SMIC is said to have significantly improved its 14nm manufacturing process even while advancing towards 12nm. The highlight has been the trial production that has seen 10% performance improvement achieved with the Kirin 710A. The processor is normally clocked at 2.0 GHz.
The improvement has seen it achieve near parity with TSMC’s 12nm process. Lately, SMIC which is China’s biggest and most sophisticated foundry has attracted a lot of attention. One is the rise of its stock price which has seen the company’s market cap hit HKD$100 Billion. The catalyst has been Huawei’s decision to switch the production of its Kirin 710 chipsets from TSMC to SMIC.
Kirin 710 made its debut with the Huawei Nova 3i that came out in July 2018. It was Huawei’s first 7-series chip made via the 12nm process that features 2.2GHz, four A73 2.2GHz eight-core design, it is manufactured by TSMC. HiSilicon Kirin 710A will be manufactured by SMIC via a 14nm process and will have 2.0 GHz main frequency. The main core is still the same but the chipset frequency is updated.
SMIC has already started 14nm mass production. There’s a significant performance gap though because TSMC’s 12nm is more enhanced. This can also be seen in the CPU core frequency difference between Kirin 710 and HiSilicon Kirin 710A which is currently around 10%.
However, SMIC also has a 12nm process. Previously, the official stated that the 12nm process was further reduced in size than the 14nm transistor, the power consumption was reduced by 20%, the performance was increased by 10%, and the error rate was reduced by 20%.
SMIC announced the trial production of the 12nm fabrication process in a recent earnings conference. So far good progress has been made in customer identification and verification.
SMIC Production Stats:
HiSilicon Kirin 710A is likely to see a core frequency increase. The increase will be possible due to the 10% performance improvement mentioned earlier. This will bring the HiSilicon Kirin 710A and 710 at the same level as far as core density, and power efficiency goes.
If indeed the HiSilicon Kirin 710A makes its way to 4G enabled low-end devices, then a comeback of the 0.2GHz frequency chipsets makes little sense. The focus should now be on 14/12nm fabrication technology.
SMIC does not reveal much about its 12nm production. However, we do know that their 14nm production has so far reached 6000 wafers a month as of the end of April 2020 in a project that’s estimated to cost USD$9 Billion. They’re quickly ramping up production with 2 more lines planned that will have a combined production of 35,000 wafers a month.