Qualcomm will turn to Samsung, not TSMC, to make the Snapdragon 820

Samsung logoQualcomm has long used Taiwan Semiconductor (TSMC) to manufacture most of its Snapdragon processors, the ones that have allowed the company to dominate both the high- and low-end of the (non-Apple) smartphone business for most of the decade. According to a new report from Re/code, that's set to change with the next-generation Snapdragon 820; Qualcomm's first all-custom 64-bit SoC will apparently be made using the same 14nm Samsung process as the Exynos 7 Octa chips in the Galaxy S6.

Samsung's manufacturing arm has a long history of making chips and other components for companies that compete with other divisions in the company. Most of Apple's SoCs have been made in Samsung's factories—the majority of A8 chips are being made at TSMC, but rumor has it that Samsung will again be the primary supplier for the A9. That it would manufacture the Snapdragon 820 despite dropping Qualcomm's chips from the flagship Galaxy S6 is interesting but not necessarily surprising.

It's hard to say why Qualcomm would make the jump from TSMC to Samsung—the company declined to comment on this story—but we suspect it may have something to do with the 14nm process itself. The current Snapdragon 810 is being made on TSMC's 20nm process, and that chip has heating problems that older Snapdragons haven't suffered from. While Snapdragon 810 phones are in no danger of melting in your hand while you use them, the chip has throttled itself quickly and heavily in the phones we've seen it in. The HTC One M9 caps it at 1.6GHz rather than the standard 2.0GHz by default, and it slows down enough that a year-old Snapdragon 801 can outrun it after just a couple minutes of use. LG's G Flex 2 doesn't limit the peak clock speed out of the box, but our testing has shown the throttling behavior to be basically identical.

The Samsung-manufactured Exynos 7 Octa, on the other hand, doesn't have these problems. It can run at its peak rated clock speed for longer, and its advantage is clear in most standard benchmarks. This is true even though the CPU configuration—four ARM Cortex A53 cores, four ARM Cortex A57 cores—is identical in both chips. Because SoCs are so complex and tightly integrated, it's hard to say how much impact any one change can have, but a better manufacturing process can make a big difference in heat and power usage.

Qualcomm will turn to Samsung, not TSMC, to make the Snapdragon 820

The Snapdragon 820 is an important chip for Qualcomm since it will be the first to use the company's custom 64-bit, ARMv8 "Kryo" CPU architecture. The 32-bit ARMv7 Krait architecture was one of the things (along with its LTE modems) that helped Qualcomm rise above its competition earlier this decade, so we have high hopes for Kryo's performance and power usage.

Source: Ars Technica

Tags: CPUs, Qualcomm, Samsung, TSMC

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