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TSMC cannot meet the entire Apple M1 order volume, Samsung could jump to the rescue

Apple anticipates great demand for the M1 processors. (Image Source: Apple)
Apple anticipates great demand for the M1 processors. (Image Source: Apple)
TSMC's 5 nm production is mostly focused on Apple's A14 Bionic SoCs and apparently cannot meet the projected order volume for the M1 chips. Since Samsung is the only other foundry to have operational 5 nm nodes, the South Korean foundries could once again become an Apple supplier. Nevertheless, the low yields on Samsung's 5 nm nodes might lead to sub-par performance on some M1 chips.

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Apple recently revealed its first laptop processor developed in-house and all preliminary benchmarks point towards a solid 10 W alternative to all the existing Intel and AMD ULV CPUs, even threatening some higher-TDP models. Together with the A14 Bionic SoC powering the new iPhone 12 smartphones, the M1 processor with custom ARM cores is among the first chips to integrate 5 nm transistors produced on the TSMC N5 nodes. Apple has been exclusively collaborating with TSMC since 2015, and the Cupertino giant even secured future 2 nm chip production with the Taiwaneze foundries. However, it looks like TSMC might have reached the limits of its current 5 nm production capacity, so Apple could be forced to seek the help of other foundries to meet the projected M1 order volume.

Researchers working for NH Investment & Securities are reporting for Business Korea that Samsung is the most likely candidate to take on the unmet M1 orders from TSMC. Besides the Taiwanese foundries, Samsung is the only other chip producer that has functional 5 nm nodes right now, yet these new nodes are rumored to have quite abysmal yields for the time being. TSMC is already using most of its 5 nm capacity to produce A14 Bionic SoCs, and the M1 chip production is supposed to account for around 25% of the 5 nm capacity. The problem is TSMC’s 5 nm nodes are not even firing on all cylinders at this point in time, so a large part of the M1 chip production is currently on hold. Apple certainly cannot afford to delay things too much and will be forced to ask Samsung to step in.

Prior to 2015, Apple used to employ Samsung, as well as TSMC for SoC production. By the middle of the last decade, however, Apple realized that TSMC’s packaging technology is clearly superior, plus it also felt awkward collaborating with one of its direct smartphone competitors. It will be interesting to see how a new Apple - Samsung collaboration can proceed now that Apple is planning to emerge as an important player on the laptop and desktop processor market.

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Bogdan Solca
Bogdan Solca - Senior Tech Writer - 1506 articles published on Notebookcheck since 2017
I first stepped into the wondrous IT&C world when I was around seven years old. I was instantly fascinated by computerized graphics, whether they were from games or 3D applications like 3D Max. I'm also an avid reader of science fiction, an astrophysics aficionado, and a crypto geek. I started writing PC-related articles for Softpedia and a few blogs back in 2006. I joined the Notebookcheck team in the summer of 2017 and am currently a senior tech writer mostly covering processor, GPU, and laptop news.
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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2020 11 > TSMC cannot meet the entire Apple M1 order volume, Samsung could jump to the rescue
Bogdan Solca, 2020-11-12 (Update: 2020-11-12)