Intel gets ready to launch 32nm Westmere chips

Jumping from 45nm to 32nm, Intel will unveil three new chips at CES this week

Intel Corp. is making a big leap later this week, moving from a 45-nanometer manufacturing process to 32nm with three new chips.

Intel is expected to announce the new chips - and their associated chipsets - at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Billing Intel President Paul Otellini's Thursday keynote as a big news event, the company is set to unveil three chips from the Westmere family for desktop and mobile PCs.

While Westmere has been the chips' internal name, they're officially being called Core i3, Core i5 and Core i7. The chips all are based on the Nehalem architecture but are being built on a 32nm platform. Rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc. is scheduled to release its first 32nm chip in six months or so, but this is the first time Intel has dropped below 45nm , and the move marks a significant milestone for the industry.

"This is a big deal because these are the first 32nm chips, which is a big shrink versus current 45nm technology," said Dan Olds, an analyst with the Gabriel Consulting Group. "AMD is supposed to deliver 32nm chips in 2010, sometime around mid-year. Intel has supposedly been fabbing these new chips since November to ensure an adequate supply, meaning that Intel will be in the driver's seat at least until mid-2010, though it could be longer if AMD's production schedules slip. For their part, AMD needs to get its 32nm technology out on time -- or sooner if possible. The longer Intel has the lead, the more difficult it will be for AMD to regain mind and market share."

With the big Otellini keynote coming later this week, Intel released some basic information about the new chips today.

According to Intel, all three new chips will be dual cores and will use hyper-threading technology, an integrated memory controller and intelligent power gating.

Jim McGregor, an analyst with In-Stat, noted that the 32nm chips will have an increased transistor count , and the chips will run faster without increasing power consumption. Intel is able to squeeze so much more on the new chips that the corresponding chipset packages, which are the groups of chips designed to work together, has gone from three to two chips.

"With this shrink, Intel is able to pull more circuitry onto the chip, such as the memory and graphics controllers," Olds said. "This allows them to eliminate an entire chip, making their processor/chipset solution two chips rather than three. This is important as it is less costly to manufacture and will reduce costs to OEMs. In turn, this also means that the chips take up less space on the board and will allow smaller and more flexible system form factors. Intel being able to fab these chips in volume puts them firmly in the lead over AMD."

This week's news also means that Intel is keeping up with Moore's Law , the 42-year-old prediction by Gordon Moore holds that the number of transistors on a chip doubles about every two years. However, some observers have predicted over the years that leakage and energy consumption are going to be significant roadblocks to the law continuing to hold true.

Intel, so far, is staying the course. The chip maker moved from a 65nm manufacturing process to 45nm about two years ago, and this week marks the jump down to 32nm.

"This is the next major process step," McGregor said. "Basically, it gets down to the economics of the industry - shrinking dies, adding transistors, doing more with fewer resources. This is what it's all about in this industry."

McGregor also noted that this is a critical move, and not just for the PC and laptop industry. The work Intel has been doing on Westmere will help the company develop 32nm Atom chips for netbooks and pocket devices in the near future.

"This is important for the PC, but these small-design geometries are critical for netbooks and smartphones," he added. "That's where the most bang for the buck is going to be for 32nm."

Sharon Gaudin covers Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies and desktop/laptop chips for Computerworld . Follow Sharon on Twitter @sgaudin.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags ces 2010intelWestmere

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Sharon Gaudin

Computerworld (US)
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?