Samsung announced that it has begun mass production of chips on its new 14nm FinFET process. This is the first time a company other than Intel has built FinFET-based three-dimensional chips. FinFETs are what will allow foundries to overcome performance and scaling limitations of the 20nm planar process.
The new process enables up to 20 percent faster speed, 35 percent less power consumption, and 30 percent productivity gain when compared to Samsung's own 20nm process, on which chips such as the Exynos 5430 (Galaxy Alpha) and Exynos 5433 (Galaxy Note 4) were built.
“Samsung's advanced 14nm FinFET process technology is undoubtedly the most advanced logic process technology in the industry," said Gabsoo Han, Executive Vice President of Sales & Marketing, System LSI Business, Samsung Electronics. “We expect the production of our 14nm mobile application processor to positively impact the growth of the mobile industry by enabling further performance improvements for cutting-edge smartphones."
The move to FinFETs also puts Samsung much closer to Intel than ever. This is due both to Samsung's aggressive research in the area for more than a decade, but also Intel's delays for its own 14nm process. Technically, though, Samsung's 14nm is not a pure 14nm process, but somewhere between a 20nm process and a 14nm process -- which still leaves Samsung in a much better position relative to Intel than in the past.
Formerly, Intel went to 22nm FinFET when others like Samsung and TSMC were only moving to 28nm planar. That's a difference of about a generation and a half in process node technology; now, that difference has seemingly shrunk to around half a generation. With any luck, that difference could disappear completely in the coming years, as Moore's Law will approach its end. It will become harder and less profitable to move to the next process mode for the pioneers of smallest process nodes, allowing those who are behind to catch up to the latest node technology.
The first chip to use the 14nm FinFET process from Samsung is probably going to be the Exynos 7420, the same chip that's supposed to appear in the Galaxy S6. The Galaxy S6 will likely be announced at Samsung's March 1 event in Barcelona.