Intel already has a significant advantage over AMD in CPU efficiency. As expected, today Intel announced that starting in 2008, that gap could become even wider. The specs for its new processors, code-named Penryn, have been finalized, and new desktop, laptop, and server CPUs should go into production in the latter half of 2007, with a street date planned in the first half of 2008. The Penryn chips will use a 45-nanometer manufacturing process, which should let Intel dial up clock speeds while maintaining relatively stable levels of power consumption.
In chipspeak, the fewer the nanometers the better. Intel uses a 65nm process for its current Core 2 Duo CPUs, and AMD's slower, less power-efficient Athlon 64 X2 chips use a 90nm process. Those numbers don't tell the entire story, as evidenced by the trouncing Intel's 65nm Pentium D's received by the 90nm AMD chips. But the improvements in power management and processing techniques that Intel made to the Core 2 architecture greatly improved its outlook. AMD is supposed to move to 65nm production later this year, at which point we'll expect to see AMD's first native quad-core processors. But even if those 65nm AMD chips are faster than Intel's current crop, Intel can stay optimistic knowing that its 45nm CPUs are right around the corner.Intel wasn't talking clock speeds, prices, or many other specifics during today's conference call. It did say that the 45nm chips would come in dual-core and quad-core flavors, with 410 million transistors for the Core 2 chips and 820 million on its quad-core line (compared to 291 million and 582 million, respectively, on the current models). When asked whether the new chips would run on today's Core 2-compatible motherboards, the official response was that the company wouldn't promise anything. Motherboard manufacturers would likely need only a new BIOS and perhaps some electrical tweaks to current models, but Intel's spokesman declined to say for certain whether you could make those changes retroactively to boards already on the market.