IBM and a group of partners have managed to produce the first processor using a 7 nanometer process. This is just a test chip, and it’ll still be a while before processors based on 7nm technology used in real-world products. But this is the first time anyone’s demonstrated a working chip smaller than 10nm.
Why is smaller better? Broadly speaking, when you can pack more transistors into a smaller space, you get chips that are both faster and more efficient. That’s a large part of the reason we’ve seen Intel, AMD, and other chip makers move to smaller and smaller processes in recent years. The latest Intel chips, for example, are 14nm processors.
Intel has said that it expects to produce 10nm chips in 2016 and 7nm processors 2 years after that.
But IBM, GLOBALFOUNDRIES, and Samsung are already showing off a 7nm test chip which could put more than 20 billion transistors onto a chip the size of a fingernail.
IBM says it used Silicon Germanium channel transistors and Extreme Ultraviolet lithography to create the chip, which could offer up to 50 percent more power and/or 50 percent better power efficiency than the best chips available today.
via Ars Technica