10nm Intel CPUs not coming to desktops until at least 2022, amid manufacturing issues

Intel is struggling to deliver 10nm CPUs, while AMD will announce 7nm Zen 2 CPUs at Computex 2019.

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Intel's difficulties with manufacturing and shipping 10nm CPUs appear to be continuing, as product roadmaps allegedly presented to Dell and leaked to the Dutch technology website Tweakers indicates a lack of high-power 10nm CPUs from Intel through the end of 2021. The roadmaps position 10nm Ice Lake CPUs, in 5W (Y-series) and 15-28W (U-series) mobile processors for limited availability in Q2 2019, with Tiger Lake U and Y for Q2 2020.

No 45W or ≥65W (H/G series) using a 10nm manufacturing process are on the mobile roadmaps, which end in 2020, or on the client CPU roadmaps, which end in 2021. While TechRepublic has not verified the authenticity of the leaked documents, some aspects do align with previous Intel statements. However, these imply that availability of Ice Lake CPUs would occur ahead of schedule, as Intel's earnings report schedules those for holiday 2019.

To be certain, Intel's difficulties with 10nm does not imply that the company is not offering more performant chips, as Intel announced a new round of 9th generation Intel Core CPUs earlier this week, including the i9-9980HK, a 2.4 GHz base / 5.0 GHz turbo CPU with eight cores and 16 threads, for mobile devices.

Concern about this may be marginally overblown, as power savings from 10nm will be more obviously felt in mobile markets, as the smaller manufacturing process and consequent lower amounts of heat it generates are more obvious when paired with battery power.

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That said, difficulties with manufacturing 10nm processors have vexed the company for years. Cannon Lake, the first 10nm CPU from Intel, was sold as the Core i3-8121U, found only in China-exclusive variants of the Lenovo IdeaPad 330, and in low-end versions of Intel's Next Unit of Computing small form factor (SFF) PCs. Intel announced Ice Lake at CES 2019, characterizing it as the company's "first volume 10nm PC processor," packing in support for Wi-Fi 6 and Thunderbolt 3, eliminating the need for external chipsets, requiring more board space and power.

Issues with Intel's transition from 14nm to 10nm production processes have been the source of extensive speculation in the industry, leading to rumors late last year that Intel's difficulties were likely to prompt the company to skip directly from 14nm to 7nm processes. Likewise, these difficulties have constrained supply of Intel CPUs, as the company focuses on shipping performance server CPUs and low-voltage parts for ultrabooks and mobile devices.

Despite this, AMD is already moving along to 7nm, with the Zen 2-based third-generation Ryzen CPUs to be announced at Computex 2019. According to ZDNet, the flagship Ryzen 9 3850X is expected to have a base clock speed of 4.3GHz, 5.1GHz turbo speed, and a TDP of 135W. The third-generation Ryzen parts are expected to ship in the middle of 2019.

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By James Sanders

James Sanders is a technology writer for TechRepublic. He covers future technology, including quantum computing, AI, and 5G, as well as cloud, security, open source, mobility, and the impact of globalization on the industry, with a focus on Asia.