Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp. is set to start high volume production of chips using its N2 (2 nm-class) process technology in late 2025 and deliver the first batch of these chips in early 2026. According to two media reports and sources within the financial community, the first customers to adopt N2 will be Apple and Intel.
Apple and Intel First to Use TSMC's N2
Apple has been TSMC's largest customer by revenue contribution for about a decade, so it is not surprising that it will also be an alpha customer for N2. As for Intel, the company intends to use TSMC's services to make graphics processing units (GPUs) and various SoCs, two types of applications that benefit from leading-edge nodes. So, it is not surprising that Intel will also be one of the early adopters of N2, according to reports by DigiTimes and UDN. Furthermore, given Intel's volumes, it will quickly become one of the foundry's primary customers.
Since the first batch of N2 chips should be delivered in early 2026, it is unclear which of Apple's system-on-chips (SoCs) will use it then. Meanwhile, analysts from China Renaissance Securities speculate that Intel will use TSMC's N2 for the graphics tile in its codenamed Lunar Lake processor.
"We also see more clarity around TSMC's N2 expansion schedule in Fab 20 (Hsinchu)," Sze Ho Ng, an analyst with China Renaissance Securities, wrote in a note for clients. "Tool move-in is expected to start by end-2022, based on company plans, ahead of risk production in late 2024E with Intel (client PC Lunar Lake's graphic 'tiles', while the CPU 'tiles' are fabbed using Intel’s 18A) and Apple being the anchor customers for dedicated capacity support."
The usage scenario of N2 for Lunar Lake is speculation at this point. However, Intel's own slide that describes graphics tiles of Meteor Lake, Arrow Lake, and Lunar Lake processors clearly indicates that the latter's GPU will be made externally using a technology that is more advanced than N3.
AMD, Nvidia, MediaTek to Use N3, N2
AMD, Broadcom, Nvidia, and MediaTek have formally confirmed that they will use various nodes from TSMC's N5 family (N5, N5P, N4, N4P, N4X). MediaTek has already formally introduced its N5-based Dimensity 8000/8100 application processors and N4-based Dimensity 9000 SoC, whereas Nvidia will use a custom 4N fabrication process for its Hopper and presumably Ada Lovelace GPUs. AMD's Genoa and Raphael processors will also be made using a 5 nm technology.
According to the DigiTimes report, all of these companies are currently in talks with TSMC over allocation for N3-capable capacities starting late 2023 or sometime in 2024. In addition, these companies are also expected to start talks regarding N2-capable allocations next year, though they will certainly adopt N2 significantly later than Apple and Intel.
N2: Coming in 2026
TSMC's N2 will be the foundry's first technology to adopt gate-all-around field-effect transistors (GAAFET), years after Samsung's 3GAE (2023) and over a year after Intel 20A (2024). So far, the world's largest contract maker of chips has not disclosed what to expect from N2 in terms of power, performance, and area/transistor density improvements over N3. However, considering the fact that this will be a brand-new node, it is reasonable to expect tangible advantages over its predecessors. The new fabrication process will continue to rely on proven extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography scanners with a 0.33 numerical aperture. By contrast, Intel's 18A is set to use innovative ASML's Twinscan EXE EUV scanners with High-NA (0.55NA).