There has been a lot of talk about AMD's forthcoming Hammer processor but very little time is devoted to its imminent competitor - Prescott. Intel's Prescott core will be a relatively major upgrade to the Pentium 4 platform; the chip will bring higher clock speeds, a 1MB L2 cache, Hyper Threading and new instructions to the Pentium 4. Many of these enhancements will be made possible through the use of a new manufacturing process for the transistors that make up the Prescott core.

As mentioned in Intel's last quarterly report, over 50% of Intel's processor shipments are of 0.13-micron (130nm) CPUs such as the newest Pentium 4s. Intel's Prescott core, due out in the second half of next year, will be made on Intel's 0.09-micron (90nm) process. This new process is much more than a "simple die shrink" and actually contains a number of improvements, some of which we never expected Intel to be introducing this early.

Today Intel is sharing some more information about their 90nm process, expanding on what they revealed in March. Manufacturing based on the 90nm process has already commenced; if you'll remember back to our story from March, Intel has produced functional SRAM silicon based on their 90nm process. Obviously producing working SRAM (cache) silicon is not nearly as complicated as producing other parts of a CPU, but the bottom line is that the process is working as expected and they're meeting internal goals for it.

This is a welcome change from some of the dismal reports we've seen elsewhere about transitioning to smaller manufacturing processes. AMD's move to 0.13-micron was delayed and as of last quarter TSMC is only shipping around 1% of their parts on a 0.13-micron process. Intel has been able to extend a performance lead over the competition in recent times and part of the reason for this has been their lead in manufacturing capabilities.

By the end of this year Intel will have Prescott samples produced on the 90nm process sampling to partners, and by the time the second half of 2003 comes around Intel will be shipping 90nm parts in volume. Although the first 90nm chips are far away from being in even our hands, we're able to give you a glimpse of what to expect down the road based on Intel's announcements today.

A Very Cache-Friendly Process

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