That said, SMIC / China barely made those 7nm chips, and here are the reasons why…
SMIC manufactured these 7nm chips using older Deep Ultraviolet Lithography (DUV) machines, instead of the state-of-art Extreme Ultraviolet Light (EUV) lithography machines made by Dutch company ASML.
This isn’t extraordinary in itself – TSMC and Samsung had much earlier developed 7nm process nodes using the older DUV machines. However, this comes at the cost of “increased process complexity and design rule restrictions“.
That is likely why the MinerVa chip is not only very small, it actually lacks SRAM (Static Random Access Memory) that is critical in processors that run our computers and smartphones.
The simpler design and small size allow SMIC to obtain sufficient workable chips, even with a poor yield. However, the cost of chip would be much higher than if it was manufactured on a higher-quality process.
So for all intents and purposes – this should be considered as a niche / prototype 7nm process, and not a true 7nm process node.
For China / SMIC to present a true “threat” as far as chipmaking is concerned, it would have to be capable of manufacturing MILLIONS of chips, not thousands.
Regardless of whether the Americans are howling in despair, or the pro-CCP netizens are howling in delight, China really does not have true 7nm chipmaking capability for mass production yet.
And even if they somehow manage to improve and scale up this 7nm DUV process, they cannot make more advanced chips without EUV machines made by ASML.