Using Less Energy

By John G. Spooner  |  Posted 2006-01-25 Print this article Print

Intels new process technology promises to increase the performance or cut the power consumption of its chips. The 45-nanometer process will yield a 2x improvement in transistor density, meaning Intel could pack double the amount of transistors into its chips or possibly make them smaller. Those transistors, which are the building blocks of a processor, will also speed up by 20 percent and use 30 percent less energy while switching on and off at the 45-nanometer level, versus those used in its current 65-nanometer process.
The forthcoming process also offers a five-fold reduction in leakage power, or electricity wasted while transistors are idle, versus Intels current state-of-the-art 65-nanometer process, Bohr said.
Thus Intel can bump up its chips performance or reduce power consumption, both of which the company is aiming to do under its performance per watt mantra. Click here to read more about Intel and AMDs plans for quad-core chips. "The smaller [45-nanometer] transistors use less power as they switch on and off. That offers lower active power if we keep the same number of transistors or we can add more transistors to a chip, bumping performance or adding features within the same [power] budget," Bohr said. "The name of the game going forward is to provide as much performance within a given power budget—whether its desktop, notebook or handheld—as possible. With smaller, faster, lower power transistors there are a lot of interesting things you can do across the board." Indeed, the new process technology would also help facilitate the addition of more processor core on each chip. At the moment, Intel is shipping dual-core or two-processor-in-one chips. However, it aims to offer multi-core chips starting in 2007 with a quad-core server chip dubbed Tigerton. But despite the planned arrival of the 45-nanometer manufacturing process, targeted for mainstream processors in desktop, notebook and server categories, Intel is continuing with the development of a low-power 65-nanometer process, dubbed P1265. Intel, which has shipped a million 65-nanometer chips since beginning 65-nanometer production last year, is typically first among chip makers to a new manufacturing generation. The company has two 65-nanometer chip factories in operation, now, and plans to add two more by the end of the year. Its rival AMD, meanwhile, began pilot production of 65-nanometer chips late last year at its Fab 36 manufacturing plant. It has said its aiming to begin volume production of 65-nanometer chips in the second half of this year. AMD has been working with IBM on 45-nanometer and below manufacturing processes as well. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news in desktop and notebook computing.

John G. Spooner John G. Spooner, a senior writer for eWeek, chronicles the PC industry, in addition to covering semiconductors and, on occasion, automotive technology. Prior to joining eWeek in 2005, Mr. Spooner spent more than four years as a staff writer for CNET, where he covered computer hardware. He has also worked as a staff writer for ZDNET News.

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