Intel has started high-volume production of its next-generation quad-core microprocessors, which the company plans to start selling next month.
Production of the 45-nanometer chips started at the company's Chandler, Ariz., manufacturing plant, called Fab 32, on Thursday. The microprocessors are built to pack more transistors than ever before on a single chip, which means more processing power at the same level of power consumption as older chips.
Intel's $3 billion Fab 32 is the first factory to start volume production of the new chips. The processors will eventually replace older models throughout Intel's product line for PCs, laptops, and servers, as well as ultra-low power chips for mobile Internet and consumer electronic devices.
Intel's first 45-NM chip, codenamed Penryn, will be a quad-core desktop processor in the form of Core 2 Extreme QX9650. The chip ships Nov. 12 at a clock speed of 3.0 GHz, making the new product Intel's fastest quad-core processor. Pricing hasn't been released, but media reports have pegged it at $999 to computer makers.
Besides having a better performance-to-power ratio, Intel's 45-nm line will also be more environmentally friendly, because it won't use the chemical Halogen.
Fab 32, Intel's sixth 300mm wafer factory, is the second factory to make the new processors, although its the first to begin high-volume production. The first to make a 45-nm chip for Intel was the company's Oregon development facility, called D1D, in January. D1D is now moving toward high-volume production, along with two other Intel plants, Fab 28 in Israel and Fab 11x in New Mexico. The latter two, which will also use 300mm wafers, are scheduled to start production next year. The use of such large silicon wafers is a plus because it lowers manufacturing costs.
At 1 million square feet, Fab 32 is the size of more than 17 football fields. More than 1,000 people work at the plant, which is among Intel's most environmentally friendly factories with a 15% reduction in global warming emissions.
Intel is ahead of rival Advanced Micro Devices in 45-nm manufacturing. AMD won't ship similarly made chips until sometime in 2008. Intel's smaller competitor shipped its first quad-core processor in September, about a year after Intel.