Now that 14nm/16nm chips are finally upon us en masse, some are already looking past that to the next node. Logically, the next node would be 10nm but that won’t be true for GPUs. Both AMD and Nvidia have tended to skips nodes and jump on every other node to save cost. This means today’s announcement from TSMC on 7nm holds special importance for the PC GPU market.
According to the latest shareholder report, TSMC is planning to bring forward 7nm production from previous roadmaps. This is reportedly due to a desire to beat competitors Intel and Samsung/Global Foundries to the new node. TSMC already has 20 customers lined up for 7nm, with 15 tapeouts expected in 2017 and mass production in 2018. 2 of those customers are pretty much guaranteed to be Apple and Nvidia.
Unlike 10nm which is mobile oriented, 7nm will target high-performance parts like GPUs as well. This means if TSMC hits 7nm before Samsung/Global Foundries, Nvidia has a chance to beat AMD to the new node and hold a process advantage. 7nm is expected to be 60% denser and 30-40% more efficient than 10nm so it’s a good deal better than 14/16nm. Given the difficulties Intel has faced with 10nm and how close we are to the end of silicon, it remains to see if TSMC can reach its goal.