According to the latest statements, Intel would be ready to release the first 10-nanometer processors – the ones we now know by the code name “Ice Lake” – for laptops. Shipments to OEM / ODM companies should start in June, but only from next autumn we will be able to see notebooks based on these chips in the stores, even if we are sure that Santa Clara will give us a little taste of these changes at Taipei Computex 2019 in just over two weeks.
Intel at 7nm in 2021
Intel has taken the time and resources to achieve this goal: in the last decade the Santa Clara company has adopted a production model – called “Tick-Tock” – which has resulted in a reduction of the die every year (or two) but in the last times Intel has abandoned this approach to the development of microprocessors, remaining stuck at 14 nanometers since 2014 (except for some 10 nm “Cannon Lake” chips launched in 2018). So what will the future hold for us?
10 nm in 2019
Within a few months, Intel will ship the first 10 nm chips, starting with the “Ice Lake” notebook processors. At the moment we don’t have much information about their performance, but Santa Clara ensures some significant improvements (up to three times faster) compared to previous generation models in graphics, video transcoding, wireless speed and AI capabilities.
Intel also plans to market its “Lakefield” processors, announced at CES 2019, leveraging 3D Foveros packaging technology on a single processor to ensure lower power consumption, better graphics performance and a smaller (physical) footprint to allow use of chips even in ultrabooks and ultraportables. Some of the 10 nm chips expected next fall will also be accompanied by FPGA processors, AI chips, graphics processors and a 5G-ready on-a-chip system.
Intel Ice Lake
All this leads us to a single reflection: since Tick-Tock no longer exists, the production line will follow the Process-Architecture-Optimization roadmap. So we can expect 10nm chips this year, 10nm + chips next year and 10nm ++ chips in 2021.
7 nm in 2021
If Intel manages to meet these deadlines, 2021 will also be the year of 7 nm chips, the first made with the company’s new EUV (extreme ultraviolet) lithography, from which we expect 20% better performance per watt than the equivalent to 10 nm.
Like AMD, Intel’s first 7 nm chips won’t actually be CPUs but graphics processors, but with a substantial difference: AMD’s first 7 nm GPUs are already available (albeit expensive) and designed for data centers like Radeon Instinct, while Intel’s will only be ready in a couple of years and designed for general use.
Intel Ice Lake at 10 nm in June
Dedicated GPUs in 2020
In this regard, Intel has confirmed what it said last summer: its first dedicated GPU will be launched next year. Santa Clara has a marginal role in the graphics sector for its Intel HD subsystems integrated into the company’s mainstream processors but – starting from 2020 – Intel will be ready to challenge Nvidia and AMD also in the market of dedicated graphics with GPUs that could be used for games, renderings, cryptocurrency mining and other activities that require the use of graphic resources