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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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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.

“And I don't know why [Apple is] acting like it’s superior. I don't even get it. What are they trying to say?” -- Bill Gates on the Mac ads

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