2021’s Snapdragon 875 will reportedly be produced by TSMC using its 5nm process

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The Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 is expected to be the chip designer’s next top-of-the-line mobile chipset designed for 2020’s high-end handsets. For those unaware, Qualcomm designs its chips but doesn’t own the facilities to manufacture them. For the last two years, it has turned to the world’s largest independent foundry, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), to manufacture the Snapdragon 845 and 855 chipsets. Before that, Samsung made the Snapdragon 820 and 835 SoCs.

And according to a report published by Sina.com, Qualcomm is returning to Samsung to produce the Snapdragon 865. The South Korean tech giant will produce the chip using its 7nm EUV process. The 7nm figure relates to the number of transistors that are shoehorned into a chip. The lower that number, the higher the number of transistors that can fit inside a chip; the more transistors in a chip, the more powerful and energy-efficient it is. Moore’s Law, an observation made by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore back in 1965, calls for the number of transistors in integrated circuits (like chips) to double every other year. To show you how far we’ve come, the Texas Instruments OMAP 3430 chip that powered the Motorola DROID back in 2009 was built using the 65nm process!

One version of the Snapdragon 865 could feature an integrated 5G modem chip

The EUV part of 7nm EUV stands for extreme-ultraviolet lithography. This is a technology that uses ultraviolet beams to more precisely mark up the silicon wafers used to create chips with patterns. These patterns determine where the transistors will be placed inside a chip, and when short wave-length beams (like the ones used with EUV) are used to etch these patterns on a wafer, more transistors can be stuffed inside it. Using EUV is expected to provide a performance bump of 20% to 30% and a 30% to 50% improvement in energy consumption for the Snapdragon 865. Those are not numbers to take lightly. The Snapdragon 865 Mobile Platform will probably debut on the Samsung Galaxy S11, which most likely will be unveiled around February 24th when the 2020 MWC show in Barcelona kicks off. The chip was recently spotted on the Geekbench benchmarking site where it produced a multi-core score of 12,496. That compares to the score of 10,946 produced by the Snapdragon 855+ Mobile Platform. The latter is an overclocked version of the Snapdragon 855.

While 2020’s Snapdragon 865 will be made by Samsung, the report reveals that there will be two different versions of the chipset codenamed Kona and Huracan. Both will support LPDDX5 memory chips (RAM) and the UFS 3.0 flash memory. However, one of them will be integrated with a 5G modem chip and the other one won’t. Last week, Huwaei released a teaser for its upcoming Kirin 990 SoC that will be unveiled on September 6th. The component, expected to power the manufacturer’s next high-end Mate 30 phone line and the foldable Mate X, will also have an integrated 5G modem chip. This removes the need for a separate component and should also lead to improved battery life on devices that employ these chipsets.

Sina.com says that for 2021’s Snapdragon 875 Mobile Platform, Qualcomm will once again call on TSMC to produce the component. The report adds that the Snapdragon 875 chipset will be manufactured using TSMC’s 5nm process. If that is indeed the case, the chip will sport 171.3 million transistors per square millimeter. Thus, the component should be more powerful and energy-efficient than its predecessor.

So will Moore’s Law continue to be valid? Last year Samsung revealed a roadmap leading to 3nm production by 2022 and TSMC is also looking for ways to stuff more transistors inside chips. The latter is examining ways to change the packaging of chips and is also looking at stacking transistors vertically instead of side-by-side.



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