Intel brings tri-gate tech to Atom SoCs

December 11, 2012 // 10:59 a.m.

Tags: #22nm #atom #cpu #finfet #intel #intel-atom #ivy-bridge #soc #system-on-chip #tri-gate #tri-gate-transistor

Intel has hinted at its future plans for ultra-efficient computing, detailing 22nm system-on-chip products based on the same tri-gate transistor technology as its mainstream Ivy Bridge processors.

Intel's system-on-chip products, which integrate components such as memory and peripheral controllers normally found on separate chips for the embedded and ultra-compact markets, are designed to compete directly with industry giant ARM's designs. Single-chip - or as close as possible - solutions to mobile computing needs, the company's latest Atom products have found their way into a small number of tablets and smartphones but still remain a bit-player in a market dominated by ARM licensees.

Unveiled at the annual International Electron Device Meeting late yesterday, Intel's next-generation SoCs will work on tempting device makers into using Atom chips rather than ARM designs through a process shrink from 32nm to 22nm and the implementation of tri-gate transistor technology. Currently, tri-gate transistors are found only in Intel's Ivy Bridge products, where they provide a significant boost in efficiency - providing, as the situation requires, reduced power demands or increased performance over planar transistor designs.

It's the aspect of reduced power draw that has Intel pushing the technology, which increases production costs by around three per cent per completed wafer, into its SoC products. According to Mark Bohr, Intel senior fellow, 22nm tri-gate based SoCs could outperform the current generation of 32nm parts by between 20 per cent and 65 per cent - leading to a choice of increased performance at the same power draw, reduced power draw for the same performance or a mixture of the two.

Intel's announcement comes with a vague time-scale attached, promising mass-production of the parts before the end of 2013. Sadly, it does not come with a mention of which chips will be benefiting from the technology upgrade - meaning eager smartphone consumers will need to wait for more details before planning out their mobile x86 purchases if they want to take advantage of tri-gate technology.

The 22nm Atom SoC parts come amid rumours of low-power Ivy Bridge CPUs drawing as little as 10W, which the company is claimed to be aiming at tablet devices running full-fat Windows 8 or that otherwise require more power than the 32-bit low-performance Atom processors can offer.