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Samsung may give TSMC a run for its money

Posted: 23 Feb 2012 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:HKMG? Exynos? process technology?

Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd touted its new 32nm high-k metal gate (HKMG) process at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC), showing features it hopes might win customers over from a supply constrained (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd) TSMC.

While ostensibly presenting its upcoming 32nm quad-core mobile processor, Samsung spent much of the time presenting its new process, which as well as boasting HKMG, also uses dynamic thermal management and body bias techniques, for a significant 40 percent performance increase over its 45nm Exynos chip.

Intel and Globalfoundries have been shipping chips with HKMG for a while now, but with Samsung and TSMC joining the fray, the fab playing field is somewhat equalized.

With the industry bracing itself for a tight supply of 28nm from TSMC, Samsung's 32nm process and excess capacity manufacturing facilities could prove an attractive alternative to the likes of Nvidia, or even AMD.

Analysts believe TSMC would give priority to customers like Apple or Qualcomm for the 28-nm process, which would make it difficult for smaller players to get the supply they needed. Samsung is not supply constrained, and the difference between a 28-nm process and a 32-nm process using HKMG is fairly marginal in terms of the end result.

On the other hand, some in the industry still have qualms over using Samsung as a foundry, largely because the firm competes with almost every one of its potential customers.

Samsung's chip-building capabilities were being put under the microscope on Tuesday, with the firm also talking up its dynamic thermal management system for mobile SoCs, as well as power gate technology for every CPU and even inside the GPU, allowing power to be switched off, cutting leakage at the source.

Body Biasing, too, would give Samsung a differentiating factor from the likes of Intel, which doesn't use the technology. Body Biasing can be used to either speed up a transistor when full throttle is needed, increasing leakiness slightly, or it can slow the transistor down, stemming leakage for a more optimal low power state.

Whether customers will be enticed, however, remains to be seen.

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