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A new Chip on the Block

Michael Paulraj
Friday, November 30, 2007
Michael Paulraj
When Intel Corporation, the world leader in silicon innovation, launched in November a new high-end desktop processor named the Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9650 quad core processor, it marked two great events in the history of semiconductor microprocessors: First, it was the world’s first 45nm Hi-k desktop processor; second, it was a highly significant advance in the history of transistors that began in 1947 in the
Bell Labs.

A great leap ahead

The new 45 nanometer (a human hair is 90,000 nm thick) processors have a transistor density of about 820 million transistors for quad-core processors using Intel’s new formula, while the previous 65 nm processor – Intel Core 2 Duo – had close to 300 million transistors. When Intel introduced its first microprocessor, the 4004 (an incredibly simple device by present standards), in 1971, it was 1/8 of an inch by 1/16 of an inch and contained just 2,000 transistors.

The new set of 16 processors use Intel’s latest Hafnium-based high-k metal gate (Hi-k) formula for the millions of transistors inside the processors. These processors, Intel Core 2 Extreme and Xeon, are also the first to be manufactured on the company’s 45 nm manufacturing process. The new processor lowers power consumption and enhances performance. The breakthrough enables Intel to make products 25 percent smaller, and hence cheaper, than the previous versions and pursue the ultra mobile and consumer electronics ‘system on chip’

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