.  In support of these values, we are developing this comprehensive 28nm technology family so that it offers choices, depending on the customer applications and performance requirements."

TSMC says that its 28nm chips will offer 50 percent more speed and 30-50 percent less power consumption than its current 40nm low power node.  The chips will be aimed largely at the cellular baseband and wireless connectivity component market.

Both NVIDIA and Texas Instruments rely on TSMC for many of their chips.  Thus, the new TSMC chips should help to power the next generation of gaming graphics processors as well. 

Aside from the power savings afforded by shorter interconnects, the die shrink will allow more transistors to be packed onto an equivalent area, allowing for more complex designs.  The shrink should also help to increase chip yield, which result in cost savings, both to TSMC and its customers.  However, TSMC is surely spending a pretty penny to lead the charge to sub-32nm transistors.

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