2022 iPad Pro could pack next-gen 3nm chip for even greater performance

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Coming in late 2022?
Photo: Apple

The 2022 iPad Pro could ship with a next-generation chipset manufactured using a cutting-edge 3-nanometer process, according to a new report out of Asia, citing several sources familiar with the matter.

The upgrade would lead to even greater performance for what is already one of Apple’s fastest mobile devices. But we may have to wait longer for the same technology to make its way to iPhone.

Apple currently employs a 5-nanometer manufacturing process for the A14 Bionic chip found inside iPhone 12 and the latest iPad Air, and for the M1 chip that powers the 2020 iPad Pro and the newest Mac models.

The process allows for blazing-fast processors that almost never disappoint in performance — even for desktop tasks. But as is tradition in the tech industry, Apple and its suppliers are working toward even better.

3nm chip planned for 2022 iPad Pro

Nikkei Asia reports Apple is working closely with TSMC — its longtime chip manufacturing partner — to build next-generation 3-nanometer chips for a new iPad Pro that could debut as early as next year, replacing the 5nm chips TSMC is manufacturing today.

“Apple and Intel are testing their chip designs with TSMC’s 3-nanometer production technology, according to several sources briefed on the matter,” the report reads. Production is expected to start in the second half of 2022 before the technology rolls out later next year.

iPad Pro will be the only device in Apple’s lineup to transition to 3-nanometer chips in 2022, the sources say. Next year’s iPhone refresh is expected to move to a 4nm solution instead, but it seems likely — given that iPad Pro and the Mac now share the same chip — that some Mac models will also see a 3nm upgrade in late 2022 or early 2023.

Big performance gains

Shifting to a 3nm manufacturing process means the billions of tiny transistors packed into each chip are placed even more closely together. This makes production tougher and more expensive, but leads to sizable improvements in speed and energy efficiency.

TSMC expects its 3-nanometer chips to deliver performance gains of 10% to 15%, while reducing power consumption by an impressive 25% to 30%. However, the company wouldn’t comment, unsurprisingly, on its plans with Apple when pressed by Nikkei Asia.