Apple’s latest Mac chips — the M1 Pro and M1 Max inside the new MacBook Pro — are based on a 5nm manufacturing process. While that helps give them some pretty exceptional performance for the power required, it could soon be usurped by a 3nm process offering even better output.
Citing unnamed sources, DigiTimes claims that chip manufacturer TSMC has begun testing the production of N3 nodes to be used in future chip production. These nodes will be manufactured on a 3nm process, meaning greater transistor density and, in all likelihood, improved performance over existing chips.
How does this relate to Apple? Well, TSMC is the manufacturer of Apple’s own silicon chips, from the current M1 series used in its Macs to the A-series chips found in the company’s latest iPhone 13 series and in its iPads. If TSMC is testing 3nm manufacturing processes, the results will almost certainly find their way into Apple devices.
Last month, a report emerged from The Information stating that the N3 nodes would not be ready in time to be used in the iPhone 14 series, which is expected to land in September 2022. DigiTimes believes N3 will enter volume production in the fourth quarter of 2022, which runs from October to December. That backs up The Information’s assertion.
However, Apple is expected to gain access to these chips in the first quarter of 2023. That could potentially put it on course for a springtime Mac refresh, or perhaps for a new batch of Macs in the summer around the time of its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) event.
Either way, that might point to the M3 being the first 3nm Apple chip, since we expect to see the second-generation Apple Silicon Mac chip (dubbed the M2) make an appearance in 2022. It’s also possible that Apple’s 2023 chips could follow a similar pattern to the M1 — that is, they could be the M2 Pro and M2 Max — but with the change in nanometer process and the resultant performance boost, Apple could decide to skip straight to M3 to denote the step change for users.
Regardless, we will simply have to wait and see. But given how impressive Apple’s first few Mac chips have been, its debut 3nm effort could be a real game-changer.
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