AMD moves to 65nm process technology

With the release of four new low-power chips AMD is moving to 65 nanometer (nm) process technology.

AMD moves to 65nm process technology

The energy-efficient AMD Athlon 64 X2 dual-core desktop processors lead the way, with the new production techniques enabling it to produce more processors from the same 300mm wafers, which should mean higher output volumes.

The Athlon 64 X2 5000+ runs at 2.6GHz, the 4800+ at 2.5GHz, the 4400+ at 2.3GHz and the 4000+ at 2.1GHz. They all have 512KB of L2 cache, a 200MHz HyperTransport bus and are based on the AM2 socket.

With less power required to drive the chip circuits, AMD can also boast improved performance-per-watt figures, an increasingly important metric in these days of overheating desktops and power-restricted data centres.

AMD is aiming for a rapid conversion to the new process technology, and says that by mid-2007 its Fab36 production facilities will be converted to 65nm.

‘Customers continue to demand solutions that focus on low-power consumption and quieter operation,’ said Bob Brewer, corporate vice president, Desktop Division, AMD. ‘AMD is responding by increasing manufacturing efficiency to deliver on the next generation of energy-efficient desktop processors, enabling OEMS to innovate using highly reliable AMD64 processors and without compromising performance.’

Pricing for the 5000+, 4800+, 4400+, and 4000+ AMD Athlon 64 dual-core processors are $301, $271, $214, and $169, based on 1,000 unit direct orders. Acer, Dell, HP and Lenovo are among the OEMs who will be supplying machines based on the chips.

Intel is ahead on this game, having started the transition to a 65nm process back 2004, and producing low-power 65nm chips in September 2005. By improving the design and manufacturing processes at the transistor level, Intel said that power leakage can be reduced by up to 1,000 times

Heat and power wastage has always been a problem with chip design. As processors have become ever smaller with transistors packed in ever-increasing densities, the amount of heat generated per centimetre has continued to rise. Over the years, various strategies have been tried. Reducing the chip size itself helps, as it requires less power to drive the circuit. Also, various cooling units are used – often many times the size of the processor packaging itself.

What comes next? At the start of 2006 Intel declared itself on track for 45nm process production, courtesy of its Fab 28 in Israel, which is scheduled to be completed in the second half of 2008.

For purposes of comparison with today’s strides towards micro computing, last month marked the 35th year since the release of Intel’s first programmable microprocessor chip, the 4004, which employed circuit lines of 10 microns wide (or 10,000 nanometres for ease of comparison).

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