The second-generation Google Tensor chip, which we should find on the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro this fall, will be made again by Samsung, but this time on a production process. 4 nm: the South Korean newspaper DDaily claims it, which also says that mass production should start this month. For reference, the first generation Tensor seen on the entire Pixel 6 range, including the very recent 6a which has not actually arrived on the market yet, is produced on a 5 nm node.
Unfortunately, the mystery remains as to how the chip will actually be made: in particular the processor arouses curiosity itself, which in the first generation has a decidedly anomalous core configuration – 2 Cortex-X1 @ 2.8 GHz + 2x Cortex-A76 @ 2.25 GHz + 4x Cortex-A55 @ 1.8 GHz. The A76s in particular are now quite old compared to what has been made available by ARM in recent years – they were even unveiled in 2018.
The report mentions that Samsung should use technology known as Plane-Level Packaging (PLP), which should reduce waste and defects when separating individual chips from the wafer. ultimately increasing the efficiency of the production process and lowering costs. However, this does not represent any practical power or energy efficiency advantage for the chip itself. Furthermore, there remains the question of how much things actually improve by going from 5 nm to 4 nm; just recently it emerged thanks to Ming-Chi Kuo that the advantages at TSMC are substantially negligible, in fact Apple would have decided to stay on 5 nm for the Apple A16 Bionic of the next generation iPhones.
Of course, each foundry has its own story, and we know that Samsung’s 5nm process was not the most successful – enough to induce Qualcomm to change flag and turn to TSMC for the Plus version of its top-of-the-range Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chip.