In a somewhat confusing move, this week Intel confirmed that its next 8th generation Core processors would remain on the 14nm node, despite previously saying that it would have 10nm ready to go later this year. Speaking at its annual investor day in California, Intel spoke about its plans for 8th gen, adding that it would be sticking with 14nm for its mainline CPUs for the fourth year in a row.
Earlier this year we saw the launch of Kaby Lake, which was the ‘Optimization’ step in Intel’s new three-stage ‘Process-Architecture-Optimization’ release schedule, which replaced the old Tick-Tock cycle last year. By returning to 14nm for 8th generation, it seems that a fourth step is being added to Intel’s cycle.
AnandTech notes that the upcoming refresh might focus more on the low-voltage U- and Y-series chips you see in very thin and light laptops, just as you saw with the initial 7th-gen processors late last year. That has yet to be confirmed, however.
One thing’s for sure: when Intel’s long-delayed 10nm processors finally do arrive, you won’t see a wholesale switch to the new technology. Intel says that future process uses will be “fluid” depending on the segment they’re targeting, and that data centers will get first crack at these upgrades. Don’t be surprised if the Xeon line gets first dibs on 10nm, then, or if only some mainstream chips make the leap at first.
The decision might be necessary given the challenges of shrinking large CPUs down to a 10nm process, but it’s likely to leave Intel feeling nervous. After all, mobile giants like Qualcomm are releasing 10nm processors this year. While mobile tablets probably won’t outperform most laptops any time soon, this could narrow the gap enough that you might be tempted to skip buying a conventional Intel-based PC in the right circumstances.