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TSMC To Produce Intel Core i3 CPUs on 5nm Process Node in 2H 2021, 3nm Mainstream & High-End CPUs Enter Mass Production in 2H 2022

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In a presser, TrendForce has announced that as per their investigation, TSMC will be mass-producing Intel's next-generation entry-level, mid-range and high-end CPUs on its 5nm and 3nm process nodes. Intel has already announced that it will be outsourcing several of its non-CPU chips to 3rd party foundries but this major news confirms that they are planning to move even their biggest product lineups to external fabs.

Intel's Next-Gen Core i3 CPUs To Be Produced on TSMC's 5nm Process Node, High-End & Mid-Range CPUs To Be Produced on TSMC's 3nm Node in 2H 2022

It looks like after Alder Lake in 2H 2021, Intel will be moving to TSMC as its prime partner in mass-producing its next-generation CPU lineup. The press release states that Intel's Core i3 CPUs will be the first mass-production lineup made at TSMC and will be utilizing its 5nm process node. Do note that mass production doesn't exactly means a hard launch and we might end up getting these chips later around 2022. With that said, Alder Lake CPUs will focus on high-performance while utilizing the 10nm Enhanced SuperFin process node.

Intel To Offer Competitive Prices on Its Xeon Lineup To Tackle AMD’s EPYC CPUs To Retain Its Server Leadership

But Intel plans to shift its entire mid-range and high-performance lineup to TSMC by 2H 2022. The next-generation processors will be featuring the more advanced 3nm process node from TSMC & will be the successors to the Alder Lake lineup. It is not known whether these will be mobility or desktop parts but from the looks of where things are headed, Intel might utilize TSMC for mass production of both segments.

Press Release - 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.

In recent years, Intel has experienced some setbacks in the development of 10nm and 7nm processes, which in turn greatly hindered its competitiveness in the market. With regards to smartphone processors, most of which are based on the ARM architecture, Apple and HiSilicon have been able to announce the most advanced mobile AP-SoC ahead of their competitors, thanks to TSMC’s technical breakthroughs in process technology.

With regards to CPUs, AMD, which is also outsourcing its CPU production to TSMC, is progressively threatening Intel’s PC CPU market share. Furthermore, Intel lost CPU orders for the MacBook and Mac Mini, since both of these products are now equipped with Apple Silicon M1 processors, which were announced by Apple last year and manufactured by TSMC. The aforementioned shifts in the smartphone and PC CPU markets led Intel to announce its intention to outsource CPU manufacturing in 2H20.

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.

Intel had previously confirmed that DG1, Tiger Lake, and SG1 (a flavor of DG1 designed for servers) will be manufactured in-house on the Intel 10nm SuperFin process. The upcoming Intel Xe HPG GPU for gamers will be made on an external foundry process - quite likely TSMC (and probably the 7nm process considering the 2021 timeline).

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