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What is 6 nm Processor?
A 6 nm processor is a microprocessor that uses a manufacturing process technology that allows for the creation of smaller transistors and other components, resulting in a smaller, more power-efficient chip.
The term “6 nm” refers to the distance between each transistor in the chip, which has been reduced from previous generations of processors.
This technology is currently used in some of the latest generation of mobile devices and computer processors.
- The 6 nm processors offer much faster performance and graphics representations in spite of having smaller transistors.
- These processors are used in a diverse set of applications including AI, consumer applications, communication infrastructure apart from high-end computing.
- The power consumption is less in these processors and therefore they generate less heat but the switching speed of the transistors is high due to shorter gate distances.
- There is much reduced device and parasitic capacitance as well as much less leakage of current in these processors.
Understanding 6 nm Processor
The 6 nm processors, in spite of its smaller form factor, are supposed to be more powerful.
Ideally, in simple terms, a smaller nm means that the transistors in the processors can be and are in general made smaller.
As said earlier, nm is the commercial name that indicates the specific generation of the processors based on the specific size of the electronic chip.
However, technically, it has no relation with the chip size or the gate length.
Any tech savvy person would understand that it simply indicates the distance between the MOS or Metal Oxide Silicon transistors.
Ideally, there can be billions of transistors in one single chip and the distance between them regulates the flow of electrons inside them.
Typically, a transistor comes with three basic elements such as:
- The source
- The drain and
- The gate.
These are the basic elements that the electrons flow through. To be precise, the electrons flow from the source to the drain of the transistor via the gate.
This changes its state from on to off or from zero to one, in computer terms.
For an ordinary person it may not be possible to understand and decipher the commercial gimmick behind 6 nm, 7 nm and other processors.
They simply take it as a reduced space area which makes the processors much more advanced.
However, it is not always true. The number of transistors of one particular 6 nm processor model can be different from that of a different manufacturer.
This means that, in essence, the nm in particular of the processor may not make much of a difference.
Therefore, 6 nm refers to the manufacturing process of the transistors.
The more advanced and improved design of the 6 nm processors may offer up to 40% faster graphics interpretation as compared to the earlier generations
A few specific companies are known to include a number of more energy efficient cores and Graphics Processing Units as well as increased and faster RAM.
There are a few specific 6 nm chipsets that are equipped with most modern AI engines as well.
This particular feature enhances the noise reduction capabilities in mobile phones while making a phone call or a video call.
It also enhances the AI-based camera experience.
For example, the new G-series 6 nm processor of Taiwanese chip making major MediaTek chip is reported to have dual Cortex A76 cores with a clock speed of more than 2.0 GHz along with six other Cortex A55 cores with the same clock speed.
As a result, the performance of this particular chipset is enhanced significantly in several metrics, especially when it comes to handling camera resolution to the tune of 108 megapixels.
It also facilitates making 2K video recording at 30 frames per second.
Therefore, in short, it can be said that the smaller processors like 6 nm are much faster and more electrically efficient than the previous variants.
And, these are often cheaper due to their small size.
With the extended power and performance of the industry leading 7 nm processors incorporated in the 6 nm processors these can be used for a wide variety of applications and fields. A few of them are:
- AI or Artificial Intelligence
- Computer networking
- Consumer applications
- 5G communication infrastructure
- High performing computing and
- Graphics processing.
The 6 nm processors are also extensively used in modern mobile phones of different manufacturers that come with a sleek form factor.
Ideally, there are a few specific benefits offered by a 6 nm processor due to the specific manufacturing process that shrinks down the size of the transistors that come with specific characteristics.
Out of the several benefits offered by a 6 nm processor, some of the major benefits are:
- There is an increase in the number of transistors in the chip area which, in turn, increases the yield
- The power consumption of each of the transistor for every switch made is reduced significantly and
- The speed of switching by the transistors increases significantly due to the smaller distance of the gates.
Also, smaller the size of the processor means that it can operate much faster using much lower battery power, which is especially beneficial in the case of mobile phones.
This means that the battery life will be enhanced but the speed of operation will not be compromised due to that matter.
Based on the improved and more logical design of the 6 nm processors, it comes with more memory and the related cost is reduced since the yield is better by the smaller chips packed into a small area.
This is because the yield of ICs or Integrated Circuits is directly proportional to the size of them.
The smaller size of the chip puts the gates in the transistors in a much narrower position that benefits in controlling the voltage flow inside the transistors.
This results in lower power consumption overall and also generates much less heat in the process.
The new 6 nm manufacturing process also offers the users a very competitive advantage in terms of performance to cost and much quicker time to market.
This is due to the direct migration and extension of the 7 nm designs.
The smaller lithography process also offers some other significant benefits such as:
- Lower device capacitances which also reduces power requirements for such drives
- Reduced parasitic capacitance of wiring since the size is smaller and the transistors and closer and
- Reduced leakage current and power requirement for driving parasitic capacitances since the transistors can operate even at low supply voltage.
The new 6 nm technology also helps the manufacturers in leveraging the abilities of the EUV or Extreme Ultraviolet lithography.
This may offer even superior logic density while being compatible with the design rules all the time.
This will ensure a more seamless passage path along with a much faster design cycle time.
At this point, in addition to the positives of the 6 nm processors, it is also good to know a few other aspects before you label it as the ‘ultimate’ in processor manufacturing process.
However, do not consider these as their disadvantages.
These are simply two good points that you should also be aware of and consider them as challenges that the industry should look into seriously.
One, the chip factories or the ‘fabs’ costs tens of billions of dollars as of now.
This means that it is very hard, if not impossible, for any competitor entering the market.
This, in turn, signifies that you now have only a few companies manufacturing such advanced processors using VLSI or Very Large Scale Integration processes.
This also means that in the future there may be a supply issue due to any man-made or natural disaster.
And, that is what the industry needs to look into and ensure that there aren’t too many eggs to put in too few baskets.
Two, the 6 nm processors will not last long though these will outlast a few of their predecessors that are part of whatever consumer products.
This is because modern processors will surely break down on a time scale of decades instead of centuries due to atomic diffusion.
There may also be other reasons for these processors to break down before for which they may be scrapped even before that time period.
All these mean that it will be a significant challenge for a user to keep a product with an advanced processor such as the 6 nm processor operational for a long time.
For example, the 1920 vintage car that you have may be operational even today but the e-car that you bought recently may not be operational even for half of that time.
A significant challenge involved in the smaller manufacturing process such as 6 nm is the atom size.
Even if the size of an atom is considered to be 0.1 nm then the small space of the chip will result in an abnormal behavior of the atoms.
This is because the atoms will not have enough available space to move. This will make the entire circuit more unstable.
Typically, the transistor technology is stuck here because reducing the gate length blindly may not offer the performance benefits as expected.
Another significant challenge of the 6 nm process is the limited availability of the engineering resources.
The engineers need to push the limits to use this new technology as well as the available resources to make it available to the more and more consumers in order to make it a feasible, productive, and more cost effective upgrade.
The final challenge involves the die checking processes. Since there are billions of transistors in one single chip, finding out whether or not each and every one of them are working is surely a tough call.
The voltage range, temperature and other variables are also needed to be considered during such testing, and this adds to the difficulty level.
So, after reading this article and coming to know about the basics, benefits, uses and challenges of the 6 nm technology, now you are surely less likely to be deceived by the marketing gimmick of the processor manufacturers anymore.