The latest processor technology from Samsung promises double-digit improvements in performance or power consumption, the company announced today. Samsung claimed it has achieved an industry first by starting mass production of system-on-chip products with a 10-nanometer processing technology.
Compared to Samsung's 14-nanometer processors, the new technology uses an advanced 3D transistor structure that could boost performance by 27 percent or reduce power consumption by 40 percent, the company said. The new system-on-chip uses a technology called FinFET (fin field effect transistor) that helps minimize the typical performance-versus-power tradeoff in processor manufacturing.
Samsung said the first digital devices to feature the new system-on-chip will arrive on the market early next year and will become more widely available throughout 2017. Products likely to feature the technology include the next version of Samsung's flagship phone, the Galaxy S8.
Manufacture Requires 'Cutting-Edge' Techniques
By being the first to mass produce 10-nanometer FinFET technology, Samsung demonstrated its "leadership in advanced process technology," executive vice president Jong Shik Yoon said in a statement today. "We will continue our efforts to innovate scaling technologies and provide differentiated total solutions to our customers."
First conceived through research funded by DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) in the 1990s, FinFET technology uses a gate-like structure for transistors that reduces current leakage, enabling lower-voltage operations. Samsung said it manufactured the new system-on-chip using cutting-edge techniques that helped overcome scaling limitations.
Samsung claimed another first in early 2015, when it announced mass production of the first mobile application processor using 14-nanometer FinFET technology (Exynos 7 Dual 7270, pictured above). At the time, executive vice president Gabsoo Han said the new processors would help enable "further performance improvements for cutting-edge smartphones."
Deal with Qualcomm
According to a report earlier this month in Korea's etnews, Samsung has signed on to become the exclusive producer of 10-nanometer application processors for Qualcomm. Devices expected to feature Qualcomm's Snapdragon 830 technology include Samsung's Galaxy S8 smartphone.
In today's announcement, Samsung said it plans to follow up the first version of its 10-nanometer system-on-chip with a second-generation processor in the second half of next year. It is also making production-level process design kits and IP design kits available for partners that want to begin designing products using the new technology.
Processors have steadily shrunk in size while improving performance over many decades, a trend called Moore's Law. In 1965 Intel co-founder Gordon Moore formulated the idea that chip performance would tend to double every 18 months to two years.
Microprocessors used in today's mobile devices, servers and cloud data centers commonly feature 22-nanometer and 14-nanometer technologies, but 10-nanometer systems are also becoming increasingly common.
Last year, IBM announced that it had developed a seven-nanometer test chip that could improve device performance even more than the 10-nanometer technology. The company launched a $3 billion, five-year program for chip research and development in 2014.