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News Report claims that Intel will build Core i3s at TSMC

NTMBK

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Nov 14, 2011
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Reporting from Tom's Hardware here, and the actual report from Trendforce here.

Intel has outsourced the production of about 15-20% of its non-CPU chips, with most of the wafer starts for these products assigned to TSMC and UMC, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. While the company is planning to kick off mass production of Core i3 CPUs at TSMC’s 5nm node in 2H21, Intel’s mid-range and high-end CPUs are projected to enter mass production using TSMC’s 3nm node in 2H22.

...

TrendForce believes that increased outsourcing of its product lines will allow Intel to not only continue its existence as a major IDM, but also maintain in-house production lines for chips with high margins, while more effectively spending CAPEX on advanced R&D. In addition, TSMC offers a diverse range of solutions that Intel can use during product development (e.g., chiplets, CoWoS, InFO, and SoIC). All in all, Intel will be more flexible in its planning and have access to various value-added opportunities by employing TSMC’s production lines. At the same time, Intel now has a chance to be on the same level as AMD with respect to manufacturing CPUs with advanced process technologies.
I have no idea how credible Trendforce are, or what their track record is, but they seem pretty confident. Sounds like Intel might be pivoting their internal fabs to be "IBM-like"- lower volume, higher margin products, tuned to absolute max performance, and don't need to yield high enough to manufacture cheap PC chips.
 

moinmoin

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Isn't this old news? I thought I read something like that a couple months ago already. Core i3 is such an odd delimiter about what exactly to outsource.

Edit: Yeah, was mentioned two months ago already:
 
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jpiniero

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Isn't this old news? I thought I read something like that a couple months ago already. Core i3 is such an odd delimiter about what exactly to outsource.
Core i3 on desktop is usually a different smaller die. So that part isn't that outrageous.
 

jpiniero

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Intel only launched small dies on its post 14nm nodes so far (Ice Lake SP would change that, but still isn't out).
Right, which is why fabbing the 12th Gen desktop i3 on a node that's not 10 nm makes sense. But TSMC 5 nm? To me it seems more realistic that they would just use Skylake yet again or a cut down Rocket Lake.
 

Mopetar

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AMD is going to be using 5nm for Zen 4, which is also coming out 2H21. If Intel want to be competitive they will need to keep up.
Also every 5nm wafer Intel buys from TSMC is one that AMD (or anyone else who might be competing with Intel) doesn't get. If they go with a small die that will yield well then they can easily eat a margin hit on their low end products if it means AMD has fewer chips to sell.

Intel doesn't have enough capacity for their own chips anyway so even if they don't make as much money as if they were able to fab everything themselves, they can't actually do that so the extra chips just give them additional revenue.
 
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gdansk

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Odd. I would have expected a Tremont or perhaps Gracemont based part to be the first on a outside node. It should have been easier and the ultra-low power space would benefit the most from improved efficiency.
 

mikk

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First part is correct, second most probably not - I'm expecting Zen 4 release in Q1 next year.

This is unrealistic from what we know because there is a Zen 3 refresh generation coming in H2 2021 called Warhol. Furthermore AMD said in November that Zen4 is still in design phase, so it didn't tape out yet and the design isn't even finished. And from tape out to a product release there is roughly 1 year interval.
 
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TheELF

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Also every 5nm wafer Intel buys from TSMC is one that AMD (or anyone else who might be competing with Intel) doesn't get. If they go with a small die that will yield well then they can easily eat a margin hit on their low end products if it means AMD has fewer chips to sell.
Even fewer than now?! Hardly seems worth it for intel from that aspect. AMD only released three SKUs and had to raise their prices by $50. They only get so many waffers and it cost them more and more each gen due to having to put more and more tech into them that they have to buy from outside.
To make ZEN3 AMD increased almost everything that the ZEN2 core had and that stuff can't be cheap, even if we are only talking about space on the waffer it has to reduce the amount of CPUs they can make by a whole bunch.
AMD is rapidly improving themselves into a corner here.




Increasing production makes so much more sense.
 

Zucker2k

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Feb 15, 2006
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Also every 5nm wafer Intel buys from TSMC is one that AMD (or anyone else who might be competing with Intel) doesn't get. If they go with a small die that will yield well then they can easily eat a margin hit on their low end products if it means AMD has fewer chips to sell.

Intel doesn't have enough capacity for their own chips anyway so even if they don't make as much money as if they were able to fab everything themselves, they can't actually do that so the extra chips just give them additional revenue.
This. Double-edged sword, really. Offload capacity, limit competitors' access to TSMC 5nm.
/Thread
 

itsmydamnation

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To make ZEN3 AMD increased almost everything that the ZEN2 core had and that stuff can't be cheap, even if we are only talking about space on the waffer it has to reduce the amount of CPUs they can make by a whole bunch.
AMD is rapidly improving themselves into a corner here.




Increasing production makes so much more sense.
No they didn't, you really missed the point of what they did with Zen3. The things that really drive size , power and complexity like ROB/PRF size , read/write ports to register file , number of load store ports , size or latency of L1's etc none of that changed. Zen3 is like a complete restructuring/ re balancing of everything in the Zen2 design without growing anything majorly outside the scope of Zen2.
 

moinmoin

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Odd. I would have expected a Tremont or perhaps Gracemont based part to be the first on a outside node. It should have been easier and the ultra-low power space would benefit the most from improved efficiency.
There was a rumor early December based on an Intel job listing that Intel would outsource Atom and Xeon SoCs (likely Xeon D) to TSMC:
I personally consider the possibility of that higher than the Core i3 rumor.
 
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rainy

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This is unrealistic from what we know because there is a Zen 3 refresh generation coming in H2 2021 called Warhol. Furthermore AMD said in November that Zen4 is still in design phase, so it didn't tape out yet and the design isn't even finished. And from tape out to a product release there is roughly 1 year interval.
Of course I understand that as Intel fan you would like to see Zen 4 release late as possible, however, in my opinion, March 2022 is quite realistic - it would be also a fifth anniversary of Zen architecture debut.

Two more things: Warhol to me is still rather gossip than real deal and we are not anymore in November - AMD should be rather close to finish design of Zen 4.
 
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Doug S

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Slightly OT, but TSMC sure is taking expanding seriously this year:

That's the big danger of Intel spending a lot with TSMC. Maybe it benefits them in the short term by limiting AMD's potential growth, but it also means TSMC will expand production even more quickly and further extend their process lead over Intel.

Also don't forget that Intel competes with TSMC for ordering fab equipment, especially equipment in limited supply like EUV scanners. Giving TSMC more money means they buy more EUV equipment and there's less available for Intel to buy (I mean...if one tries to claim that Intel vs AMD buying wafers from TSMC is a zero sum game then one must accept the same claim for Intel vs TSMC buying EUV equipment from ASML)
 

guidryp

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At this point there has basically been rumor for practically every segment Intel Makes, that they are going to use third party fabrication, and there has even been rumors, that they will use Samsung as well. Bacially the rumors cover all the possibilities.

What Intel has actually said, is they are considering outsourcing some fabrication.

Now for what would make the most actual sense to outsource fabrications of:

Discrete GPUs and Top End CPU parts.

Of all the rumors so far, I consider i3's one of the less likely target for outsourcing.
 
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jpiniero

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Oct 1, 2010
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Of all the rumors so far, I consider i3's one of the less likely target for outsourcing
One way it would make sense is that this is a proof of concept or trial. You need something that's decently sized volume to cover the costs of the R&D but if it fails you have a fallback to selling more Skylake or Rocket Lake if need be.
 

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