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Intel unveils Penryn 45nm processors

Posted: 13 Nov 2007     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:45nm processor  Penryn  high-k dialectrics 

While other chipmakers, including archrival Advanced Micro Devices, are still months away from having production-ready 45nm chips, Intel Corp. has unveiled Nov. 12 the first members of its Penryn family, 16 45nm processors using new high-k dielectrics to control current leakage.

Fifteen of Intel's new chips aim at servers, with one focused on high-end desktops for gamers. The chips generally provide a 7 to 13 per cent performance boost over Intel's existing 65nm parts when measured at the same frequency.

The Penryn parts hit data rates ranging from 1.86- to 3.4GHz, with 6-12Mbyte cache and are typically packing more performance into existing 120-, 80- and 65W power envelopes, with 50W parts coming early next year.

"We are pretty excited about getting out not only the 45nm products, but the high-k dielectric materials as well, so, in addition to a shrink, we can also better address the power-consumption issues," said Shannon Poulin, a marketing director in Intel's server group.

Core battle
Meanwhile, AMD still commands an architectural lead, because it puts four CPU cores and memory controller on a single die with a fast interconnect. Intel stacks two dual-core dice in a package for the 12 quad-core chips in the initial Penryn rollout.

However, the Penryn chips exceed the 2GHz data rates AMD so far hits with its 65nm server CPUs rolled out earlier this year. AMD has promised to deliver 2.5GHz server chips in December, and has demonstrated its Phenom quad-core desktop part running at up to 3GHz.

Reviewers said AMD's 65nm parts commanded an edge in floating-point and streaming-media performance over Intel's 65nm parts. Intel is addressing that with Penryn and its new chip sets, bus and memory speeds, Poulin said.

"AMD really needs to get the clock speed of its CPUs up very soon. At 2GHz, AMD's parts are barely competitive with Intel's 65nm CPUs," said Nathan Brookwood, principal of market watcher Insight64.

Nehalem debut
While AMD races to catch up with 45nm technology, Intel is at work with its next-generation chips, called Nehalem, which could erase AMD's architectural edge. The Nehalem chips, to be introduced late next year, will be similar to AMD's latest Opterons, with four cores and a memory controller on a single die.

Intel will also roll out with Nehalem a new CPU interface, the Quick Path Interconnect, which is said to deliver up to 6.4MBps. That's far above the 1.7- to 2.1MBps on its current front-side bus now running at up to 1.6GHz.

"It will be interesting to see whether AMD can get its designs to 45nm technology before Intel can bring out a new architecture on its 45nm process," said Brookwood.

The good news for Intel is that it is significantly ahead of the industry with 45nm production, especially with its use of new dielectric materials.

By the end of the year, IBM Corp. hopes to have qualified a 45nm process using a more traditional silicon dioxide insulator. AMD is working with IBM on its technology and hopes to have 45nm production starting about midyear 2008.

- Rick Merritt
EE Times

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