Intel launched a brand new highway map at its Intel Accelerated occasion, laying the trail ahead for the following few years. Now that we all know what Intel is engaged on, now we have a a lot clearer image of how the chipmaker is working beneath new management, in addition to the way it will climb again to the highest after some big losses to rival AMD.
Beginning within the coming months, Intel will push the envelope in the way it creates, packages, and sells processors. Though the highway map is topic to alter — it wouldn’t be the primary time for Intel — the trail ahead seems thrilling for Group Blue.
Intel’s highway map kicks off later this 12 months with the introduction of Intel 7 and the launch of Alder Lake processors. Intel 7 was beforehand often called 10nm Enhanced SuperFin, constructing off of the 10nm course of showcased in Tiger Lake processors. It’s the identical node, however thanks to varied optimizations, it gives as much as a 15% enchancment in efficiency per watt.
Though Intel 7 implies a 7nm course of, Intel is sticking with 10nm by means of 2021. As an alternative, the change in naming helps Intel mirror its enhancements in transistor density and efficiency per watt in comparison with different chipmakers like TSMC and Samsung.
Alder Lake processors would be the first to characteristic Intel 7, and so they’re set to launch in late 2021. The processors will use a hybrid design — dubbed “large.LITTLE” by chip designer ARM — that makes use of high-performance cores and high-efficiency cores on the identical processor. By delegating work to an acceptable core, the high-performance cores have extra headroom, and Intel is ready to pack extra cores into the processor to enhance multi-core efficiency.
The large Golden Cove cores deal with the majority of the work, and so they’re just like what you’d discover in a regular Intel processor. Like earlier core designs, Golden Cove cores help hyperthreading, supplying you with entry to double the variety of threads primarily based on what number of cores the processor has.
The little Gracemont cores don’t help hyperthreading, however that’s probably not their objective. The cores are primarily based on an Intel Atom design, which exhibits up in low-power, high-efficiency gadgets. The flagship Intel Core i9-12900K is rumored to characteristic eight Golden Cove and eight Gracemont cores, providing a complete of 16 cores and 24 threads.
Though Intel isn’t shifting to 7nm with Alder Lake, the adjustments in core design ought to deliver a big efficiency enchancment. Early benchmarks present it beating AMD’s flagship Ryzen 9 5950X, and a leaked slide from Intel claimed as much as a 20% enhance in single-core efficiency.
One other benefit of this structure is the way it scales. Based mostly on what we all know, Intel can design an Alder Lake processor that requires as little as 5W of energy. Intel is predicted to launch Alder Lake-P processors to interchange Tiger Lake processors on cell, although we don’t have a selected timeframe on when that’s occurring proper now.
In 2022, Intel is rumored to observe up Alder Lake with Raptor Lake. These processors may even use the Intel 7 manufacturing course of, serving because the “tock” in Intel’s conventional tick-tock launch cadence. As such, Raptor Lake processors might be an enchancment of Alder Lake, not a wholly new manufacturing course of.
We don’t know as a lot about Raptor Lake proper now, as Intel likes to play its releases near the chest. As an enchancment of Alder Lake, nonetheless, the processors ought to characteristic an identical hybrid structure. Rumors recommend that Intel will keep on with Gracemont for the high-efficiency cores however introduce improved Raptor Lake high-performance cores.
Along with the core enhancements, Intel is rumored to incorporate extra Gracemont cores within the design. The flagship chip is alleged to return with 24 cores — eight Raptor Lake and 16 Gracemont — for a complete of 32 threads. The vary also needs to introduce DLVR energy supply, permitting the processor to cut back its clock pace to very low speeds when not in use.
DLVR may even present up on Raptor Lake cell processors. For the following couple of years, a minimum of, it appears Intel is aligning its desktop and cell releases. The introduction of DLVR ought to considerably enhance the battery lifetime of laptops. The cell vary may even introduce LPDDR5X reminiscence, in keeping with leaks.
Intel was rumored to transition over to its ATX12V0 energy normal by the launch of Raptor Lake, constructing on the usual after it was introduced in early 2020. Nevertheless, latest rumors recommend that motherboard makers have pushed back on the standard, so Intel might backpedal.
In 2023, Intel will transfer on from 10nm to a 7nm course of. Recognized now at Intel 4, the method will debut with the launch of Meteor Lake processors in 2023. Behind the scenes, Intel validated the Meteor Lake design earlier in 2021, suggesting that the vary is on monitor for a 2023 launch.
The brand new course of is alleged to deliver a 20% achieve in efficiency per watt due to the smaller dimension and use of EUV lithography, permitting Intel to create denser, extra complicated circuits. Till constructed on 7nm, Intel 4 will surpass TSMC and Samsung with their comparable 5nm nodes, with a transistor density of as much as 250 million transistors per sq. millimeter.
Intel infamously delayed the transfer to 7nm because it skilled manufacturing points. Initially, hypothesis urged that Meteor Lake would instantly observe Alder Lake, however the delay appears to have pushed Intel to develop Raptor Lake to fill the hole.
Though we don’t have any specs or merchandise proper now, there’s lots to be enthusiastic about with Meteor Lake. It’s additionally rumored to make use of a hybrid design, utilizing Redwood Cove high-performance cores with next-generation Gracemont cores. Redwood Cove is alleged to be an agnostic node, permitting Intel to create them in several fabs and stack them collectively.
That is the place Intel will notice its 3D Foveros packaging expertise. Foveros made its debut in 2020 with the launch of Lakefield processors, however Intel mentioned it’s engaged on enhancements to the packaging within the type of Foveros Omni and Forveros Direct. Meteor Lake is after we ought to see these packaging applied sciences come to fruition.
Redwood Cove may even assist Intel keep away from provide constraints and chip shortages, as the corporate (and the trade) was hit with in 2020. Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger referenced different fabs through the Intel Accelerated occasion in July 2021, suggesting it is a key a part of Intel’s technique shifting ahead.
Past 2023, issues get a bit of imprecise. This far out, it actually isn’t price speculating on particular merchandise as they’re possible in energetic growth at Intel. At this level, we’re dealing in applied sciences and manufacturing developments, not product ranges or particular processors.
Intel says the following step in its roadmap, Intel 3, will begin manufacturing within the second half of 2023, so we must always see the primary merchandise that includes it in early 2024. Like Intel 7, that is the “tock” in Intel’s growth cadence. As an alternative of a wholly new node, Intel 3 will characteristic enhancements to Intel’s 7nm manufacturing course of.
Present testing exhibits an 18% enchancment in efficiency per watt in comparison with Intel 4, due to the expanded use of EUV lithography and different enhancements. This node will proceed utilizing the FinFET transistor design Intel launched in 2011, serving because the final era to characteristic it.
Later in 2024, Intel will start ramping Intel 20A, which is essentially the most thrilling development the corporate has arising. This is able to have in any other case been often called Intel 1, however the firm modified the identify to usher within the new “angstrom period” of semiconductors.
Along with a brand new manufacturing course of, Intel 20A will make the most of two new structure applied sciences. The primary is PowerVia, which permits Intel to route energy by means of the again of the wafer, not by means of the entrance because it has historically completed. Intel says this supply technique is extra environment friendly, which ought to translate into real-world efficiency good points.
Intel will ditch the FinFET transistor design with Intel 20A, as properly. This era will deliver the brand new RibbonFET design, which is Intel’s identify for its gates-all-around (GAA) transistor. As an alternative of utilizing a single gate, a GAA transistor makes use of a number of gates on the transistor delivered by means of ribbons. This enables the transistor to open and shut quicker, vastly bettering pace.
We don’t know of any merchandise using Intel 20A proper now, however the firm has already introduced a partnership with rival Qualcomm. Sooner or later, Qualcomm will use Intel fabs to construct a few of its chips using Intel 20A.
The roadmap results in 2025, the place Intel will introduce Intel 18A and re-establish itself as a pacesetter within the trade — a minimum of primarily based on present estimates. If Intel sticks with its launch cadence, Intel 18A might be one other “tock” within the cycle, constructing on RibbonFET and PowerVia on a 5nm manufacturing course of.
We don’t know something about Intel 18A proper now outdoors of the truth that it exists. Nevertheless, Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger says the corporate has clear plans even past this level. “Moore’s Regulation is alive and properly. We have now a transparent path for the following decade of innovation to go to ‘1’ and properly past. I prefer to say that, till the periodic desk is exhausted, Moore’s Regulation isn’t over, and we might be relentless in our path to innovate with the magic of silicon,” he mentioned.
With additional partnerships with firm’s like IBM, Intel may proceed to push the boundaries of transistor density. Earlier this 12 months, IBM unveiled the world’s first 2nm chip, offering a glimpse at what could possibly be in retailer years down the road.