Back in January, news hit that TSMC was investing heavily in its 5nm process, and the latest report from DigiTimes appears to suggest that those efforts will soon pay off.
The report claims that TSMC will push launch volume production of products on its 5nm Plus FinFET process to Q4 2020, and that we can believe. However, the report also claims that AMD’s next-generation of CPUs, the Ryzen 4000 Vermeer series that comes with the Zen 3 architecture, will be built on this node. But we’re not so sure.
As it currently stands, TSMC’s 5nm orders were already full with orders for mobile chips for Apple and Huawei (though that deal currently hangs up in the air), and 5nm production was reportedly already fully booked with Apple having reserved two-thirds of TSMC’s 5nm capacity.
At today’s Bernstein Strategic Decisions Conference AMD CEO Lisa Su responded to a question about the report, saying, “I think 5nm is an important node, and one that we will use quite heavily in our roadmap. I’m not ready to talk about timing yet, but I will say that Zen 4 is deep in design, and we are very collaborative with TSMC. The way to think about it is, the process nodes usually start with mobile, and mobile is usually a simpler process from the standpoint of the performance it is trying to get. [..] 5nm will be important for Zen 4, as well as our GPU roadmap, will be using 5nm, but we’ll talk about timing as we get a little bit closer.”
Su did not explicitly state that 5nm wouldn’t come to its Zen 3 designs, but her statement implies that AMD will continue to execute on its public roadmap that places the 5nm debut with the Zen 4 architecture.
(Image credit: AMD)
Of course, it’s also been reported that TSMC dropped the orders from Huawei due to the US-China tensions. Therefore it’s possible that TSMC may be looking for another customer to fill up the now-remaining 5nm production slots.
We don’t believe that with 5nm investments having started at the beginning of this year that TSMC will be ready to take on a new line of AMD’s processors at 5nm within the same year — the process normally matures with mobile processors before moving on to PC processors.
Moreover, even AMD has stated that the upcoming Zen3 CPUs will be based on the 7nm process, and we doubt that the company would push itself and its manufacturing partner TSMC through a roadmap change to 5nm this close to the launch — AMD plans to release Zen 3-based CPUs by the end of the year.
DigiTimes states that AMD did not comment on the rumors.