Intel's new line of 45-nm, power-efficient processors has started shipping. The new chips, which Intel cofounder Gordon More has said are powered by "the biggest transistor advancement in 40 years," have lower power requirements and higher clock speeds than their 65-nm predecessors.
The 45-nm process technology used to create the chips, according to Intel, "reinvents" certain areas of the transistors inside the processors to reduce energy leakage. The transistors are the first to use what is called a Hafnium-based high-k material, which removes energy leakage and allows processing to run more quickly and with less heat.
More than two million transistors made with the new technology could fit into the period ending this sentence. This translates into what Intel has described as a 20 percent performance increase while improving energy efficiency.
Altogether, 16 New Chips
In all, the company is currently releasing 16 new server and high-end PC processors. The first desktop 45-nm Hi-k processor, the Core 2 Extreme QX9650, is a powerhouse for hardcore gamers, with a larger L2 cache and support for Intel's new multimedia instructions.
Also out the door are 15 server dual-core and quad-core 45-nm Hi-K Xeon server processors. A dozen of them are quad-core, with clock rates from 2 GHz to 3.20 GHz, frontside bus speeds up to 1,600 MHz and caches up to 12 MB. Three of them are dual-core processors with clock speeds up to 3.4 GHz, bus speeds up to 1,600 MHz and caches up to 6 MB. Another 20 models are expected to be released in first quarter of 2008.
At the same time that it is releasing the new processors, Intel is also launching several chipset solutions -- and codenames -- to accompany them. These include the 5400 "Stoakley" chipset for high-bandwidth applications, the 5100 Memory Controller Hub chipset ("Cranberry Lake"), and the 3200 chipset-based platform ("Garlow") for single-processor, entry-level servers.
Volume Production, 40 OEMs
Intel is beginning volume production, with 40 OEMs already ramping up their own Penryn-based products. Late last month, the company began producing the chips at its new $3 billion plant in Chandler, Arizona, and additional plants are coming online soon in Israel and New Mexico.
The Penryn family is the "tick" in Intel's much-publicized "tick-tock" strategy. In this road of accelerated but scheduled innovation, a new manufacturing process and enhanced performance in one year is followed by a new architecture the next. The "tock" is scheduled to be the Nehalem processor, with a new architecture and as many as eight cores. It is expected in the second half of next year.
As small as 45-nm technology is, it's not the end of the road for shrinking chip sizes. Intel already has demonstrated what it described as the world's first 32-nm chips, whose technology would allow four million transistors to fit into the period at the end of this sentence.