TSMC might be producing all AMD and Apple's goodies, but Samsung still makes more chips

Samsung fab
(Image credit: Samsung)

This might come as a bit of a surprise, but Samsung ended 2020 making a far greater number of wafers of computing silicon than pure-play foundry rival, TSMC. It's widely known that TSMC makes, well, almost everything, but with a monthly manufacturing capacity of 3.1 million wafers versus TSMC's 2.7 million wafers, Samsung actually accounts for nearly 15 percent of the world's entire wafer supply, or a little over one in seven. The Korean giant likely has its vast memory empire to thank for that.

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Relative manufacturing lightweight, Intel, came in sixth place in the global rankings with just 884K wafers per month. Pfft. Small change, really. This comes from a report from IC Insights as reported by DigiTimes

TSMC, AKA the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, AKA the peops who make pretty much everything Apple and AMD design, as well as a historically large number of Nvidia GPUs, and recently Intel chips, is still the number one contract foundry, with Samsung still playing catchup when it comes to getting licensed to manufacture shiny new silicon for other people. 

The fact that Nvidia has switched the bulk of its consumer GPU manufacturing to Samsung probably explains a little about why the green team has had a slightly better record of getting new graphics cards out into the hands of PC gamers than AMD does. 

Though things are still super tight on that front. And if more people, companies, and internet cafes decide that cryptocurrency mining is going to deliver higher profits than, y'know, remaining closed during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, for example, we're going to see actual retail supply remaining crazy low potentially for the rest of the year.

Though it's worth noting that while demand has been unprecedented for the last year, IC Insights also notes that the top five wafer producers actually increased the volume they produced by 40 percent year-on-year. 

There is more hardware getting made, there's just more of us chasing after it.

After Samsung and TSMC up top on the wafer manufacturing leaderboard we then move into a whole bunch of memory manufacturers, with Micron in third, SK Hynix in fourth, and Kioxia (formerly, kinda Toshiba) coming in at number five. After all, everything needs memory, right?

Dave James
Managing Editor, Hardware

Dave has been gaming since the days of Zaxxon and Lady Bug on the Colecovision, and code books for the Commodore Vic 20 (Death Race 2000!). He built his first gaming PC at the tender age of 16, and finally finished bug-fixing the Cyrix-based system around a year later. When he dropped it out of the window. He first started writing for Official PlayStation Magazine and Xbox World many decades ago, then moved onto PC Format full-time, then PC Gamer, TechRadar, and T3 among others. Now he's back, writing about the nightmarish graphics card market, CPUs with more cores than sense, gaming laptops hotter than the sun, and SSDs more capacious than a Cybertruck.