Rumor | AMD's upcoming Zen 3 Ryzen 4000 desktop CPUs may actually use TSMC's 5 nm enhanced production process, still scheduled to launch in Q4 2020
Chinese publication DigiTimes recently dropped a huge bomb claiming that AMD’s Ryzen 4000 CPUs based on the Zen 3 architecture that are supposed to launch in Q4 2020 will be built using the TSMC 5 nm node instead of the 7 nm one that was cited in all previous rumors. If this is indeed true, AMD could essentially deliver a deadly blow to Intel, which is still struggling to port its mainstream desktop CPUs to 10 nm. Sounds too good to be true? Analysts tend to think so, but there is not much evidence to the contrary either.
Twitter user RetiredEngineer was kind enough to translate the entire DigiTimes report that is now hiding behind a paywall. First of all, the report mentions that TSMC will begin mass production on the 5 nm node in Q4, apparently ahead of schedule. We already knew that 5 nm production would occur in some capacity by the end of 2020 since mobile SoCs like the A14 Bionic and Kirin 1000 are scheduled to be released in that period. Nevertheless, SoC production is different from CPU production, which requires some more refining, so TSMC might be speeding things up to allow for a tighter release schedule.
According to the report, one of the possible drives for such change in the release schedule could be the ongoing pandemic that apparently boosted demand for PC and server sales due to the shift to a work-from-home economy. Q1 2020 sales for Ryzen and EPYC CPUs were strong, bringing revenues 40% higher than the same period of 2019. With such remarkable growth, AMD has now managed to become one of TSMC’s most important customers, prompting the foundry to allocate increased production capacity. This was made possible through TSMC’s decision to drop Huawei’s 5 nm Kirin 1000 SoC orders by Q4 due to the ban imposed by the U.S.
The report goes on to say that the Ryzen 4000 CPUs codenamed Vermeer were originally planned to use the 7 nm EUV node, yet will launch with 5 nm tech instead. We are not quite sure how AMD was able to change the blueprints for these chips on such short notice, as the designs were most likely finalized at least one year in advance. The math does not seem to be adding up, but maybe AMD and TSMC have found an elegant workaround that is eluding us. In any case, the report claims the new Ryzen 4000 CPUs should be unveiled in September - October, while the actual availability of the chips could be scheduled for December 2020 or early 2021.
As a conclusion, DigiTimes notes that the accelerated launch of the 5 nm chips “will put unprecedented pressure on Intel,” bringing the greatest change to the PC platform competitive landscape in 15 years. AMD’s market share could thus sore to historical highs, and its market cap could explode.