Samsung Begins Mass Production of 10nm Mobile SoCs

The company's latest chip will begin appearing early next year in devices, including possibly the company's next-generation Galaxy smartphone.

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Samsung Electronics has begun mass production of 10-nanometer chips that will be used in devices starting next year, with reports saying that the upcoming Galaxy 8 smartphone could be one of those devices.

Samsung officials announced the mass production of the tiny 10nm FinFET system-on-a-chip (SoC) Oct. 17, adding that the company is the first chip maker to reach that goal. Other vendors, including Intel and Qualcomm, are pushing in that direction. In addition, Intel's foundry business also will manufacture 10nm mobile chips for devices that will be based on ARM's low-power processor designs.

The new FinFET chip delivers an enhanced 3D transistor structure that includes improvements in both process technology and design over the current 14nm products. The result is an SoC that provides 27 percent better performance and 40 percent lower power consumption in a space 30 percent smaller, according to Samsung officials.

In addition, such capabilities as triple patterning to enable bidirectional routing will let engineers keep design and routing flexibility over previous chips and overcome scaling limitations, they said.

Qualcomm is the world's largest provider of processors for mobile devices, but Samsung also is a player. Its ARM-based Exynos chips run many of the company's Galaxy smartphones and other mobile devices, and reports earlier this month indicated that Samsung will be the only contract manufacturer of Qualcomm's upcoming Snapdragon 830 SoC, using its 10nm manufacturing processes. Those chips will be used in half of the next Galaxy smartphones, which will roll out early next year and reportedly will feature a curved display and dual cameras on the back.

After Samsung introduces its first-generation 10nm process (10LPE), the second-generation process (10LPP)—which will deliver even better performance—will go into mass production in the second half of next year. There also will be derivative processes aimed at a broad array of applications and an ecosystem of partners and customers around the 10nm process that company officials hope to fuel with such offerings as reference flow verification, IPs and libraries.

Samsung also is offering process design kits (PDKs) and IP design kits, which will help customers get going on designs using the 10nm process.

Samsung officials expect digital devices using the new 10nm SoCs to be hitting the market early next year, with wide availability coming throughout 2017.

The announcement of the 10nm SoCs will be welcome news to Samsung and its customers. The company recently has been hit by problems with its latest flagship device, the Galaxy Note7. Samsung has halted production of the smartphone since reports surfaced that not only was the original devices prone to catching fire, but so were the replacement phones the company had sent out.

The Note7 debacle will cost Samsung. Company officials said last week that not only was the device maker taking a $2.6 billion charge against its latest quarterly financial earnings due to the problems, but that they also expected the problems would have an additional $3.1 billion "negative impact" on operating profits through the current quarter and the first three months of 2017.