Intel had a notoriously hard time moving from 14nm to 10nm chips. In fact, even after multiple delays, only some of the company’s current processors are manufactured on a 10nm node.
Now the company is looking ahead to 7nm… and seeing more delays.
During the company’s second-quarter earnings call, Intel officials explained that its pushing back its timeline for 7nm chips by about six months. Tom’s Hardware explains that means we probably won’t see those chips until the late 2022 or early 2023 at the soonest.
The company says it’s still on track to release its 10nm “Tiger Lake” laptop chips with Intel Xe graphics during the third quarter of 2020. 10nm “Ice Lake” chips for servers are also currently in production.
We’ll have to wait until the second half of 2021 to see the first 10nm “desktop” chips from Intel though. Those will be code-named “Alder Lake.”
But Intel CEO Bob Swan says the 7nm delays are due to a defect that the company identified in its manufacturing process. The company is moving to a contingency plan which involves using third-party foundries to manufacturer the chips.
For the past few years, Intel has been squeezing as much out of its 14nm chips as it could by increasing CPU core counts and frequencies. But rival AMD is already selling 7nm laptop chips based on its “Zen 2” architecture that have received high marks from reviewers for performance and energy efficiency. AMD also announced this week that desktop computers with Zen 2 processors are coming soon.
While what Intel and AMD call “7nm” aren’t exactly the same thing, the point is that AMD has been making rapid progress in recent years, while Intel has been putting out 14nm chips since 2015, having only recently moved to the next node.
In other words, for the first time in years, Intel is in a position where it’s playing catch up to its chief rival in the PC chip space.
So a delay in the move to 7nm can’t be a good thing for Intel.
The company may still have a bit of an edge over AMD in the low-power processor space, where the company recently launched Lakefield, its first “hybrid” processors that combines a high-performance Intel Core CPU core with four energy-efficient Atom cores. Early reviews aren’t that enthusiastic, but AMD doesn’t have much to compete in this space… although now that Windows can run on computers with ARM-based chips, Intel has to compete with Qualcomm in the low-power space.