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Intel 'on track' to debut 45nm CPUs in H2 07

Cites working memory chip as proof

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Intel has become the first company to produce a working chip fabricated at 45nm, the chip giant claimed today.

The part is a 153Mb SRAM memory chip containing more than 1bn transistors and measuring 119mm². And it's fully functional - sufficient, the company says, to show it's on schedule to ship 45nm processors toward H2 2007, though it admitted that timeframe remains an "estimate" of when products will become available.

Chip makers usually test new fabrication processes using memory chips because the parts incorporate all the transistor structures and interconnect features that will be used to construct CPUs. The SRAM test chips allow Intel to more accurately forecast the performance and production yields it can expect when it starts punching out 45nm processors.

Intel calls its 45nm process P1266, and it's currently in development at the company's Hillsboro, Oregon facility. It claimed P1266 will deliver a 5x reduction in transistor leakage over its P1264 65nm process, which is just coming on stream.

Intel director of process architecture and integration Mark Bohr wouldn't say what technologies the company is using to bring down leakage levels so dramatically. However, he did confirm that far more effort has been spent on tackling the problem than in the past.

Register readers may recall how Intel's 90nm process proved far more susceptible to leakage than past processes had. That led Intel to decide not to ship 90nm Pentium 4s at clock speeds of 4GHz or above - at those clock frequencies the chips simply ran too hot.

Bohr also told Reg Hardware the 45nm chips require 30 per cent less transistor switching power than 65nm parts do. Sacrificing the 5x leakage power reduction yields transistors that deliver a 20 per cent improvement in switching speed, he added. ®

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