Intel confirmed yesterday a majorchange in the nomenclature of its manufacturing processes. The truth is that, in the end, it did not catch me off guard, I had long been uncomfortable with the chip giant for how unfair it was to compare its manufacturing processes directly with others that, although they seemed superior by the numbering, were actually far behind.

To understand this better, we must remember what exactly it means to reduce the manufacturing node. When we go, for example, from a 10 nm node to a 7 nm node, the size of the transistors is reduced, which means that:

  • The logic gates are thinner, and this increases the risk of electrical leakage. An electrically leaky chip is usually defective, as the transistors will be unable to control their states (they will not be able to block the passage of current when necessary).
  • Using a smaller node reduces power consumption, improves efficiency and allows a larger number of transistors to be integrated on a chip without it having to increase in size. This is known as increasing transistor density per square millimetre. A processor with a higher number of transistors is usually more powerful than one with a lower number of transistors.
  • The reduction of the manufacturing process translates into a smaller impact of the chip on the wafer, which means that we can get a greater amount of chips in 7 nm process from a 300 mm wafer than chips in 14 nm, for example, since the latter are larger and consume more silicon.

I already talked about this topic in detail when we saw what a processor is, so I encourage you to take a look if you need more information.

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As we can see, reducing the manufacturing process brings important advantages. However, is it fair to compare one node with another that, despite running at fewer nanometers, has a much lower transistor density? It’s a good question, and it’s what has led Intel to adopt a new nomenclature.


A look at Intel’s new node nomenclature.

In total, Intel has confirmed four new names to refer to its various manufacturing processes, and no, these no longer clearly indicate how many nanometers a given processor was manufactured at. So, for example, that <a href=”” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow noopener”>Alder Lake-S being included in the Intel 7 series doesn’t mean it’s coming in 7nm process, and Meteor Lake-S being integrated into the Intel 4 series doesn’t mean it’s going to be made in 4nm process either.

I know what you are thinking, what do these nomenclatures mean then? Well, it’s very simple, they refer to the fact that the processors are manufactured on a node equivalent or superior, by transistor density, to those used by TSMC. Don’t worry, it’s easy to understand, you just have to keep reading to find out:

  • Intel 7: this refers to the chip giant’s 10nm node which, by transistor density, surpasses TSMC’s 7nm node.
  • Intel 4: this refers to Intel’s 7nm node, which also outperforms TSMC’s 5nm node by transistor density.
  • Intel 3: in this case we have Intel’s 5nm node, which should also outperform TSMC’s 3nm node in transistor density.
  • Intel 20A: this node is more mysterious, but the fact that it points to the first half of 2024 leads me to think that it will probably be Intel’s jump to the 3nm process.
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With the script we have left just above these lines you should have no problem to identify, precisely, the manufacturing process of each Intel processor under this new nomenclature, but if you have any doubt you can leave it in the comments and I will help you to solve it.