Alternatives Implementations

By: Maynard Handley (, July 14, 2020 10:12 am
Room: Moderated Discussions
tarlinian ( on July 14, 2020 8:22 am wrote:
> 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.

Once again, the paragraph I gave was NOT a paragraph about Apple's plans, it was to contextualize the claim that Intel limits the number of baseline models it uses because of MASK SET 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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