Intel has announced the quad versions of its third-generation, Ivy Bridge, Core processors including five Core i5 and four Core i7 for desktops, four Core i7 for notebooks, and another Core i7 (extreme edition) for very high-end notebooks. Where the dual core versions are is a bit of a mystery, although they are expected to be lower operating voltage variants and may be forthcoming in supposed product announcements at Computex in June 2012.
The big deal about the new cores is that are being fabricated in Intel’s 22-nm process, announced in 2011, replacing that year’s Sandy Bridge chips. The company claims that “on a transistor level” they will use 50% less power but with over 35% better performance. How the transistor statement translates into overall performance and power for the complete cores remains to be seen…
The improvements are being claimed in this process by what Intel are calling 3-D transistors. Instead of using planar gates, the devices use ‘fins’ around which the gates are wrapped, two on each side and one on top. This, they say, reduces gate leakage without compromising speed. This is not a new idea - what we have been calling finFETs up until now - but Intel appears to have the first commercial implementation at a cost increase of only a couple of percent.
But 3-D? Really, is that the most inaccurate description they could come up with? Makes me feel that if I took a sheet of paper and drew a transistor on it that would be my old, and much loved, 2-D part, although the things I have held in my hands for the past fifty years have sure looked like 3-D products to me.
This tri-gate technology is a big breakthrough and one that other processor vendors are going to have to match to keep in the power density game. It’s not the end of the development road, however; Intel is already working on the next generation – already demonstrated – to be called Haswell, which will be speedily followed by a 14-nm version thought to be called Broadwell (was going to be called Rockwell). The basic tenet of Haswell will be a very much lower power consumption while on standby, allowing your laptop to be always connected while still giving a reasonable operating battery life...so your e-mails will always be downloaded, even when the machine is tucked safely away in its bag.
That’s certainly my idea of drawing from a different perspective.