Intel Details New 14-Nanometer Chip

By Dow Jones Business News, 

SANTA CLARA, Calif.-- Intel Corp. provided details of its latest advance in manufacturing technology, a milestone that arrived after a delay of more than six months due to technical problems.

The first chip based on the new production process--which is called the Intel Core M and based on a design called Broadwell--will be targeted at tablets and other devices that operate without a cooling fan but are as thin as nine millimeters or less.

Rani Borkar, a vice president in Intel's platform engineering group, said the new product will offer seven times the performance of earlier chips on graphics tasks and twice the speed in conventional computing tasks. She added that hardware designers could offer twice the battery life while using batteries that are half the size of today's versions.

Intel said the first devices based on the new chip will be on store shelves for the holiday selling season, with more devices from a range of manufacturers available in the first half of 2015.

The announcement comes as Intel, which has long dominated sales of chips for personal computers, continues a lengthy struggle to place its technology into tablets and smartphones. Most makers of those products use chips from companies that license technology from ARM Holdings PLC.

Brian Krzanich, Intel's chief executive, has set a target of 40 million tablets using the company's chips this year and has said it on target to meet that goal.

Technology that helps extend battery life should help, said Bob O'Donnell, an analyst at Technalysis Research, though the tablet market may remain tough for the company. The biggest lesson from the latest technology announcement, he said, is that Intel is incorporating more advances based on the market's demands rather than its engineers' goals.

"It's a more pragmatic approach than I think we've seen in a while," Mr. O'Donnell said.

The new manufacturing process creates chips with circuitry measured at just 14 nanometers, or billionths of a meter. Smaller transistors and other features tend to pack more computing capability into a smaller space, prompting a race by semiconductor makers to keep shrinking their technology.

Intel's latest production process also is its second to include what the industry calls FinFETs, a kind of three- dimensional structure that differs from the conventional design of earlier transistors. It first appeared in Intel chips using a 22-nanometer processor that went into volume production in late 2011.

The pace of miniaturization, which has doubled the number of chips on a typical chip every two years or so, is named after Intel's co-founder. But Moore's Law, as it is called, has shown signs of slowing in recent years.

Intel had initially expected to begin churning out the 14-nanometer chips in high volume at the end of 2013, but last fall said it wouldn't make that schedule because of technical issues it didn't explain in detail.

Mark Bohr, a senior Intel fellow who helps direct development of its production process, noted that the initial yield of working chips on each silicon wafer was worse than Intel achieved in the early days of producing 22-nanometer chips. But he stressed that the 14-nanometer process yield is improving rapidly, and has brought greater benefits than earlier technology shifts.

"Everybody in our industry will acknowledge it is getting tougher with every new generation," Mr. Bohr said at a briefing for reporters at Intel's headquarters. But he added: "We are going to carry the Moore's Law banner as far as we can."

While the initial chips based on the new process will be targeted at portable devices, Intel executives stressed that the technology will gradually be introduced in all kinds of products, including large server systems and desktop PCs.

Intel plans to disclose additional details about the new technology and products based on it at an annual conference in September.

Write to Don Clark at

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This article appears in: Technology

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