Custom silicon

Updated: 11/06/2021 by Computer Hope
Apple M1 silicon

Popularized in recent years by companies like Apple and Google, custom silicon refers to a specially-designed SoC or processor designed by the manufacturer of a device. Traditionally, CPUs are purchased from established silicon companies, like AMD or Intel. Manufacturing first-party chips, however, is more cost-effective in large quantities and allow the processor to work more efficiently with existing computer, smartphone, or tablet components.

When someone refers to Apple silicon or Google silicon, it describes the custom chips that are made for these devices. While the design of these custom silicon chips is proprietary, their manufacturing is often outsourced to other companies. Apple's M1 chip in the 2020 MacBook series, for example, is produced by TSMC.

Examples of custom silicon

Listed below are the various silicon chips that are developed by companies adopting this business model.

  • Apple M Series - Apple released for the 2020 MacBook lineup, the Apple M1 chip is now available in every MacBook variation. Consumers can choose from the M1 and Intel versions of the MacBook when purchasing a device from 2020 or later. The M1 Pro and M1 Max was later introduced in 2021 for Macintosh computers.
  • Apple A Series - The Apple A4 chip was unveiled with the iPad in 2010 and later used in the iPhone 4. Since then, Apple has released new A Series chips with each iteration of the iPhone.
  • Google Tensor - Released with the Google Pixel 6 in 2021, the Google Tensor chip replaces the Qualcomm CPUs that are most often used in Google Pixel smartphones.
  • Tesla Dojo - In September 2021, Tesla, who had previously used NVIDIA chips, unveiled the Tesla D1 chip, for use in the self-driving Autopilot AI found in all Tesla cars.

Apple terms, CPU, Electronics terms, Hardware terms, Processor terms