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Print 35 comment(s) - last by TakinYourPoint.. on May 26 at 6:24 PM

First 14 nm chip will likely not be ready until the holiday shopping season, after defect issues

Before 2013, Intel had seen several years of aggressive updates to the Core i-Series.  Each spring would bring fresh announcements of "ticks" (die shrinks) or "tocks" (architecture refreshes), which would alternate on a yearly basis.  By the summer months, these chips would have found their way into high-end laptop models.  
 
I. The Slippage
 
But eyed more carefully, signs of slippage to Intel's breakneck pace have been showing.  Sandy Bridge, the second generation of Core i-Series processor launched in Jan. 2011 (Q1 2011) and began shipping almost immediately.   Ivy Bridge -- the third generation Core i-Series chips -- were released a bit later, right at the start of Q2 2012 in April 2012.  As the release -- a die shrink to 22 nanometers -- brought the tricky-to-manufacture 3D FinFET technology to the table, most wrote off this slippage as natural.
 
Likewise last year's Haswell, Intel's 22 nm architecture refresh, slid back a few more months to June 2013.  Some did notice this time, with rumors mounting that the die shrink to 14 nm -- Broadwell -- might be delayed until 2015.  It turned out the reports were somewhat true -- Intel was suffering much higher defect rates than previously expected -- but Intel insisted that Broadwell chips would be delayed only a quarter, to Q1 2014.
 
But Q1 2014 (Jan. to Mar.) came and went and Broadwell still was a no-show in terms of shipments to OEMs.  In an April 2014 earnings call, CEO Brian Krzanich insisted that the wait was almost over, saying that the chips would ship sometime in H2 2014.  Most hoped this might mean Q3 2014, in time for the August-September back to school shopping season.

Brian Krzanich 14 nm
Intel CEO Brian Krzanich [Image Source: Intel Russia]

However, while attending the Maker Faire in San Mateo, Calif. this past Saturday Mr. Krzanich delivered some disappointing news to Reuters.  His comment hints to investors and customers not to get their hopes up of seeing Broadwell product shipping in time for that key sales season.
 
He stated:

I can guarantee for holiday, and not at the last second of holiday.  Back to school - that's a tight one. Back to school you have to really have it on-shelf in July, August. That's going to be tough.

If the Nov.-Dec. shipping window (perhaps with a September soft launch at the Intel Developer Forum) proves accurate, Intel will have lost nearly a full year in terms of slippage over the past four launch cycles, starting with Sandy Bridge.

ultrabooks
Broadwell should be available in time for the holidays.

This slippage originates from the high defect rates that every chip fab company encounters when moving to smaller nodes.  Intel typically tapes out test runs of chips and then must make the difficult decision of what will cost more -- the chips scrapped due to defects for the present process, or the cost of waiting and pushing back the refresh.  No matter what Intel chooses a fair amount of chips will be lost to design flaws, the trick is minimizing that number.
 
II. The Danger
 
Intel is pocketing around $2.5B USD in profit per quarter, so it's not exactly hurting for cash.  Still, having narrowly missed on its last two outlooks and struggling to gain ground in the mobile space, there's fear that the world's largest PC chipmaker may see its PC and server market share gobbled up by fresher competitors.
 
One of Intel's most dangerous rivals is the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Comp., Ltd. (TPE:2330) (TSMC).  TSMC is expecting to tape out 16 nm FinFET transistor-based chips late this year, possibly in Q4 2014.  If all goes well, this 16 nm product could launch as early as the 2015 back-to-school shopping season.  If it can pull that off, it may have closed the gap with Intel to about a year, versus the gap of over two years process-wise that existed back in 2011.

TSMC large
TSMC is preparing 16 nm FinFETs for a late 2014/early 2015 launch. [Image Source: Cult of Mac]

Another key rival is Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (KRX:005930) (KRX:005935).  Having taped out 14 nm transistors in Dec. 2012 in a test run, Samsung has been working to mature the technology at its fabs.  Samsung has teamed up with former Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. (AMD) spinoff, Global Foundries to push the technology into production.  According to a report in The EE Times, production is expected to begin in late H2 2014, and product may be available late in the holiday season.

Samsung
Samsung and GlobalFoundries hope to ship 14 nm FinFET product by the end of 2014, as well.

That same article, though, added a grain of salt courtesy of market analysis firm International Business Strategies Inc. (IBS).  Handel Jones, the firm's chief, told the publication:

IBS is expecting foundry-fabless companies also will experience delays on FinFETs similar to Intel.  Also, Intel has experience of FinFETs at 22 nm, and foundry-fabless companies do not have same expertise.

So don't be surprised if third-party fabs aren't quite caught up yet with Intel when 2015 rolls around.   

Sources: Reuters, EE Times



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Macbook Air Retina
By aurareturn on 5/19/2014 6:25:24 PM , Rating: 2
I'm so disappointed with this delay. This means that the retina Macbook air is going to be delayed as well and so will the next-gen Macbook Pros.

I was really hoping to get 15 hours of battery life with the retina Air this Summer.




RE: Macbook Air Retina
By Fleeb on 5/19/14, Rating: -1
RE: Macbook Air Retina
By StevoLincolnite on 5/19/2014 7:10:38 PM , Rating: 5
Comparable to a desktop processor? Which one exactly?

Because I doubt it's going to be taking it to a high-end hex/octo-core anytime soon.


RE: Macbook Air Retina
By FITCamaro on 5/20/2014 7:28:58 AM , Rating: 2
Sorry but the A7, while good for a mobile chip, doesn't even compare to AMD processors much less Intel. A7 might give Atom a run for it's money, but even that's debatable. There are benchmarks that show A7 beating Baytrail, but that could be more about the software as its the A7 running iOS vs Baytrail running full Windows 8.1.


RE: Macbook Air Retina
By vision33r on 5/21/2014 3:17:37 PM , Rating: 1
You just answered and justified why A7 is clearly the better approach. How could new cpu do us any good when the software is not even optimized properly for these new gen CPU.

With each iOS update and even Mac OS updates, Apple make API changes to make the Apps take advantage of the new features of he processor design.

How long did it took the market to move to X64 while Apple has this done in under one year. iOS apps can take advantage of 64bit process right away.


RE: Macbook Air Retina
By TheJian on 5/22/2014 6:04:08 AM , Rating: 1
You're comparing a <10w chip to a 83w? What happens today if you simply slap a good PC type fan/heatsink on and crank it up as far as you can go? At 3.5-4ghz these A57's that are coming would be very competitive. This is where Denver etc are headed at some point. They probably can't do that without a new rev but you should get the point (likely need to lengthen pipeline to hit PC speeds, but this is where they're driving to). They already got 21% of all notebooks with a chromebook. A57's will climb further up the chain and encroach on low-end PC's also. Next stop after that is putting an NV discrete card in that same box with a 200-500w PSU.


RE: Macbook Air Retina
By bug77 on 5/20/2014 9:00:12 AM , Rating: 1
If you paid any attention, you'd know intel's last tick (Ivy Bridge) did very little for power consumption. 3D transistors were supposed to be all the rage, but weren't. Westmere before that was also meh. The last impressive tick was Penryn; that brought us about 1GHz more within the same power envelope. So I don't know why you'd have high hopes for this tick either.
Plus, the biggest battery hog is still the display, in typical usage. CPUs will eat 25-40W, but only if you run them at 100%. Nobody does that for extended periods, but we all need the screen to look at.


RE: Macbook Air Retina
By ExarKun333 on 5/20/2014 9:34:51 AM , Rating: 2
IB was a very solid product for mobile. HD4000 was much better than SB graphics and there were a lot more lower-power variants available. The battery life and sleep capabilities also were noticeably better vs. SB. On the desktop side, yeah...not a lot of difference.


RE: Macbook Air Retina
By bsim50 on 5/20/2014 2:21:10 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
"did very little for power consumption"

...Other than a typical 15w reduction in power that is:-
http://www.xbitlabs.com/images/cpu/core-i7-3770k-i...

Along with a reduction in TDP from 95w to 77w for desktop chips...
http://ark.intel.com/compare/52210,65520

Sandy 32nm to Ivy 22nm was a solid upgrade. The only conflicting problem was going from soldered to "TIM with variable gap", which is a separate issue.


RE: Macbook Air Retina
By bug77 on 5/21/2014 4:20:48 AM , Rating: 2
That's cherry-picking. Mobile SB and IB have the same TDP (yes, I know a beefier GPU is included): 35-55W. And the original question was about mobile. But even on the desktop, low-power chips have remained in the 35-45W range, which would suggest the improvement was more geared towards full-load, rather than idle state.
So yes, it did something for power consumption (I never said it did nothing), but it wasn't the massive improvement we were waiting for (quite possibly due to many sensationalist news, like this one over here).


RE: Macbook Air Retina
By TEAMSWITCHER on 5/20/2014 9:14:07 AM , Rating: 2
Take a longer view of the technology road ahead. Broadwell is nothing more than a die-shrink of Haswell, with a focus on power efficiency, not performance. These changes might allow for Apple to create a fanless MacBook Air with Retina display, but it's not going to be faster than the current generation, after factoring in all the extra pixels.

Whatever comes after Broadwell will likely offer a large graphics boost as the transistor count skyrockets on a second generation 14nm process. This chip will hit the sweet spot for performance, efficiency, and maturity of process. The 2nd generation Retina MacBook Air will be the one to get. IMHO


RE: Macbook Air Retina
By TakinYourPoints on 5/26/2014 6:24:07 PM , Rating: 3
Skylake is where the big improvements will be. There won't be a big improvement in power consumption or performance with Broadwell. On-board GPU performance is where you will see the biggest boost. Don't expect a massive 12-to-15 hour increase in battery life since this is just a die-shrink from Haswell.


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