In Chip Roadmap Update, Intel Showcases Upcoming GPUs and Process Improvements

Intel Corp. today held its 2022 Investor Meeting, where executives detailed the new chip and semiconductor manufacturing technologies the company plans to deploy in the coming years.

Intel’s primary goal for its chip development efforts is to regain industry leadership in transistor performance per watt by 2025. Longer term, the company aims to begin manufacturing devices processors with approximately 1 trillion transistors by the end of the decade.

Executives also shared new information about Intel’s plans for the more immediate future. On the program: several new chips, including a data center processor that will combine elements of a graphics processing unit and a central processing unit. On the manufacturing side, Intel has shared details about its upcoming seven-nanometer chip manufacturing process, including performance improvements users can expect.

New manufacturing processes

Intel’s latest and most sophisticated processors are based on a ten nanometer process. The company is currently working on upgrading its chip manufacturing facilities to a new seven-nanometer technology it calls Intel 4.

Intel said it expects Intel 4 to become “manufacturing-ready” in the second half of 2022. According to the company, chips based on the process will deliver 20% better transistor-per-watt performance than those of its current generation silicon.

Intel 4 is particularly notable because it is the first Intel process to use Extreme Ultraviolet Lithography, or EUV, technology. EUV is a method of manufacturing chips that uses beams of laser light to sculpt transistors into silicon wafers. Intel’s main competitors are already using the technology in production.

The EUV-powered Intel 4 process is expected to be followed in the second half of 2023 by Intel 3, an even more advanced manufacturing technology. Intel 3 is expected to deliver an additional 18% increase in performance per watt for the company’s chips.

The next two manufacturing processes on Intel’s roadmap are called Intel 20A and Intel 18A. Intel 20A is expected to launch first, in the first half of 2024, and the company said today that customers can expect up to 15% improvement in performance per watt. Intel 18A, in turn, will deliver another 10% speed boost when it reaches manufacturing-ready status in the second half of 2024.

Focus on the GPU market

A major focus of Intel’s 2022 investor meeting was its Accelerated Computing Systems and Graphics Group, or AXG, as the company commonly calls it. Intel formed AGX last year to lead the development of its supercomputing chips and GPUs. The unit also manages the company’s recently announced initiative to build blockchain accelerators.

Intel has told investors it expects AGX to generate more than $1 billion in revenue this year. The company expects that number to grow to $10 billion in 2026.

GPUs will be a major contributor to the more than $1 billion in revenue AGX is expected to generate this year. Last August, Intel announced plans to take on GPU market leader Nvidia Corp. by launching standalone graphics cards for the consumer and data center markets. Today Intel provided an update on the effort, revealing that it expects to ship over four million graphics cards in 2022.

The company said the first laptops with its standalone GPUs will launch this quarter. The first desktop computers with Intel graphics cards would have follow in the second trimester.

next-gen GPU

Intel’s first series of notebook and desktop GPUs are codenamed Alchemist. According to the company, Alchemist will be followed by a line of second-generation GPUs in 2023 or 2024 that will target the gaming enthusiast market. A series of third-generation graphics cards, dubbed Celestial, will launch in 2024 at the earliest with a focus on what Intel describe like the ultra-enthusiast market.

On this occasion, Intel also shared details about two upcoming additions to its data center GPU portfolio.

Arctic Sound-M is a data center graphics card coming with a hardware-based AV1 video encoder module. It will target use cases such as video content processing and cloud game streaming, with Intel promising a 30% improvement in bandwidth over current silicon. The company hopes to start shipping the chip in the middle of this year.

Later, Intel plans to introduce a new type of processor called Falcon Shores. It will combine CPU and GPU elements into a single package, the company said. When the processor launches in 2204, Intel says it will deliver five times better performance per watt, compute density, and memory capacity than current products on the market.

Doubling down on the automotive sector

Intel also shared an update today on its Intel Foundry Services, or IFS, business, which will use the company’s chip fabs to build custom processors for other organizations. Intel revealed that IFS is launching a dedicated automotive group to make chips or automakers.

IFS is developing a “high performance open automatic computing platform” for use in vehicles, Intel said. The platform will allow automakers to combine multiple types of processing modules, such as GPUs and CPUs, into a single system using technology from Intel chip technology. IFS will not only make chips for automakers, but also help them design processors, Intel said.

The automotive sector has also become a priority for other major players in the semiconductor market. Last October, Qualcomm Inc. teamed up with investment firm SSW Partners to acquire Veoneer Inc., a Stockholm-based smart car technology provider, in a deal worth $4.6 billion. More recently, the company announced a partnership with General Motors Co. to develop a driver assistance system that uses systems on a chip from its Snapdragon line of processors.

Intel’s decision to focus more on the automotive sector could create more competition for Qualcomm, as well as Nvidia. The latter company offers a processing module series for autonomous vehicles.

Photo: Intel

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