Higher Clock Speeds, No TLB Issues and Better Pricing: The New Phenomby Anand Lal Shimpi on March 27, 2008 12:00 AM EST
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Intel's 45nm CPUs: High Prices and Limited Availability, When Will it End?
Intel launched its first 45nm processors at the end of last year in order to somewhat stick to its annual tick-tock schedule. The Core 2 Extreme QX9650 made it out, but what everyone wanted were the mainstream chips - affordable 45nm for all.
At CES, Intel announced its full 45nm lineup which is as follows:
|Cores||Clock Speed||L2 Cache Size||FSB||1 Ku Price||Availability|
|Intel Core 2 Extreme X9000||2||2.80GHz||6MB||800MHz||$851||January|
|Intel Core 2 Duo T9500||2||2.60GHz||6MB||800MHz||$530||January|
|Intel Core 2 Duo T9300||2||2.50GHz||6MB||800MHz||$316||January|
|Intel Core 2 Duo T8300||2||2.40GHz||3MB||800MHz||$241||January|
|Intel Core 2 Duo T8100||2||2.10GHz||3MB||800MHz||$209||January|
|Intel Xeon X3360||4||2.83GHz||12MB||1333MHz||$530||Q1 '08|
|Intel Xeon X3350||4||2.66GHz||12MB||1333MHz||$316||Q1 '08|
|Intel Xeon X3320||4||2.50GHz||6MB||1333MHz||$266||Q1 '08|
|Intel Xeon E3110||2||3.00GHz||6MB||1333MHz||$188||Q1 '08|
|Intel Core 2 Quad Q9550||4||2.83GHz||12MB||1333MHz||$530||Q1 '08|
|Intel Core 2 Quad Q9450||4||2.66GHz||12MB||1333MHz||$316||Q1 '08|
|Intel Core 2 Quad Q9300||4||2.50GHz||6MB||1333MHz||$266||Q1 '08|
|Intel Core 2 Duo E8500||2||3.16GHz||6MB||1333MHz||$266||January|
|Intel Core 2 Duo E8400||2||3.00GHz||6MB||1333MHz||$183||January|
|Intel Core 2 Duo E8200||2||2.66GHz||6MB||1333MHz||$163||January|
The first issue we had was that availability wasn't in January. We were able to benchmark mobile Penryn (the first five CPUs on that chart) in January, but you couldn't buy systems based on mobile Penryn until late February. The mobile Penryn issue ended up being more of a motherboard design problem than a chip availability issue, thus it makes sense that we saw desktop 45nm dual core CPUs in early February.
It's almost the end of Q1 and we are just now starting to see 45nm quad core desktop CPUs arrive, but the problem with both these and the 45nm dual core chips is pricing. Take a look at the table below:
|Intel Core 2 Quad Q9300||$266||$299||+$33|
|Intel Core 2 Duo E8400||$183||$259||+$76|
|Intel Core 2 Duo E8200||$163||$239||+$76|
Most of the 45nm lineup is still not available for purchase in the channel. The three CPUs we've listed above are the only ones (out of 6) that you can actually purchase at Newegg, and they all sell at a premium. The quad core Q9300 carries the lowest premium of them all at $299, while the two dual core CPUs are selling for $76 more than what they should be thanks to high demand and limited supply.
We know supply is limited, the question is why? Intel's latest roadmap actually helps answer that. The chart below shows a breakdown of processor shipments into the consumer desktop space as a function of time, so you get an idea for the breakdown of 65nm vs. 45nm for each quarter of 2008:
Current 65nm Core 2 Quads sell for MSRP and they are represented by the second block (light blue) at the top of the Q1 stacked bar. The 45nm Core 2 Quad supply is but a sliver by comparison (5% of Intel's shipments are 65nm Core 2 Quads, while 2% are 45nm Core 2 Quads). It would be safe to assume that once Intel's 45nm Core 2 Quad shipments are similar in size to the 65nm shipments today that we should see prices stabilize. If you look at the Q2 bar you'll see that next quarter Intel will produce more 45nm quad core CPUs than 65nm quad core CPUs, and at that point you can expect to see availability of the Q9300, Q9450 and Q9550 - all at reasonable prices, with no premium.
Now let's look at what's happening in the 45nm dual core space. Over 40% of Intel's production in Q1 was 65nm Core 2 Duos, and around 3% were 45nm Core 2 Duo processors - no wonder these things are selling at insane premiums. It's also worth noting that since demand for the dual core CPUs is so much higher than for the quad core chips and supplies are just as tight, the premiums are higher (explaining what we saw in the table above).
Unfortunately, relief for those interested in 45nm dual core won't come for quite a while. In Q2, Intel's 45nm dual core shipments will grow from 3% to 12%, but not to the 40%+ level it needs to be to satisfy demand. The 45nm premium on dual core CPUs will be down from its current levels, but we won't see these things selling at MSRP until Q3.
It's normally a good thing for AMD when Intel CPUs are more expensive, but not exactly in this case. The problem is that AMD needs Intel's quad core CPUs to be more expensive since that's where Phenom is trying to compete, but the Q6600 is still available at MSRP and the Q9300 et al will be selling at MSRP in the next 1 - 3 months.