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3nm chips could launch across Apple products by 2022

According to a new report from AppleInsider, future iPhone and iPad chips will be manufactured using a 3-nanometer process in 2022, potentially offering major improvements over the current 7nm method. That fabrication process could potentially come to Apple Silicon Macs, too.

The rumor comes from Chinese website MyDrivers, which claims a source inside chip manufacturer TSMC. According to the report, TSMC will begin manufacturing 5nm processors this year, with 3nm chips coming two years later in the form of the A16 processor in the iPhone and iPad.

Apple WWDC 2020
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Compared to 5nm processors, the reports states the 3nm chips will provide between 10% and 15% more performance, coupled with energy savings of 20% to 25%. That mirrors Apple’s claim at its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in June 2020 that its own Apple Silicon chips — to be used in Macs as soon as late this year — will offer more performance for less energy usage than current Mac processors.

TSMC has long produced mobile chips for Apple, from the A8 in 2014 to the current A12Z Bionic, and Apple is one of the company’s most important customers. It will reportedly start risk production of processors using this smaller manufacturing process in 2021, paving the way for full-scale production the year after.

As announced at WWDC, Apple is due to transition its Macs from Intel to its own Apple Silicon processors by the end of this year, bringing noticeable improvements in both performance and efficiency. While the MyDrivers report does not mention the Mac, it is possible that future Apple Silicon chips may use a similar manufacturing process. The first Apple Silicon development kits already shipped with iPad chips in them.

Apple’s current crop of Macs are powered by Intel’s processors, only some of which use a 10nm process. Higher-end options like the MacBook Pro 16-inch (or the Mac desktops), all still use Intel’s older 14nm node. If Apple were to equip future Macs with 3nm chips, the leap from 14nm to 3nm could see significant gains in performance.

At the moment, much of this is speculation, as Apple often likes to remain tight-lipped about device specifics before they are released. We will gain a much clearer picture of the performance possibilities of future Macs when the first Apple Silicon devices launch later in 2020.

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