Summary: Today Intel revealed more details than ever about their upcoming CPU plans for the rest of 2009 and into 2010. Read all about the new processors the company has in store for the immediate future in this article!
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.
Both Clarkdale and Arrandale will sport two processing cores with Hyper-Threading, bringing support for up to four threads to run simultaneously, and theyíll also be the first Intel CPUs to feature integrated graphics on the CPU package (although it wonít be on the same piece of silicon as the CPU die). Intel also says both CPUs will support dual-channel DDR3, with 4MB cache. In another first, the new processors will also support Intelís new AES instructions: these are 7 new instructions focused on delivering accelerated encryption/decryption. This should reap benefits for users concerned about data security who would like to encrypt their hard drive.
In terms of graphics, Intel says the new integrated graphics core should deliver dramatically improved performance, although when pressed further it sounds like it isnít a new architecture, rather the design is derived from their existing 65-nm IGP. Instead the performance benefits largely come from the improved bandwidth and reduced latency Intel obviously reaps by integrating the CPU and GPU closer together on the same package, as well as higher clock speeds. Unlike the 32-nm Westmere CPU, the graphics chip used will be based on Intel's existing 45-nm process.
By integrating graphics on the same package as the CPU, that also obviously makes life tougher for someone like NVIDIA, who has touted their superior graphics performance before with integrated graphics products like GeForce 9400M, which has won numerous design wins including Apple Macbook.
With graphics moving off of the chipset and directly onto the CPU itself, itís more efficient for someone like Apple, Dell, or HP to just use the integrated graphics provided by the CPU rather than going to the expense of using an NVIDIA chipset. Fortunately Clarkdale and Arrandale support switchable graphics, so a discrete GPU could be combined with the CPU to deliver superior 3D performance when needed for apps like gaming, and then switch back to the integrated graphics to conserve power.
Another benefit of integrating graphics onto the same package as the CPU for Intel is flexibility: they can easily add newer, more powerful graphics parts as they become available without having to resort to introducing a new system chipset or affecting the CPU core itself.
Interestingly enough, Intel has no plans at this time for a quad-core Westmere part. This also came as a bit of a surprise to us, but Intel said they plan to focus on the high volume market first and foremost. They also mentioned the current state of the economy, where consumers seem to be more price-conscious than ever. Obviously Clarkdale and Arrandale will be going primarily into low-cost desktop and notebook PCs, where dual-core is more prevalent.
Rather than introduce a new quad-core part based on Westmere, Intelís sole quad-core parts will remain Lynnfield and Clarksfield until their next-generation Sandy Bridge architecture arrives at the end of 2010. You can see that in this slide here:
Fortunately Clarkdale and Arrandale will rely on the same 5-series motherboards launching first for Lynnfield and Clarksfield.
For the high-end desktop PC market, in early 2010 Intel plans to replace todayís Core i7 CPUs with a third Westmere-based core codenamed Gulftown. Gulftown will ship with six processing cores, with Hyper-Threading support added on top brining the total number of threads supported to 12.
According to Intel, Gulftown will utilize todayís X58 chipset, so potentially users upgrading right now should have an upgrade path a year from today.
To whet the publicís appetite, Intel also showed off desktop and mobile Westmere-based platforms today:
Intelís lead in process technology gives them a huge advantage over AMD. In addition, unlike AMD, Intelís roadmap execution has been perfect as of late. When Intel says theyíre going to do something, they actually deliver on that promise. That makes life easier for system integrators who can plan accordingly, and the consumer benefits from the timely arrival of new products.
|© Copyright 2003 FS Media, Inc.|