Intel may be changing Meteor Lake CPUs to compete with Apple

According to industry sources, Intel may be making some significant changes to the architecture of its upcoming Meteor Lake chips. This could potentially give Intel an edge over competitors like Apple.

According to a new report from DigiTimes, Intel may switch from using its own 7nm process node to TSMC’s 5nm.

Intel Meteor Lake refers to Intel’s 14th-generation processors that will be released in 2023, following Raptor Lake this year. The chips will also represent the first generation of Intel chips that will feature a multi-chiplet design, combining an application processor, a GPU and connection chips into one advanced package dubbed “Intel Foveros”.

Recent reports from Intel indicate that the company is on track with the development of the new chips. Intel manufactures Meteor Lake in-house in its own factories using the 7nm process, also known as “Intel 4”.

According to Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger, production has gone well and the first Meteor Lake chips have already been able to boot Windows and Linux. Gelsinger said that “the speed with which the team was able to reach this milestone is an important sign of the health of both Meteor Lake and our Intel 4 process technology.”

Despite assurances that the Intel 4 process is working well, anonymous industry sources cited by DigiTimes say Intel may want to switch to using only TSMC’s 5nm process. Previously, the compute tile had to be made by Intel (alongside a few other Meteor Lake components), while TSMC’s N5 process was intended to produce the integrated graphics card, as well as the input/output tile. However, it is possible that Intel will indeed switch to manufacturing the entire Meteor Lake chip through its partnership with TSMC.

While there’s something to be said for being able to manufacture its chips in-house, Intel could certainly benefit from moving to TSMC — and those benefits could be an improvement for the end user.

Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger delivers the closing keynote of Day 1 at IAA Mobility. Intel

Expanding to include (or perhaps use exclusively) TSMC could lead to higher chip yields and help minimize potential delays. For us, at the very end of Intel’s supply chain, this means better access to the new processors, as well as more affordable prices. If the catastrophic GPU shortage has taught us anything, it’s that the harder a product is to get, the more expensive it will become when you finally find it in stock.

The advantage to Intel may also come from the fact that TSMC has a lot of experience in producing chips similar to Meteor Lake using its 5nm process. Successful chips like Apple’s M1, M1 Pro, M1 Max and the almighty M1 Ultra in the Mac Studio, are all built on TSMC’s 5nm architecture. By joining forces with TSMC, Intel may be able to keep up with its rival in the future.

So far, only one report has come out on this, and Intel has not commented on the situation yet.

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