2022 iPad Pro may adopt Apple silicon built on TSMC’s 3nm chip manufacturing process

Apple’s upcoming 2022 iPad Pro models will use chips built on TSMC’s cutting-edge three-nanometer manufacturing process, resulting in a speed boost and lower power consumption.


STORY HIGHLIGHTS:

  • TSMC’s 3nm chip process said to debut in 2022 iPad Pro
  • 2021 iPad Pro runs Apple’s M1 chip built on TSMC’s 5nm process
  • 2022 iPhone 14 may adopt chips built on TSMC’s 4nm process
  • 2020 iPhone 12 runs Apple A14 chip built on TSMC’s 5nm process

A closeup of the TSMC logo on their headquarters

2022 iPad Pro rumored to use TSMC-built 3nm chips

Nikkei Asia reports that both Apple and Intel are now testing chip designs with TSMC’s three-nanometer production technology, with volume production set to kick off in the second half of next year—in time for the next iPad Pro. In other words, the 2022 iPad Pros should first debut Apple chips built on this technology before the tentatively named iPhone 14 gets to use it.

Apple’s ‌iPad‌ will likely be the first devices powered by processors made using three-nanometer technology, sources said. The next generation of iPhones, which are to roll out next year, are expected to make use of the intermediate four-nanometer technology for scheduling reasons.

Compared to TSMC’s five-nanometer node, the upcoming new three-nanometer process promises to boost performance by up to fifteen percent or reduce power consumption by up to thirty percent at the same transistor speeds. This is due to an aggressive shrink of transistors and a logic area density improvement of 1.7x.

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How will Apple name the 3nm chip powering 2022 iPad Pro?

The current iPad Pro family, launched on May 21, 2021, uses the current Apple M1 chip built on the same technologies TSMC used in the production of the previous iPhone and iPad chip.

The previous iPad Pro, released on March 25, 2020, uses an upgraded Apple A12Z Bionic processor. Provided Nikkei Asia is right, the next iPad Pro arriving in 2022 could be the first commercially available device to be powered by a three-nanometer chip.

  • A12Z Bionic (2020 iPad Pro): Fabricated on TSMC’s seven-nanometer process
  • Apple M1 (2021 iPad Pro): Fabricated on TSMC’s five-nanometer process
  • 2022 iPad Pro: A new Apple chip fabricated on TSMC’s three-nanometer process

It’ll be interesting seeing how the Cupertino company brands the 2022 iPad Pro chip: Apple M1, Apple M1X, Apple M2 or something completely different. TSMC in August 2020 said its upcoming three-nanometer process technology would continue using FinFET transistors whilst implementing new innovative features to achieve full-node scaling.

Does iPadOS 15 hold back iPad Pro?

TSMC recently kicked off the development of two-nanometer nodes, with exploratory R&D work focused on beyond-2nm nodes and on areas such as 3D transistors, new memory, etc.

TSMC is the world’s largest independent semiconductor foundry with nearly 500 customers.