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AMD joins 65nm race, readies for 45nm

Posted: 01 Feb 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:AMD? Intel? CPU? processor? dual core processor?

Executing well on its goal of being a fast follower of archrival Intel Corp., Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD) rolled out in December its first 65nm x86 CPUs. The Athlon 64 X2 cuts die size in half and power by a third compared with existing 90nm desktop processors.

Keeping Intel in its sights, AMD plans to ramp its 65nm process quickly and ship its first 45nm devices by mid-2008.

The dual-core desktop processors have a maximum power usage of 65W, down from 89W. AMD said that represents lower power consumption than rival parts from Intel when both are in low-power states. In idle mode, AMD's 90nm CPUs dissipate about 3.8W, compared with about 14.3W for similar Core 2 Duo parts from Intel.

The dual-core processors come in existing speed grades of 2.1-2.6GHz at prices ranging from $169 to $301.

Early this year, AMD will apply its 65nm process to other desktop and notebook CPUs. Some of those parts will use the new process to cut power consumption while maintaining data rates; others will keep power consumption steady and raise data rates about 30 percent above current levels, the company said.

The 65nm process will also be the enabler for AMD's Barcelona products, server CPUs that will be AMD's first to combine four x86 cores on a single die.

A handful of top OEMsincluding AMD's newest and potentially largest customer, Dell Inc.said they will grab the 65nm desktop parts, which started shipping in December. "With the new energy-efficient AMD Athlon 64 X2 dual-core processors, Dell OptiPlex and Dimension desktops can provide customers breadth of choice and personalized, dual-core performance and power efficiency that meets their office productivity or entertainment needs," said Vivek Mohindra, VP of desktop product marketing at Dell, which was until recently an Intel-only shop.

Other OEMs planning to use the AMD devices this year include Acer, Founder, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, Packard Bell and TongFang.

AMD aims to make a complete transition at its main production facilityFab 36 in Dresden, Germanyto 65nm operation within six months. Fab 30 on the same site should start producing 65nm parts on 300mm wafers in the first quarter of 2008.

AMD is six to 12 months behind Intel in rolling out 65nm parts and will probably lag by about the same amount of time with its first 45nm parts. However, the company is aiming to close gaps wherever it can, particularly in its ramp-up of new process technologies, as it angles to win sockets from Intel.

"Their crossover points from producing a majority of parts in a new vs. an older process tend to be about twice as long as ours, so we both may be converted to 65nm at about the same time," Nick Kepler, AMD's VP of logic technology development, said of the rivals' migrations.

AMD plans to have its first 45nm parts out in mid-2008. Like the parts announced in December, they are likely to be shrinks of existing mainstream desktop processors.

AMD and its process technology partner, IBM Corp., discussed some details of their 45nm process at the International Electron Devices Meeting in San Francisco in December. The process is unique in its use of immersion lithography and ultralow-k dielectrics, Kepler said. "We want to execute a fast transition to 65nm and then another one to 45nm," he said.

Fast transitions to finer processes are planned. AMD hopes to catch rival Intel at crossover points.

Analysts lauded AMD's 65nm process, which uses minimum gate lengths of 35nm, one aluminum and nine copper metal levels, a strained-silicon channel and a silicon-on-insulator substrate. "Put all together, it is an impressive technology package," said Don Scansen, lead process analyst at Semiconductor Insights.

On the 45nm front, Intel disclosed last year the initial details of its 45nm process and claimed that it had produced the world's first chip based on the technology. That device, a "shuttle test" SRAM, was a billion-transistor chip that boasted a cell size of only 0.346?m2.

Process race
Intel's 45nm process, internally called P1266, is said to incorporate copper interconnects, low-k dielectrics, strained silicon and other features. The process is still on track for production in 2H, said Mark Bohr, senior fellow and director of process architecture and integration at Intel.

Intel's first 45nm processors, code-named Penryn, are also on track for production in 2H, Bohr said. The chip giant introduced the Penryn products, which are based on Intel's Core architecture, at the recent Intel Developer Forum. "I would say our competitors are far behind in 45nm," Bohr said. "No other company has demonstrated the level of development at 45nm."

At present, Intel is also ramping up its 65nm processors at a frenetic pace. The company is shipping its 65nm parts from four 300mm fabs: D1D and D1C in Hillsboro, Oregon; F12 in Chandler, Arizona; and F24 in Ireland.

"Our 65nm processors have been our fastest and highest-yielding products in history," Bohr said.

Moving to 45nm, Intel disclosed that it is transitioning the D1D fab in Hillsboro from 65nm to 45nm this year. D1D would represent Intel's third 300mm fab earmarked for 45nm production.

In July 2005, Intel announced plans to invest more than $3 billion to build Fab 32 in Chandler. The new factory, designed to make microprocessors based on 45nm, will start production in 2H.

Also in 2005, Intel announced plans to build a manufacturing facility for ICs on 300mm wafers at its site in Kiryat Gat, Israel. Intel said that Fab 28 would be able to produce microprocessors on 45nm manufacturing processes in 2H 2008.

Intel is also defining and developing its 32nm technology, but Bohr declined to reveal the details.

- Rick Merritt
EE Times

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