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Huawei Teardown Reveals 5-nm Laptop Chip Made in Taiwan

In a surprising twist, a recent teardown of Huawei Technologies' newest laptop has revealed that it runs on a chip made by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC), debunking speculations of another Chinese technological breakthrough.

The Qingyun L540 notebook contains a 5-nanometre chip manufactured by TSMC in 2020, around the same time when US sanctions restricted Huawei's access to the chip maker.

This discovery contradicts the belief that Huawei's Chinese chipmaking partner, Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp (SMIC), had achieved a significant leap in fabrication technique.

Last August, Huawei made headlines in both the US and China when it released a smartphone with a 7-nm processor manufactured by Shanghai-based SMIC. However, a teardown conducted by research firm TechInsights for Bloomberg News revealed that the chip in the Mate 60 Pro was not as cutting-edge as initially thought, raising questions about the effectiveness of US trade curbs. This revelation sparked celebrations in the Chinese tech scene and ignited a debate in the US.

In the recent teardown, TechInsights discovered a Kirin 9006C processor fabricated using TSMC's 5-nm method. The chip was assembled and packaged in the third quarter of 2020. Industry experts had previously speculated that SMIC had achieved this milestone by finding workarounds to US sanctions, which would have been a significant achievement for the Chinese company.

Representatives for Huawei and TSMC declined to comment when approached by Bloomberg News.

The advancements showcased in the Mate 60 smartphone in 2023 solidified Huawei's position as a leader in China's efforts to reduce reliance on Western technologies and develop domestic alternatives. The smartphone was highly sought after by Chinese consumers, helping Huawei surpass the symbolic revenue threshold of US$100 billion and challenging Apple's dominance in the market.

Venturing into the 5-nm territory would have been a significant leap for Huawei, bringing them closer to the most advanced processes currently in use, primarily centered around 3-nm nodes. Prior to TSMC severing ties with Huawei, they were supplying the Chinese company with chips as advanced as 5-nm.

It remains unclear how Huawei managed to acquire a three-year-old processor. However, it is known that the company has been stockpiling vital semiconductors since the US began restricting its access to components and equipment globally. While Huawei has been on Washington's Entity List since 2019, it was only in 2020 that TSMC stopped accepting orders from Huawei to comply with heightened US trade restrictions.

  • Huawei's newest laptop runs on a 5-nm chip made by TSMC, not SMIC.

  • The discovery contradicts speculations of a major breakthrough by SMIC.

  • Huawei's previous smartphone chip was not as cutting-edge as initially believed.

Source: SCMP

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