The iPhone 14 and OLED iPad to break performance records... again
Hidden in a Nikkei mobile chipset foundry report about TSMC's future plans is the newsflash that Apple will be first to adopt its upcoming 3nm/4nm processor production node. Now, which Apple devices will be the first to adopt the latest and greatest chipset production tech?
Well, tucked among the main topic about the first 3nm clients being Intel and Apple, is the nugget that "Apple's iPad will likely be the first devices powered by processors made using 3-nm technology." Add to this the tip that "commercial output of such chips expected to start in the second half of next year," and it becomes fairly clear which iPad will get the new chips.
OLED iPad Air 2022 processor specs
If you remember, a recent report from credible Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo stated that we will see the first OLED iPad as soon as next year, most likely the current iPad Air 2020 successor, while an OLED iPad Pro isn't expected until 2023. Until then, the new iPad Pro 2021's mini-LED panel will have to tide you over.
The 2020 iPad Air was released in September, so the first OLED iPad will likely see a similar launch schedule, which jibes with the "second half of next year" 3nm processors tapeout schedule tipped in the report.
Thus, not only will we witness the birth of a beautiful thing, which an iPad with an organic light-emitting display would undoubtedly be, knowing Apple's track record in screen quality and calibration, but it will also be powered by the most powerful chipset at the market for next year - an Apple A16 or so, crafted on the 3nm node.
According to TSMC's production schedule we will see up to 15% performance gain, 30% power reduction, and a logic density gain of up to 70% over the current 5nm process, or a combination between the three, as is usually the case. Not too shabby.
3nm vs 5nm processor specs
The iPhone 14 processor specs and performance
What about the iPhone 14, though? Well, due to "scheduling reasons," that one will apparently arrive with... the horror... a 4nm A-series processor. Don't pout, though, as it will still be a 3nm-adjacent process, just like Samsung released one Galaxy with both an 8nm Exynos and 7nm Snapdragon without a notable hit in benchmark scores between the two.
In fact, the lower we get on the processor production nodes, the less we gain in terms of performance boosts, with TSMC stating only a 15% increase in calculations per clock cycle for the 3nm process against the current 5nm.
The bigger design win, however, is in power draw reduction, so that each processor generation consumes less energy than the previous one and/or takes less space on the motherboard, depending on what mix of features the phone manufacturer has ordered.
Unfortunately, this is not exactly the case with the 4nm process, as TSMC considers it more of an extension to the second-gen 5nm nodes than anything else. The foundry did say that the 4nm processors that will grace the iPhone 14 will have some worthy performance increase, power draw reduction and chip density improvements, but it hasn't really quantified them just yet, as it did for the upcoming 3nm chippery.
The bigger goal is to actually ensure compatibility with the 5nm design ecosystem, and, given that the iPhone 14 will be produced in many milllions of units more than the iPad Air 2022, the "scheduling reasons" to go with the 4nm process for it become apparent. Apple usually puts more powerful processor designs in its iPads compared to their release year's corresponding iPhones, denoting the tablet's processors with "X" after the model number, and that will seemingly be the case next year as well.
In any case, both the iPhone 14 and the first OLED iPad next year, are shaping up to be performance beasts. At least until Samsung announces its own 3nm tapeouts and their realistic commercial schedule, that is.