Intel has set a concrete deadline for when it’ll finally have processors built on a 10nm process in the mainstream market: holiday season 2019.
While the company’s 14nm manufacturing process is working well, with multiple revisions to improve performance or reduce power consumption, Intel has struggled to develop an effective 10nm process. Originally mass production was planned for as far back as 2015. In April, the company revised that to some time in 2019. The latest announcement is the most specific yet: PC systems with 10nm processors will be in the holiday season, with Xeon parts for servers following soon after. This puts mainstream, mass production still a year away.
The company does have a single 10nm processor on the market right now: a solitary low-end i3 processor. That processor is being produced in limited numbers, and peculiarly for an i3 it does not include an integrated GPU. The implication is that Intel had to disable the GPU in order to be able to build the chips at all. The processor, named the i3-8121U, is shipping in a single Lenovo system.
For the rest of this year, Intel is going to release further processors, codenamed Whiskey Lake and Amber Lake, on further iterations of its 14nm process.
The 10nm delays have meant that Intel’s competitors, which for many years have trailed behind the chipmaker, are closing in. AMD’s first generation Ryzen chips were built on GlobalFoundries’ 14nm process; its second generation Ryzens use a 12nm process, though retain the physical size of their 14nm predecessors. AMD plans to sell chips on a 7nm process next year.
The different companies’ processes can’t be directly compared—Intel’s 14nm is much denser than GlobalFoundries’ 14nm, for example—but the non-Intel chips should soon surpass Intel’s parts for transistor density, because the chip foundries like GlobalFoundries and TSMC are making generational improvements, while Intel has faltered.