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Monday, May 7, 2012

Intel Launches Next-gen Ivy Bridge Processors With 3D Transistors

Intel has officially launched the first wave of its Ivy Bridge processors with a new tri-gate transistor technology, touting the new chips as the “world’s first 22 nanometer product.”

Intel’s new Ivy Bridge processors use a new tri-gate transistor technology to boost processing power while reducing the amount of energy needed.

Traditional planar chip design (left) and Intel's new Tri-Gate technology (right).

The initial release includes 13 quad-core processors, most of which will be targeted at desktop computers.

Further dual core processors, suitable for ultrabooks – thin laptops – will be announced “later this spring”.

Intel and PC manufacturers expect the release to drive a wave of new sales.

“The momentum around the system design is pretty astonishing,” Intel’s PC business chief, Kirk Skaugen, who is spearheading the launch, told the BBC.

“This is the world’s first 22 nanometre product and we’ll be delivering about 20% more processor performance using 20% less average power.”

The firm has already built three factories to fabricate the new chips and a fourth will come online later this year.

“This is Intel’s fastest ramp ever,” Mr Skaugen added.

“There will be 50% more supply than we had early in the product cycle of our last generation, Sandy Bridge, a year ago. And we’re still constrained based on the amount of demand we’re seeing in the marketplace.”

Intel's new Ivy Bridge processors use a new tri-gate transistor technology to boost processing power while reducing the amount of energy needed

Low power: The fact that Intel’s new transistor technology – the on/off switches at the heart of its chips – are more power-efficient could be crucial to its future success.

Intel's Ivy Bridge chip

Tri-gate transistors: Intel hopes a new transistor technology, in development for 11 years, will help it challenge Arm’s reputation for energy efficiency.

Bell Labs created the first transistor in 1947, and it was about a quarter of the size of an American penny. Since then, engineers have radically shrunk them in size – so there are now more than one billion fitted inside a single processor.

It all poses quite a challenge to Intel’s main competitor in the PC processor market – Advanced Micro Devices.

AMD plans to reduce the amount of power its upcoming Piledriver chips consume by using “resonant clock mesh technology” – a new process which recycles the energy used by the processor. However, full details about how it will work and a release date are yet to be announced.

“We are targeting 20 times better battery life on standby – always on, always connected,” Mr Skaugen said about the update, due for release in 2013.

“So you can get all your files and emails downloaded onto your PC while it’s in your bag, and still get more than 10 days of standby and all-day battery life.”

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