Not all Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipsets could be created equal as Qualcomm eyes up TSMC's 4nm capacity for its chipset needs
The Exynos 2100 and Snapdragon 888 highlighted numerous issues with Samsung's 5nm manufacturing node. Given the opportunity, Qualcomm would have loved to switch over to TSMC, but doing so was not possible as Apple had already called dibs on most of its capacity. Hence, it had no choice but to go back to Samsung for its Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 requirements. Now, a new report from DigiTimes tells us that not all Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipsets could be created equal.
It seems that the yields of Samsung's 4nm node are less than ideal (30%, according to estimates), and Qualcomm isn't too happy about it. That's why it is eyeing up some of TSMC's 4nm capacity for the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1. It'll be interesting to see if TSMC can make room for the San Diego-based chipmaker. Fab space is precious in these troubling times, and TSMC could charge Qualcomm a premium for it, which, in turn, will drive smartphone costs even higher.
However, ordering parts from two vendors will probably not end well for Qualcomm. The disparity between the two processes means that the same chipset will have two sub-variants, and there's no way for an average consumer to determine which one is which. Historically, TSMC's process nodes have been vastly superior to Samsung's, and users who end up with a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 made by the former will undoubtedly feel cheated.
Digitimes also adds that Samsung will rely on TSMC for its non-flagship Snapdragon 7 and 6 series chipsets. It shouldn't have much trouble securing capacity for these, as they're usually fabbed on older nodes. Then again, it has to compete against arch-rival MediaTek for fab space in the older nodes, as well. Negotiations between Qualcomm and TSMC for the latter's 5nm and 6nm capacity started earlier this year, so it shouldn't be long before both parties reach an agreement.