Although Intel will release new Intel Core processors later this year – known as Tiger Lake – the eyes have been on the true next-gen chips which have slipped again in release date and will now debut in 2022, a massive delay on Intel’s original target of 2017/18.
These will be made using a 7nm manufacturing process rather than the current 10nm we’ll see again with Tiger Lake, essentially meaning much greater efficiency, cooler operation and more capable chips.
The delay is embarrassing for a company that has always prided itself on innovation. Rival AMD is already producing 7nm parts plentifully as are other companies such as Huawei’s HiSilicon, Apple with its A-Series and Qualcomm’s Snapdragon that – all use TSMC’s 7nm manufacturing – TSMC started on 7nm manufacturing back in 2017 and there’s no doubt this delay at least partly explains Apple being so keen to transition some Macs to running Apple’s own processors.
There is clearly a serious problem since Intel says that yields – the amount of defective versus non-defective products produced – are nowhere near what they should be and are running a year behind target. Before 7nm hits the streets, it seems we’ll get yet another refinement of the 10nm process in 2021 called Alder Lake.
In a press release, CEO Bob Swan talked about a “defect mode…that resulted in yield degradation” in the 7nm process and again indicating it’s a bad situation since it’s stated the company has “invested in contingency plans to hedge against further schedule uncertainty.”
Tom’s Hardware adds that it was also said in an investor call that Intel may rely on third-party foundries for chip production. For a company with its own manufacturing facilities that is a real blow – it invested $7 billion in ‘Fab 42’ in Arizona specifically designed to produce 7nm chips.