Intel pushes Broadwell production to 2014

October 16, 2013 // 9:17 a.m.

Tags: #14nm #22nm #brian-krzanich #broadwell #cpu #financial #haswell #intel #microarchitecture #semiconductor #yield

Intel chief Brian Krzanich has announced a delay to his company's upcoming 14nm Broadwell processor family, due to poor yield from test production runs.

A process shrink of Intel's Haswell microarchitecture, Broadwell is to see the 22nm parts dropped down to a tiny 14nm node. Combined with other design tweaks, including the use of a multi-chip package layout and the shifting of the CPU voltage regulators off-die and back to the motherboard, the result claimed by Krzanich during a presentation at the Intel Developer Forum (IDF) earlier this year is a 30 per cent drop in power consumption for the same performance as an equivalent Haswell part.

Sadly, a move to 14nm is non-trivial: at nodes that small, leakage current - where charge carriers tunnel through an insulator due to quantum effects, corrupting data - becomes an increasing problem in traditional silicon-based semiconductors. Techniques for mitigating this exist, but are complex - and coupled with the complexities of working at such a tiny feature size mean poor yields.

'While we are comfortable with where we are at with yields, from a timing standpoint, we are about a quarter behind our projections,' Krzanich claimed in his announcement of the delay. 'As a result, we are now planning to begin production in the first quarter of next year.'

Pushed for more details, Krzanich confessed to yield problems in initial Broadwell production, but claimed these were now fixed - albeit behind schedule. 'It was simply a defect density issue. As we develop these technologies, what you are doing? You are continually improving the defect densities and those resulted in the yield, the number of dies per wafer that you get out of the product. What happened as you insert a set of fixes in groups, you will put four or five, maybe sometimes six or seven fixes into a process and group it together, run it through and you will expect an improvement rate occasionally as you go through that.

'Why do I have confidence? Because, we have got back now and added additional fixes, gotten back onto that curve, so we have confidence that the problem is fixed, because we have actually data and defects and so that gives us the confidence that we are to keep moving forward now and that happens sometimes in these development phases like this, so that's why we are going to over it a quarter.

Aside from the Broadwell push-back, Intel's latest quarterly earnings call showed higher than projected revenue at $13.5 billion with $3 billion in earnings, equivalent to 58 cents per share - higher than analysts' average 53 cents per share projection. 'The third quarter came in as expected, with modest growth in a tough environment,' Krzanich claimed. The chief executive also promised that Haswell, the company's current-generation microarchitecture, will lead to tempting price brackets that could see hybrid devices sold for as little as $350 and tablets as low as $99 in the near future.