August 23, 2018 // 11:52 a.m.
Low-power chip maker Qualcomm has announced that it has begun sampling for its upcoming next-generation mobile-centric system-on-chip (SoC), which is its first built on a 7nm process node.
Node shrinkage is a key factor in the semiconductor industry's slavish adherence to Moore's Law, the observation by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore that the number of transistors on a leading-edge chip tends to double every 18 months. Long since enshrined as a must-meet target, the only way to hit Moore's Law without having processors the size of football fields is to reduce the size of their components and the gaps between them.
The process isn't easy, however. Industry giant Intel knows that all too well, having been hit with delay after delay for its shrink to a 10nm process node - and now Qualcomm, the company Intel failed to beat during its attempt to break into the mobile market with Atom-branded x86 processors, has announced that it is already sampling parts based on a 7nm node.
As-yet unnamed, but almost certain to launch under the company's Snapdragon brand, the flagship system-on-chip (SoC) is Qualcomm's first to use the 7nm node and has been provided in sample form to 'multiple OEMs [original equipment manufacturers] developing next-generation consumer devices' in the smartphone and tablet markets. Qualcomm has also indicated it has designed the part for use with its Snapdragon X50 fifth-generation (5G) New Radio modem as a one-stop solution for next-gen smartphones.
What Qualcomm hasn't yet shared is technical information, including specifications and features, with only the promise that it will reveal more during the fourth quarter of this year and expects to see products built around the parts arriving on shelves some time in 2019. The company has also not detailed exactly how it has reached the '7nm' measurement, each semiconductor company's particular node size being difficult to directly compare with others' thanks to a lack of mandatory industry-standard metrics for process node size measurement.