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Intel’s 10nm chips won't arrive until the second half of 2019

By Koh Wanzi - on 31 Jul 2018, 6:17pm

Intel’s 10nm chips won't arrive until the second half of 2019

Image Source: Intel

Intel has finally provided a more specific time frame for when we might finally get our hands on a 10nm processor for the mainstream market.

In its first earnings call since the resignation of CEO Brian Krzanich, the chipmaker said that it expects systems with 10nm chips to be on the shelves in time for the 2019 holiday season, which would put availability some time in the second half of the year.

Intel only referenced OEM systems however, and it did not specifically say when standalone processors might be available for system builders. Nevertheless, it seems reasonable to assume that these will reach consumers around the same time.

Intel has been on the 14nm manufacturing process for multiple generations of chips, and while the process is so far serving the company well, the company has still been struggling to move on to 10nm.

Mass production has been beset by delay after delay, with production originally planned for as far back as 2015. In April, Intel said we can expect to see 10nm chips some time in 2019, and the latest announcement simply narrows the release window further.

In other words, mass production is still a year away, even though Intel also said that yields are improving. Intel is technically already shipping 10nm processors, but that was just the low-end dual-core Core i3-8121U that is restricted to China and a single Lenovo system.

For the rest of the year, Intel’s roadmap includes additional iterations on the 14nm process, codenamed Whiskey Lake and Amber Lake.

Intel’s travails also create space for AMD to catch up. AMD’s first-generation Ryzen chips used GlobalFoundries’ 14nm process, but its second-generation processors use a 12nm process. Furthermore, AMD intends to move on to 7nm next year.

While you can’t compare processes from differently companies, the point remains that Intel’s stagnation is happening at a time when other companies are moving forward, and it may eventually be surpassed in terms of transistor density.