There’s a hidden contest for manufacturing contracts when it comes to processor technologies that we seldom hear about. According to industry sources, MediaTek has secured a deal with Globalfoundries for 28nm foundry services, beating out competing Taiwan-based company United Microelectronics Corporation for the MediaTek contact
Previously, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) was the only provider of 28nm foundry services back in 2012. Design companies have been looking for alternative manufacturers, as demand for smaller 28nm chips has been outstripping TSMC’s supply capabilities.
Unfortunately Globalfoundries had been struggling with yield rates for 28nm production, but now that yields are up to a commercially acceptable standard we should start to see ramped up production of these new chips. Industry giant Qualcomm has also decided to team up with Globalfoundries to diversify its production of 28nm chips for its smartphones and tablets.
This deal should see a new line of MediaTek processors heading our way at some point later in the year. But what does this mean for us smartphone and tablet owners?
Well firstly packing the same number of transistors into a smaller space implies that you’re using smaller transistor gate lengths. This means that designers can apply a lower voltage to the transistors, whilst maintaining the required current draw. I know that sounds a bit technical, but essentially lower voltage requirements result in a reduction of energy consumed, and less energy required to power a chip also means that the amount of heat given off is also reduced.
Secondly, smaller transistor gate lengths also speeds up the time it takes for a signal to pass from one side to the other, so you can turn the gates on and off slightly faster. This improves the speed of a processor even if the clock speed remains constant.
28nm processors will reduce power consumption and heat production, whilst also making the chips slightly faster than their larger brothers, which is definitely a good thing for us consumers.
As far as Mediatek products are concerned, there’s the obvious battery saving benefits and improved performance offerings to squeeze into its more budget orientated technologies. Now that yield issues have been sorted out, MediaTek will also be able to produce more processors from the same size piece of silicon wafter which it was using before, generating more revenue per product sold, allowing them to undercut competitors, or pass savings on to consumers.