They often say that the bigger a company gets, the more difficult it is to make sweeping changes to fix problems. Analogous to quickly turning a small boat vs. a large tanker, no one would have ever expected Intel to change so quickly over the past several months.

It's not only on the performance side that we've seen tremendous change; after all, it just took a new architecture to do that. No, the change we're speaking of here is in how Intel conducts itself, how freely it shares information today and how very different the road to 45nm has been compared to the move to 90nm or 65nm.

Today Intel is announcing a number of details on its 45nm process node, including official details on the first family of 45nm processors due out later this year. The announcements themselves, as you will soon see, are impressive enough, but arguably more interesting is the amount of detail Intel is giving away at this point. In the past we've had to go to sources other than official Intel channels for this sort of information, but that has all changed with the new Intel.

On track for first production by the end of 2007 with the Penryn family of processors (mobile, desktop and server), is Intel's 45nm manufacturing process. As with any move to smaller transistors, the 45nm node will make chips smaller and run faster. Intel is actually seeing good feature scaling with its 45nm process, quoting a ~2x improvement in transistor density. In other words, if you took a 100mm^2 65nm chip and built it on Intel's 45nm process, it would be roughly a 50mm^2 chip after the shrink. While logic and cache structures generally end up scaling very well with a process shrink, I/O structures (e.g. main memory interface circuits) don't which is why the improvement in transistor density is roughly and not exactly 2x.

Of course, in the past Intel has usually coupled new process technology with more features so you shouldn't expect to see 45nm Penryn chips as simply smaller Core 2 Duos. We will look at Penryn's die in a moment, but a larger cache, SSE4 and other unannounced microarchitectural enhancements can be expected.

The story of Intel's 45nm process doesn't end with details on its feature scaling however. Intel has made some fairly significant changes to the transistors themselves that make them more efficient than normal.

More Efficient Transistors


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  • mostlyprudent - Saturday, January 27, 2007 - link

    Do we have any info as to chipset/socket compatability for Penryn? Reply
  • MarkM - Saturday, January 27, 2007 - link

    Whoa Nelly!!! They JUST achieved a first validation sample of the material, what, SIX HOURS AGO? Lord knows when they'll even have chipset details figured out, and a shipping CPU is still a year off.

    This is a moment to step back and marvel at the continued long term achievement of the semiprocessor industry, not obsess how your going to run Vista!
  • mino - Saturday, January 27, 2007 - link

    Well, AMD stated that K8L will be drop-in compatible with SocketF/AM2 insrastructure in May 2006(if not sooner).
    That seems pretty much a yer ago from expected shipment date of mid-2007.

    This was presented not only to public but also to its corporate customers! ...

    To answer the original question:
    Do not expect penryn to work with anything older than 965 series of chipsets on boards introduced by 2H07 or later.
  • mino - Saturday, January 27, 2007 - link

    Meaning, ofcourse, that one should not expect penryn to be drop-in compatible with any current boards. Reply
  • Andrwken - Monday, January 29, 2007 - link

    Actually, considering they are using unmodified hardware to run the chips. I would be rather surprised if they did not work on any core 2 capable motherboard. Correct me if I'm wrong, but a well researched motherboard purchase could get you a mobo that can run any 775 socket Prescook, Core 2 (dual or quad), and possibly Penryn? That's a pretty good lifecycle for a socket. How many has amd had in the last 2 years? Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, January 29, 2007 - link

    I believe Penryn is scheduled for launch around the same time as Bearlake, and in the past we have seen a lot of official Intel platforms require a new chipset - whether or not the requirement is strictly necessary is obviously a different story. I believe Core 2 Duo is supposed to "require" P/G/Q965 or 975X, or one of a few select 945/946 chipset versions. Obviously, with 865 and 915 boards out there supporting the new CPUs, Intel's requirement was not strictly necessary, but most boards for C2D still use 965 or 975. What will happen with Penryn? I have no doubt we'll see some 965/975 boards that support it, but I'll be pleasantly surprised if the official requirement doesn't include Bearlake. Reply
  • Viditor - Tuesday, January 30, 2007 - link


    I believe Penryn is scheduled for launch around the same time as Bearlake

    I believe that Bearlake is out 3-6 months before Penryn (Q2-3 for Bearlake), but your point is taken...
  • mostlyprudent - Saturday, January 27, 2007 - link

    Sorry for the pragmatic obsessiveness...cannot be helped! Reply
  • MarkM - Saturday, January 27, 2007 - link

    No problem, I hope I didn't come off sounding more negative than I meant to be! Anyway I just happened to stumble on a partial answer to your question:

    Penryn is still not without its mysteries; a primary concern for enthusiasts is motherboard and socket support. Penryn will launch on Socket 775 -- meaning existing motherboards can physically harbor the new CPU but electrically might not. "Motherboard developers will have to make some minor changes to support [Penryn]. We can't guarantee that a person could just plug the chip into every motherboard on the market today." However, Smith also claimed the Penryn boot test that grabbed so many headlines last week occurred on unmodified hardware that included a notebook, several desktop motherboards and several server motherboards.">link
  • flyck - Saturday, January 27, 2007 - link

    IBM and AMD (who work together) already stated that they have a simular technology,">link

    So don't say doomed yet -_-

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