TSMC, AMD’s best friend in the contract chip manufacturing game, has announced that its new 7nm+ process has gone into high volume production, just in time for the red team to start thinking about what it wants to do with those Zen-based Ryzen 4000 CPUs next year.
So if you thought TSMC’s 7nm process was the big thing in chips right now you’d be wrong, it’s this 7nm+ process. Or rather, to give the new advanced node its proper designation, N7+. Yeah, it’s not just Intel getting in on the ‘+’ process game, after iteration after iteration of 14nm CPUs, TSMC is also shipping new revisions of existing nodes.
But that’s probably doing N7+ a bit of a disservice as the new process is going to be the first to utilise EUV patterning in the manufacturing process in order to reduce the complexity, and eventually the cost, of creating new chips. It’s also going to offer higher performance and greater transistor density than the previous 7nm node, which should mean good things for AMD’s next generation of CPUs launching in 2020.
AMD has confirmed that both its Zen 3 CPUs and next-gen graphics chips will be built on the 7nm+ node next year and the news, via DigiTimes, that the process has already hit similar yields to the original 7nm node’s production levels must come as welcome news for the red team. Especially when there has been concern surrounding the capacity TSMC might have available for manufacturing in 2020.
You’d expect that, with Zen 3 CPUs set to arrive next year and volume production of N7+ chips having started in Q2 of this year, that there would be a few engineering samples of AMD’s next-gen processors floating around in the wild somewhere. For its part, TSMC is suggesting that there will be up to a 1.2x increase in transistor density, and potentially a 10% performance boost too.
The EUV portion of the process is set to be relatively minor in this iteration, used in just a few critical layers, but future nodes will use more and more layers of the extreme ultraviolet lithography to simplify manufacturing.
On AMD’s side it has been managing expectations somewhat about the next step on the Ryzen path. Zen 2 was such a big step up from the first and second-gen Ryzen chips and we probably shouldn’t expect something similar with the Zen 3 architecture. AMD’s Mark Papermaster has said in the past that the new CPU design is more about efficiency gains and will only offer “modest device performance opportunities.”
That said, it might just ensure a little more overclocking or Precision Boost headroom…