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AMD Might Use Samsung's 4nm Node for Chromebook CPUs: J.P. Morgan

(Image credit: AMD)

AMD has relied on chipmakers GlobalFoundries and TSMC for well over a decade now. Still, if a new report from J.P. Morgan turns out to be correct, the company might build entry-level 4nm processors for Chromebooks at Samsung Foundry. The firm also speculates that AMD could also use Samsung foundry for future GPUs. 

"Our research indicates that AMD is likely to outsource a Chromebook CPU to Samsung on its 4nm (likely mass production in late 2022), and TSMC may have limited capacity to allocate for Chromebook projects, given the declining market demand," Gokul Hariharan, an analyst with J.P. Morgan, wrote in a note to clients shared by @MarcTheShark83

AMD relied almost exclusively on GlobalFoundries at first, and then on TSMC, for two reasons. Firstly, AMD had a wafer supply agreement with GlobalFoundries that prevented it from using TSMC and other foundries extensively. Secondly, AMD controlled its development costs by re-using IP blocks tailored for a particular chip technology, greatly lowering the number of nodes it actually uses.

While AMD's profitability is now at historically high levels, the company continues to be very conservative in adopting new manufacturing processes. That's because using familiar IP not only reduces costs but also helps with yields. 

If AMD proceeds with the plan, using Samsung Foundry's nodes even for some of its products will significantly change how AMD designs and builds its products.  

Adopting Samsung Foundry's 4LPP (second-generation 4nm-class process) for a Chromebook-bound APU would require AMD to redesign its CPU and GPU IP for the new manufacturer, something that is rather costly at 4nm. Also, keeping in mind that the Chromebook market isn't growing, it's unclear how financially viable the project would be. The analysts believe that AMD could also use Samsung Foundry for some of its GPUs going forward, but didn't elaborate. 

"In addition, we believe that AMD is likely to evaluate some projects (probably for GPU) at Samsung 3nm in 2023/2024, but vast majority of its core platforms (CPUs for server, mobile, and desktops) are likely to stay with TSMC N3." said the report. 

Meanwhile, J.P. Morgan believes that AMD will continue to implement new manufacturing technologies rather conservatively and will not be among the first to start using leading-edge nodes. The analysts expect AMD to adopt TSMC's N3 technology (likely N3E, actually) only for products that will ramp in 2024. 

"Note that AMD's N3 devices are likely to ramp up only in 2024, given that its N5 projects (Genoa and Zen 4 desktop variants) will only come to market in 2H 2022," the note reads.