8nm or 10nm: what will next Qualcomm chip have? [Update]

Qualcomm Snapdragon,qualcomm

Samsung and Qualcomm have a close relationship when it comes to mobile chips, as Samsung manufactures Qualcomm’s high-end processors and uses them in variants of its Galaxy flagships.

This year saw Samsung get first dibs on the Snapdragon 835 processor, being manufactured on a tiny 10nm process for power savings and performance gains (smaller designs generally equal better performance and efficiency).

Early rumours claimed that Samsung’s next chip will be made on a 10nm process again — a fact confirmed by the next-gen Exynos 9810’s quiet unveiling.

So where does that leave Qualcomm’s own silicon? Samsung has announced this week that it has started mass production of the second-generation of 10nm chips — these will appear in devices early next year. Samsung claims 10% higher performance or 15% efficiency from the improved process, despite sticking to the same size.

The consensus seems to be that the next major Qualcomm chip will use the same process as the old one, but there is a potential snag

“We will be able to better serve our customers through the migration from 10LPE to 10LPP with improved performance and higher initial yield,” a representative adds.

So does that mean Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 will be manufactured on the same process? After all, Qualcomm is one of Samsung’s most prominent customers. We’d say yes.

But there’s one potential snag: Qualcomm’s own employee told Gearburn that they would be moving to 8nm chips “pretty soon”.

A move to 8nm soon

“So, at the moment we are on a 10nm (manufacturing process) and we are moving, pretty soon, 10nm, one level down,” said Simone Severini, the firm’s technology lead for Sub-Saharan Africa, in an interview earlier this month.

The executive nodded when asked if the move could take place in the next few months.

“Ja… Probably eight, but… I don’t have visibility on that…” Severini said when asked what “one level down” would entail.

If I were a betting man right now, I’d say most signs are pointing to an improved 10nm process. Perhaps Qualcomm will surprise us with an 8nm Snapdragon 845 or maybe they’re referencing a different chipset.

For what it’s worth, Samsung has announced last month that it is ready for 8nm chip production. We’ve enquired about availability of these chips and will update the article accordingly.

Update, 30 November 2017: Samsung’s semiconductor division has come back to us with an answer (of sorts) surrounding availability, saying qualification for 8nm production is expected to be completed by early December.

“Accordingly, it is expected to be completed qualification (sic) by our customer in early December so as to commence the 8LPP mass production,” the emailed response read.



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