MAINSTREAM INTEL CPUS based on a 10-nanometer process node might not arrive for desktops until 2022.
Intel has been struggling on its journey mass-market 10nm processors, despite showing off its Sunny Cove next-generation 10nm architecture at the end of last year.
But leaked slides plotting out Intel's processor roadmap came into the hands of Tweakers and shows that it'll be a couple of years before 10nm Core processors are prolific.
For desktop chips, Intel looks like it'll stick with refining its current 14nm process for another couple of generations, with Coffee Lake S refreshes set to take place from now until the first quarter of 2021.
According to the leaked slides, which we can't say are 100 per cent legit, Intel will bring out desktop Core chips code-named Rocket Lake S come the second quarter of 2021, which will still be based on the 14nm node. But between 2020 and 2021 we can expect to see Core CPUs with up to 10 cores on a chip, which is something for powerhouse PC fans to get excited about.
As such, 10nm desktop Core processors are likely to pop up in 2022, which is when Intel is expected to move to its Ocean Cove architecture that's centred around next-gen high-performance processors.
Ocean Cove is scheduled to succeed 2021's Golden Cove Core architecture, itself a successor to 2020's Willow Cove, which follows on from the Sunny Cove architecture.
As such, it looks like the first 10nm chips from Intel will come in the form of Ice Lake mobile chips, which will be based on the Sunny Cove Core architecture. If you're getting confused around about now, then join the club, pal.
Ice Lake is expected to take the form of the low-powered U-series and Y-series laptop CPUs at some point this year. They will be based on the 10nm process and are expected to come in two and four-core guises.
Getting 10nm-based CPUs into laptops first makes sense as the shrinking of each process can deliver more power efficiency, which is handy for devices that are expected to tick along for a while on battery power.
But the Ice Lake chips have been tagged as 'limited', so we can expect they'll only be available in specific devices, such as slim ultraportables. As such, it looks like there'll be a mix of 10nm and 14nm Core mobile processors in the market over the next couple of years.
Following on from Ice Lake in 2020 will be Tiger Lake-based U and Y-series chips, which looks to up the core count for the latter CPUs.
Higher-powered H and G-series laptop Core processors look like they'll be stick to the 14nm process until at least 2021.
One particularly interesting thing to pop up in the leaked slides, it the reveal of "Rocket Lake" chips, of which there have been no prior rumours of their existence.
With Y-Series chips, Rocket Lake will mix 14nm Core architecture with 14nm GPU architecture. But in the U-series chips, come Q3 2020, Rocket Lake will mix a 14nm Core CPU, in four and six core variants, with a GPU based on the 10nm node.
This would suggest it will be built using chiplets, which allow chips to be assembled out of several smaller chips in a somewhat Lego-like fashion. Or a Rocket Lake chip could be assembled in a fashion more akin to how Intel created a multi-chip CPU and GPU package as seen with the chips the mix a Core processor with an 'off die' AMD's Vega mobile graphics accelerator.
Given AMD Vega GPUs are based on 14nm and 7nm processes, a GPU with a 10nm process could suggest that Intel has some form of discreet mobile GPU up its sleeve; likely the Xe discrete graphics tech the firm is said to be working on.
There's a lot of speculation here, and we're not sure that the leaked roadmap is up-to-date. We'd also have hoped Intel would have got its 10nm process in shape to crank out such chips at a faster rate, especially as AMD is poised to launch third-generation Ryzen processors this year based on the 7nm Zen 2 architecture.
Either way, Intel's roadmap looks interesting enough but we're likely to have to wait before we see processors from it that could really shake-up the CPU arena. µ
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