At a fireside chat with Credit Suisse at their 23rd annual technical conference, Intel’s CEO Bob Swan said that its 7nm process is expected to match TSMC’s 5nm process.
In addition, he did not hesitate to say that Intel's 5nm process will match TSMC’s 3nm process.
However, Intel's 7nm process is expected to arrive in 2021, compared to TSMC’s 5nm which will produce device chips by the second half of 2020.
The U.S. company was holding the lead in the chip making process technology when it announced the 22nm Tri-gate (FinFET) process. The company had also tried to take some market stake from ARM in the mobile chip segment. But its 22nm FinFET Atom chip could barely match the latest high-end Arm chips on a 28nm planar node. Intel eventually attempted to license the Atom design to Chinese fabless semiconductor companies so that they build their own “Atom” chips more cheaply on TSMC’s 28nm process.
However, that didn’t work out either, as few device makers were interested in making the trade-off compared to the Arm chips they’ve come to rely on for each device launch.
Intel then switched to 14nm. Again, the company experienced some delays with Broadwell chips, which were the first to use the 14nm process. Intel also ended-up replacing the consumer Broadwell generation on the market with Skylake rather quickly.
Intel later attempted to aggressively increase the density with the 10nm process, by 2.7x. After years and years of delays, the company recently admitted that the goal was too aggressive for the company. For its move to 7nm EUV, Intel decided to scale back the density increase to 2.0x.
Even if what Intel claims is true and the process is indeed more or less equal performance, efficiency, and density-wise, the fact is that devices with chips made on TSMC’s 5nm process are expected to come out in the second half of 2020. Those devices will include the next-generation iPhones, too. Meanwhile, Intel has recently said that it will start launching 7nm chips sometime in 2021.