Intel Processor Roadmap Update
At a media briefing conducted earlier today, Intel disclosed more info than ever on their plans for 32-nm. More specifically the company provided members of the press an updated roadmap outlining future processors based on their Westmere family of CPUs.
Westmere is the ďtickĒ in Intelís tick-tock strategy. In case you donít remember, under tick-tock, Intel follows up the introduction of a next-generation microarchitecture with a process shrink each year. Last yearís introduction of the Core i7 line of CPUs (previously codenamed Nehalem) was the ďtockĒ, and now like clockwork, Intel plans to follow up Nehalem with the first process shrink based on that architecture, the ďtickĒ. In this case 2009ís tick is codenamed Westmere and will be built on Intelís upcoming 32-nm manufacturing process. Next year weíll see Intelís next tock, which is codenamed Sandy Bridge.
Whatís new with 32-nm
Without a doubt, Intelís key advantage over competitors is manufacturing: every two years Intel expects to introduce a new manufacturing process. This allows them to incorporate more transistors into their CPUs while also reducing die size and power consumption. In other words, Intel can use these additional transistors to integrate more processing cores, additional cache, and other performance-enhancing features into their processors more affordably and with lower power consumption than they could have under their previous manufacturing process, or they can focus exclusively on reducing power consumption. Intelís high-end Westmere part will be the first desktop CPU to incorporate six cores, while system-on-chip (SoC) designs will allow for even smaller form factor PCs.
32-nm is Intelís first manufacturing process to incorporate immersion lithography. With immersion lithography, liquid is used on critical layers to improve focus. Intelís 32-nm manufacturing process is composed of 9-layers with copper+low-k dielectric.
Intel says 32-nm provides around 70% dimension scaling from their 45-nm generation. The new process is so healthy, Intel was able to boot from first silicon.
Intelís CPU plans for 2009
Thanks to some overclocking enthusiasts on xstremesystems.org, we already know Intelís immediate plans to Core i7. In a matter of months the company plans to unleash the Core i7 975 Extreme Edition to the world.
Clocked at 3.33GHz with a 133MHz base clock and 25.0x multiplier, the Core i7-975 Extreme Edition should replace todayís 965 EE processors and will likely be priced at $999. The new chip will utilize Intelís D0 stepping, which reportedly offers improved OCíing when compared to todayís Core i7 processors, which are based on Intelís C0 stepping.
Rumors also suggest Intel will introduce a new 3.06GHz Core i7 950 CPU, unlike the 975 EE however, this hasnít been confirmed officially or unofficially with representatives from Intel.
One of Core i7ís key weaknesses however is cost. All Core i7 CPUs require Intelís X58 platform, and pricey DDR3 memory, and as any enthusiast can tell you, motherboards based on Intelís X-series chipsets have never been cheap. While X58 motherboard price have come down considerably since launch, X58 motherboards still start right around $200, with the price quickly going up from there on more feature-rich motherboards.
To address this issue, Intel plans to introduce mainstream derivatives of Nehalem in the second half of 2009. These processors will utilize a new CPU socket and 5-series chipset, making them incompatible with the X58/Core i7 platform and vice versa. Theyíll also utilize a dual-channel memory controller rather than the triple-channel controller used on the Core i7.
These first mainstream derivatives of Nehalem are codenamed Lynnfield and Clarksfield. Lynnfield will be used for the desktop market, while Clarksfield will reside in notebooks.
Both chips will sport quad-processing cores with Hyper-Threading support, allowing the processor to handle up to eight threads simultaneously. Intel was expected to also introduce a dual-core derivative with integrated graphics codenamed Havendale, but as we learned yesterday Havendale has been cancelled.
Instead of launching Havendale for the value segment, Intel plans to go straight to their 32-nm Westmere family of CPUs.
In a bit of a surprise to us at least, Intel basically announced that their first Westmere parts will be focused on the value segment, previously Intelís first CPUs to get new technology went into the high-end space. The first Penryn parts for instance went into the Core 2 Extreme QX9770 and Core 2 Extreme QX9650 in 2007, with 45-nm mainstream parts shipping in early 2008.
This time around the value space will get first dibs on the new manufacturing process, with the high-end 6-core part coming in early 2010.