Intel brooding on big rename of its process nodes

Posted on Wednesday, Mar 31 2021 @ 11:17 CEST by Thomas De Maesschalck
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Among tech enthusiasts, it's not a big secret that the naming of semiconductor process nodes is largely marketing. It's been this way for many years and especially TSMC is really banging the drums about 5nm and now also 4nm. But when you look at the actual technical specifications, the 10nm node that Intel is deploying right now is not that very different versus the 7nm nodes from TSMC and Samsung. All these names are pretty much made up -- and have no relation to real technical specifications.

Intel process node naming to get more imaginative?

While the Asian foundries have been pretty loose with the naming of new process technology, Intel has been a lot stricter. Now The Oregonian reports that Intel wants to change the way it names its process nodes -- too close the gap in terms of marketing. The paper spoke to Intel employees and got to hear that Intel manufacturing vice president Ann Kelleher is cooking up a new naming scheme that will more closely match what the rest of the industry is doing:
“It’s widely acknowledged in the industry that there is inconsistency and confusion in nanometer nomenclature, and it does not reflect the latest innovations at the transistor level,” said Intel spokeswoman Chelsea Hughes.

These dimensional discrepancies used to be mostly academic. Intel’s processors were long acknowledged as the most advanced in mass production, regardless of what number it chose to label them.

No longer.
Overall, a naming change doesn't really matter. After the 10nm fiasco and the 7nm delay -- what Intel really needs is to get back on track. Nobody cares if you're pumping out so-called "7nm" chips if these perform better than the "5nm" parts from the competition. The consumer doesn't care, most tech enthusiasts know better, and financial analysts should do their due diligence.

TSMC N4 volume production before year-end

Speaking about TSMC, the Taiwanese foundry is ahead of schedule with its N4 process node. This enhanced version of TSMC's 5nm node is expected to be ready for volume production in Q4 2021. Previously, TSMC planned to start mass production on this node in 2022.

This is what really matters. Delivering process technology on time. Nobody cares about how it's named.

About the Author

Thomas De Maesschalck

Thomas has been messing with computer since early childhood and firmly believes the Internet is the best thing since sliced bread. Enjoys playing with new tech, is fascinated by science, and passionate about financial markets. When not behind a computer, he can be found with running shoes on or lifting heavy weights in the weight room.

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