Jul

4

 I had meant to post this a while back about Intel making the leap to 3d transistor design in the commercial environment. From a layman's perspective, this appears to be a big deal. Intel has been working on this since the early 2000s and is now ready to ship by early next year. The 22nm design is a step forward as it allows more transistors per area than the 32nm one, but the big news is the tri-gate design. It should result in very low power chips potentially, with less leakage at the transistor gate.

I would be interested to hear Gary's thoughts on the technology, but I believe this once again demonstrates Intel's technical prowess and continued innovation. TSMC, a large competitor foundry, is nowhere close to the commercial deployment of this technology. They are not planning on commercial production until 2015-16 when they move to 14nm structures. The low power possibilities of these chips may open up the smartphone market to Intel and fire a shot across the bow of ARM Holdings which currently dominates the space. Intel may finally be able to grab marketshare in the smartphone and tablet market with Atom processors running this tech.

I have been considering picking up some Intel as a long term holding in my IRA based on a number of factors including their relatively fat dividend yield. The above would point to a solid game plan going forward. I think Intel is doing some interesting things from the technology standpoint right now:

Intel is taking nano-scale chip design literally to another level. After more than five decades of putting flat (or planar) transistors to work in billions of chips in billions of digital devices ranging from big-iron mainframes to minuscule embedded sensors, Intel said May 4 that it now will build the tiny processing units in three dimensions, instead of two. They are called Tri-Gates, and Intel first disclosed the technology that goes into this chip design in 2002. Intel's 3D Tri-Gate transistors enable chips to operate at lower voltage with lower leakage, providing a combination of improved performance and energy efficiency never before seen in the chip industry, Intel Senior Fellow Mark Bohr said.

The channels of electricity on three sides of the vertical fin structure make up the 3D nature of the transistor. The 22-nanometer 3D Tri-Gate transistors (a nanometer is one-billionth of a meter) provide up to 37 percent performance increase at low voltage compared with Intel's currently shipping 32nm planar transistors. This significant gain signifies that they are ideal for use in small handheld devices. These new transistors will reside on Intel's soon-to-come 22nm Ivy Bridge processors, due out late this year.

More in-depth analysis here


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