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TSMC N3E: Apple uses optimized 3nm Manufacturing for A17 and M3

For a long time, Apple has been traded as the first buyer of TSMC’s 3 nm production. From the Asian region, the rumor is again underpinned. Accordingly, the A17 should use the optimized N3E process. The new node could again be reserved for the Pro models. Also for the M3, the production should change to 3 nm.

Numerous buyers are queuing up at TSMC for the FinFET process N3 and its optimized offshoots. Apple is the first customer of the new node, as has been speculated since the end of last year. The new process was finished too late for this year’s A16 Bionic in the iPhone 14 Pro (Max), which is why Apple relies on N4, which is advertised as 4 nm production, but corresponds to an optimized N5 process.

3nm manufacturing practically starts with N3E

As Nike Asia citing several people familiar with the processes, Apple will be the first buyer of TSMC’s 3nm manufacturing. More precisely, N3E is to be used for the next generation of iPhone and Mac chips. N3E should deliver even more performance or lower consumption and ensure improved yields.

In addition to the N3, N3P and N3X, the node is one of several with which TSMC wants to create maximum flexibility. For the classic N3, it has been rumored for some time that TSMC is struggling in terms of yield and bonuses compared to N4.

A17 is potentially only for the iPhone 15 Pro

N3E is also said to be more cost-efficient than N3. According to analysts, the costs for the same area of ​​silicon with 3 nm production should still be around 40 percent higher than with 4 nm. The node is therefore only expected in the premium segment, which in relation to Apple indicates a repeated division of the chips used in the iPhone 15.

Similar to the iPhone 14 family, in which only the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max use the new A16 from N4 production, next year’s A17 should only be used for the iPhone 15 Pro (Max). In addition to the display and camera, the SoC will become an even more distinctive feature in the iPhone portfolio.

M3 follows M2 Pro, Max, and Ultra

In the Mac, N3E is to be used for the M3 and its expansion stages in the coming year. According to previous reports, Apple’s processor roadmap provides for three chips developed under the code names Ibiza, Lobos and Palma, which should form the M3 generation for 2023.

The expansion stages M2 Pro, M2 Max and M2 Ultra for the M2 presented with the new MacBook Air are expected before the end of this year. As the last model, the Mac Pro is to be switched to Apple Silicon.

N3/N3E with high demand

Although Apple is traded as the first buyer of N3/N3E, Intel is said to use the node for the Meteor Lake graphics tile, but potentially also for Arrow Lake first. Other major customers are AMD, Nvidia, Qualcomm, MediaTek, and Broadcom.