There’s more to Samsung than the Galaxy Note7-related issues, so today we bring you word that the Korean tech giant has announced it started mass production of its System-on-Chip (SoC) units based on 10nm FinFET technology. The company claims this is an industry-first and that we should expect to see devices taking advantage of the news SoCs starting early 2017.
The announcement comes in the wake of Samsung’s successful mass production of the industry’s first FinFET mobile application processor, in January 2015. The company also stated its second generation 10nm process with performance boost is on target to start mass production in the second half of 2017.
The new 10nm SoCs represent an upgrade from Samsung’s older 14nm process. The technology features an advanced 3D transistor structure alongside improvements in the areas of design enablement and process technology. Samsung’s new process will feature a smaller transistor fin, transistor gate and interconnect smaller than its predecessor, the 14nm node. All in all, it amounts to a 30% total area shrink.
Since smartphones are basically small computers, they require most of the parts we see in old school desktop and laptops in order to function the way we want them to. But unlike desktops and laptops, handset don’t have the same amount of internal space, so silicone makers like Samsung need to make these internal parts as small as possible. That’s why miniaturization is a very important part of SoC development.
Furthermore, according to the press release issued by Business Wire, future 10nm-smartphones can expect to see 27% percent increase in performance or a 40% decrease in power consumption. Which in theory should means customers will be able to enjoy handsets that offer a longer battery life or faster computing power (emphasis on the “or” which indicates the device won’t be able to offer both)
For those of you who aren’t really familiar with SoCs, you should know that a System-on-chip is constructed from several different units. The most important one is the CPU or the central processing unit that can be either single core or multi-core (most premium handsets are of the latter variety). Most processors inside the SoCs are based on ARM technology.
SoCs also come bundling a GPU or a graphic processing unit, needed to handle things like games and a memory unit which helps to perform various tasks on a smartphone. Other components bundled within SoC architecture include video encoders and decoders and possibly a modem.
Now, we should note that different chipset makers take different approaches to designing their SoCs. That’s why two different handsets featuring the same 1GHz processors might not perform equally. The common denominator here is the ARM blueprint, but some companies choose to license ARM’s design and use as it is, while others create their custom CPU using guide lines provided by ARM. Samsung is an example of the latter.
We mentioned above the Samsung successfully completed mass producing the industry’s first FinFET mobile application a year go. But what exactly is FinFET? FinFET (also known as Fin Field Effect Transistor) is a type of non-planar or 3D transistor used in the design of modern processors.
Since planar transistors with length below 20nm seem to be a technology limit with electrical parameters starting to degrade while silicon process variations impact on performance, foundries like Samsung have been looking for workarounds. The main reason behind the degradation is the planar structure itself. And as the rigors of the market continuously push for increase the density of transistors in chip and performance in terms of speed and power consumption, FinFET was designed to resolve these problems by virtue of geometry scaling (3D approach).
Going back to Samsung’s 10nm-related news today, rival foundries like TSMC and Intel have already announced the ramping up of their 10nm process production. As for Globalfoundaries, the company is expected to skip over the 10nm node and go straight to the 7nm process instead. The silicon producer says the latter pushes triple-patterning lithography to its limits, unlike the 10nm process.
Samsung’s 10nm node should make it out on the market in time for the Galaxy S8 release. The handset is rumored to be shipping with Snapdragon 830 in the US, which by the way will be also made by Samsung and based on the 10nm technology. Despite the massive Galaxy Note7 fiasco, Samsung still says it’s on track to release the Galaxy S8 flagship. The new 10nm SoC will certainly help build up hype around the device.