While Intel continues to struggle with 10nm, AMD is preparing a jump from 12nm to 7nm.
In terms of chip manufacturing processes, smaller is better and AMD is already ahead of Intel in that regard. Intel’s processors continue to use a 14nm process, while AMD’s latest generation of Ryzen processors, both the Ryzen 7 2700X and Ryzen 5 2600X, use a 12nm FinFET process. The big hurdle for Intel is moving to 10nm, which it just delayed again. However, AMD is already thinking about 7nm chips, and intends to produce them in volume next year.
As HotHardware reports, the move to 7nm was confirmed by AMD CEO Dr. Lisa Su during an earnings call with investors. The company already has a 7nm GPU based on Vega and a 7nm server chip. Samples will arrive later this year, but volume production is expected next year. This news also means that AMD’s Zen 2 microarchitecture will be for 7nm chips.
Moving from 12nm to 7nm brings with it both a performance gain and power saving. But there will be an additional benefit realized by moving to Zen 2, which is expected to increase the instruction per clock over Zen.
If AMD does manage volume production of 7nm processors across desktop, mobile, and server lines, then it causes a major problem for Intel. The latest delay means Intel will only be moving to 10nm in 2019, which means it will be competing with AMD’s 7nm chips. By default, AMD should enjoy a performance and power advantage.
As for that 7nm GPU, it’s being used in the Radeon Instinct machine intelligence cars and will no doubt also make its way into new Radeon graphics cards next year. The current Radeon RX 500 series cards use a 14nm process, as do the RX Vega processors.
Whatever happens now, and even if AMD ends up suffering some sort of delay for volume 7nm chip production, it’s imperative Intel gets 10nm chips on the market as early as possible in 2019 and hope they deliver on the performance front.