News of the day (May 4, 2011)

 Intel 22nm will be Tri-Gate!
  Posted on 1304531721 by Guillaume

Intel has just made the official presentation of its 22nm engraving technology which should result in the release of products towards end 2011 / beginning 2012. The big surprise is the inclusion of Tri-Gate technology that wasnít expected for this generation but rather for the next. Intel (and other industry players) have carried out multiple demonstrations of Tri-Gate over the last few years and Intel will be the first to launch a manufacturing process using the technology for all transistors. Ivy Bridge processors are set to be Intelís first 22nm CPUs.

The concept behind Tri-Gate is relatively simple. Instead of making transistors on a plane (planar = 2-D), a third dimension has been added in the form of a small sprocket in the channel (fin, which is where the name FinFET, used by other manufacturers for Tri-Gate, comes from). Without having any impact on density, this addition increases the contact area of the gate on the substrate (in yellow/blue), now on three planes, which is where the name Tri-Gate comes from.

By increasing the contact area the technology has the advantage of reducing current leakage when the transistor is off. Another advantage of this new geometry is that you can increase the number of fins very easily to create higher performance transistors. This is what you can see on the illustration above, with a Tri-Gate transistor using just one fin on the left and another with three fins on the right that will increase transistor performance, to the detriment of density of course.

On the first blue curve on the right, Intel is showing the gains you can obtain in current leakage at the same voltage (lower energy consumption at idle). The second blue curve, on the left, shows another calibration of the process where you can choose to reduce the voltage at which the transistor is switched on. In this case the energy consumption in load is lower. In practice thereís a possible performance increase of 37% at low voltage (18% at higher voltage), or rather up to a 0.2V gain in power reduction of the transistor, at constant performance. For comparison, when the 32nm engraving process replaced the 45nm process there was a performance increase of between 14 and 22%.

Intel hasnít really said which solution it will go for on its future products but we imagine that they will have two distinct nodes, as they do for 32nm: one for desktop/mobile processors (the P 1270) and another for ultramobile applications (SoC, the P1271). Energy consumption at idle has up to now been one of the main breaks on Atom architecture being used on ultra mobile applications (weíre still waiting for the first x86 smartphones, which were, remember, re-announced by Intel at this yearís CES), so the gains here are good news for the SoC version.

At a time when Intel hasnít yet broken into the smartphone and tablet markets and ARM competition is extending into other segments (2012), Intel, with this announcment, is reminding the rest of the industry of its technological domination in terms of photolithography fabrication processes. The 22nm Tri-Gate process is a serious weapon that Intel will no doubt use to good effect, but unless thereís a drastic change in strategy on Atom, donít expect to see 22nm coming rapidly on these platforms as Atom Nettops/Netbooks and SOCs (D/N/Z ranges) are still engraved at 45nm. The launch of 32nm Atoms (Cedar Trail) are only slated for the end of the year, which is two years after the launch of the 32nm process.

 First AMD FX / AMD A benchmarks?
  Posted on 1304510158 by Guillaume

DonanimHaber continue to disseminate AMD slides, today presenting the first performance figures linked to the forthcoming AMD FXs (Bulldozer architecture, Zambezi CPUs) and AMD As (the Llanos).

As often with early performance leaks, the choice of benchmarks is deliberately designed to show the chips in the best light. Here AMD seems to have chosen the very particular PC Mark Vantage, possibly to reduce the differences between the various solutions. You only have to look at the very slim difference in performance Ė we measured it at +22% on the slide Ė between the Core i3 2100 and the Core i7 2600K to know that the platform (the details of which are not in our possession) greatly limits this PC Mark Vantage score that we imagine is for a series of tests (CPU, drives, graph) and not only CPU tests. The fact that the AMD FX 8-core is only a hair in front of the Core i7 2600K doesnít mean anything as far as weíre concerned. The scores for the Llano processors in comparison to the Core i3 2100 are however a little more problematic.

The GPU part is perhaps the most interesting, once again for the Llano. As you can see on the graph, AMD has added a Radeon HD 6670 to its Bulldozers for a graphics test in 3D Mark Vantage, apparently in Performance mode (1280 x 1024 without antialiasing and only trilinear filtering). In this scenario, the performance of the Llano IGP is 46.4% of that for the Radeon HD 6670. Of course, the processors arenít on an equal footing and this score should be enough to give it the edge over the Sandy Bridge IGP in terms of graphics performance, but the results are nevertheless modest in comparison to the HD 6670. The graphics part of the A4, the Llano entry level, seems to obtain an equivalent score to Intelís HD 3000 in this test. All this speculation should come to an end soon enough however with the launch of these new ranges of AMD processors planned for June.

 AMD Special Offer: Total War: Shogun 2
  Posted on 1304505769 by Guillaume

AMD has just posted a special offer on its ranges of Radeon HD 6000 graphics cards. The game Total War: Shogun 2 (released by Sega) will be available for a free download on purchase of a Radeon HD 6850 or higher. Total War is a strategy game that was released in mid- March and which, according to Metacritic, has been well received by the specialised press, with a metascore of 90%. To download your copy, youíll need to enter your Steam activation code, which will be mailed to customers after their purchase of a qualifying card from one of AMDís reseller partners.

Total war: Shogun 2, Sega

The offer is limited to a specific list of online resellers (see list here). Details on the conditions of the offer are available on partner sites.

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