Alternatives Implementations

By: tarlinian (, July 14, 2020 8:22 am
Room: Moderated Discussions
Doug S ( on July 13, 2020 11:25 pm wrote:
> Maynard Handley ( on July 13, 2020 10:37 pm wrote:
> > I used to think this (mask costs) was a big deal. I’m no longer convinced.
> > A 5nm mask set supposedly costs $15M. For comparison Apple sells ~20M Macs per year.
> Do you have a source for that? I was under the impression a 7nm mask set was in the ballpark of
> $30 to $60 million, though since TSMC's 5nm is using EUV there are fewer masks required (due to
> the lack of double/quad patterning steps) but I'd be surprised if it was half as many since the
> DP/QP stuff is only done for a few layers at the finest pitch. Not that I dispute your overall point
> that mask costs aren't a big deal when you have Apple's volumes and the Mac's cost structure.
> What I wonder about though - and maybe those in the industry can enlighten me - is that you don't really
> just need ONE mask set, right? No design is perfect out of the gate, you do the original design, prepare
> a mask set, run a hot lot and get samples back and test them and you find problems. Then you update
> the design to fix problems and you need new masks. You won't change every layer so the entire mask
> set doesn't need to be replaced, but maybe 1/3 or 1/2 of it does since the layers at the finest pitch
> will be the ones most likely to change. And you may do this through several revs.
> The other thing I'm unclear on is if you want to produce something at high volume using multiple
> lines at the fab, do you need separate mask sets for each line? Maybe that's kind of irrelevant
> since if you are producing at such high volume you are running on more than one line all that
> cost is divided out by enough chips that the mask cost per chip is still pretty small?
> > But I think saying "oh well it is only 75 cents per chip so who cares" is certainly too low, though
> > certainly correct within an order of magnitude. Even then if we WERE talking $7.50 per chip it will
> > still an "oh well who cares" because that's still small compared to the current Intel share of the Mac's
> > BOM. Apple is probably paying Intel $100 for every Mac (even if the i3 CPUs in the lowest end ones cost
> > under $100 I'll bet it is over that mark once you include the southbridge) so they have a lot of slop
> > to play with and still come in cheaper. Or at least no more expensive. I'm making the assumption that
> > cutting cost is NOT Apple's primary reason for switching to ARM, so they aren't going to worry about
> > spending a few extra dollars on masks if that's what it takes to meet their actual goals.

There is no separate PCH/Southbridge chip on what is likely the vast majority of Apple's volume...(MBA and MPB 13" or less.)

Realistically, I would think the additional validation and design costs would likely outweigh the mask costs. (Your calculation is also assuming a single mask set is amortized over the entire Mac annual unit volume...there are at least 3 different mask sets that are used for the existing Intel Macs, and I would think that there would have to be at least two different chips unless Apple ends up significantly consolidating their lineup...maybe the MBA can just use the same chip as the iPad Pro and the remainder of the line is split between two other designs?) I think the real issues come with something like the Mac Pro, where volumes are so low that the mask set and validation expenses become a significant part of unit costs.
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TopicPosted ByDate
Skylake-SP area breakdownDavid Kanter2020/07/12 06:13 PM
  Skylake-SP area breakdownanon22020/07/12 07:01 PM
    Skylake-SP area breakdownTravis Downs2020/07/12 08:02 PM
      Skylake-SP area breakdownanon2020/07/12 08:44 PM
  Skylake-SP area breakdownTravis Downs2020/07/12 08:03 PM
    Skylake-SP area breakdownDavid Kanter2020/07/12 08:20 PM
      To elaborateDavid Kanter2020/07/12 08:22 PM
        To elaborateTravis Downs2020/07/13 07:03 AM
          To elaborateAnon2020/07/13 07:36 AM
            To elaborateAdrian2020/07/13 01:45 PM
              To elaborateAnon2020/07/13 02:06 PM
                To elaborateChester2020/07/13 08:30 PM
  Alternatives ImplementationsKyle Siefring2020/07/13 06:02 PM
    Alternatives ImplementationsTravis Downs2020/07/13 08:41 PM
    Alternatives ImplementationsMaynard Handley2020/07/13 10:37 PM
      Alternatives ImplementationsDoug S2020/07/13 11:25 PM
        Mask costsDavid Kanter2020/07/14 08:13 AM
        Alternatives Implementationstarlinian2020/07/14 08:22 AM
          Alternatives ImplementationsDoug S2020/07/14 10:03 AM
          Alternatives ImplementationsMaynard Handley2020/07/14 10:12 AM
        Alternatives ImplementationsMaynard Handley2020/07/14 10:10 AM
          Alternatives ImplementationsDoug S2020/07/14 10:47 AM
            Alternatives ImplementationsBrett2020/07/14 01:38 PM
            Alternatives Implementationstarlinian2020/07/14 02:30 PM
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