New 5nm Huawei laptop processor is again Taiwan’s TSMC chip foundry affair

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Huawei’s Qingyun L540 laptop with 5nm HiSilicon 9006C processor by TSMC (image: Huawei)The shares of the Chinese chip foundry SMIC fell after it became clear that it is not the one making modern 5nm processors for Huawei. After the 7nm scare, the new 5nm Huawei chip doesn’t come from mainland China, either.

The US embargo on sales of 7nm and below chip-making equipment to China seems to still be holding up, at least in the “below” part. During last year’s scare with the 7nm Huawei Kirin chipset in the Mate 60 Pro phone, US officials worried that the chip may have actually been packaged by the Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. (SMIC) foundry near Shanghai in mainland China.

Huawei recently released a new laptop on the market boasting an even more advanced, 5nm processor that it dubs HiSilicon 9006C, provoking a fresh SMIC technological advance scare. Another teardown, however, revealed that the Huawei Qingyun L540 laptop’s 5nm processor is actually made by the Taiwanese foundry TSMC, rather than SMIC in mainland China, as feared.

This conclusion coincides with a deep dive analysis of the Kirin 9000 last year which deduced that it may simply be a rebadged 5nm TSMC chip of the type that the Taiwanese foundry was shipping to Huawei before the US embargo dropped in 2020. 

“The package is similar to the HiSilicon Kirin 9000 and was packaged in week 35 of 2020,” say the teardown specialists now, while “the die uses the same BEOL stack and process node that TechInsights has reported for the Kirin 9000 processor.”

As a result, SMIC’s shares fell a few percentage points in market trading, after it became clear that it is yet to master the 5nm production node, at least in the mass quantities and yield desired by electronics manufacturers. For TSMC, on the other hand, the 5nm chip production process is already three years old, introduced way back in 2020, while it is currently leveraging its second generation 3nm node.

It is not clear how Huawei managed to stockpile or obtain TSMC’s 5nm chips from 2020, but the company seems to be at the forefront of private and public efforts of China to develop its own homebrew advanced chip manufacturing technologies, investing billions in the process.

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Daniel Zlatev – Senior Tech Writer – 1022 articles published on Notebookcheck since 2021

Wooed by tech since the industrial espionage of Apple computers and the times of pixelized Nintendos, Daniel went and opened a gaming club when personal computers and consoles were still an expensive rarity. Nowadays, fascination is not with specs and speed but rather the lifestyle that computers in our pocket, house, and car have shoehorned us in, from the infinite scroll and the privacy hazards to authenticating every bit and move of our existence.

Daniel Zlatev, 2024-01- 5 (Update: 2024-01- 5)


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