Higher performance, lower power consumption, increased density: Samsung wants to be at the forefront again in semiconductor production.

Samsung employees show wafers with 3-GAA chips(Image: Samsung) 

Samsung has started the initial production of the 3 nm GAA process , with a second variant being announced right away, which is based on the first. Samsung has a GAA process running long before market leader TSMC, and the Taiwanese want to follow suit in 2025 with the nanosheet-based N2 .

GAA stands for Gate All Around and describes the structure of the transistors used: In contrast to the conventional finfet, the channel is completely surrounded by the switching gate, which improves the electron flow in favor of the switching speed and reduces the area requirement. Samsung produces GAA as 3GAE (Gate All Around Early) and as 3GAP (Gate All Around Plus), similar to previous nodes.

As the basis for GAA, Samsung chooses an unspecified 5nm process, which includes nodes from 5LPE to 4LPP (which are actually all derivatives of 7LPP). Compared to this, 3GAE should enable up to 23 percent higher performance or up to 45 percent lower power consumption, and chips should also be up to 16 percent smaller.

Rather risk production than serial production

For 3GAP, on the other hand, Samsung names improvements of 30 and 50 percent, but the space requirement should scale significantly better at 35 percent – how that comes about remains open. Moreover, 3GAP is not directly available, but may only start one year after 3GAE. The formulation of the initial production also suggests that the actual series production is still pending and only small quantities of chips are being produced.

Samsung did not say whether there are already customers for 3GAE. In most cases, the manufacturer initially produces its own Exynos processors, but with 3 nm GAA mobile will follow later and partners from the high-performance and low-power segments will be served first. Qualcomm had the Snapdragon 888 and the Snapdragon 8 Gen1 built by Samsung, but the design of the latter chip was ported to TSMC’s N4 and achieved significantly better efficiency there as the Snapdragon 8+ Gen1 .

AMD and Intel are both TSMC customers, Nvidia at least partially. The Ampere chips for Geforce cards are made in Samsung’s 8LPP (a 10 nm DUV offshoot), but the new hopper GH100 is made by TSMC in the 4N process optimized for Nvidia.