Intel throw the switch on their 10nm chip factory – tiny chips are on track for 2017

Intel 10nm production

The volume production facility for Intel’s next generation 10nm node has just come online, and is beginning testing, with full CPU production on track for the middle of next year.

But what’s the other side up to? Check out our in-depth guide to the upcoming AMD Zen CPUs.

In my head Intel CEO, Brian Krzanich, is standing there with his hand on a big industrial lever attached to his 10nm CPU production facility in Israel, sweat dripping off his heavy brow. There are engineers surrounding him, all wearing those funny white bunnysuits, as far as the eye can see, erupting with hysterical cheers as he pulls the lever down with both hands, setting the wheels in motion for the 10nm revolution. Obviously all accompanied by the ‘dum-dum-di-dum’ Intel jingle as all the lights come on inside.

In reality I doubt anyone even smashed a bottle of champagne on the side of the factory.

But the fact that Intel’s starting proper production trials for its 10nm process is great news for the 2017’s Cannonlake processors, the follow up to the 14nm Kaby Lake CPUs set to arrive later this year. These are trials of the actual manufacturing with all the proper design work having been carried out at a smaller testing facility elsewhere.

So with all the production trials and testing going on right now, it means Intel are well on track to be able to hit proper volume production by the middle of next year, just when we’re hoping to see the new Cannonlake CPUs arrive in our desktops.

Intel 10nm CPU

With the previous 14nm node being beset by so many delays it looks like Intel are making sure to let everyone know things are running much smoother with the shift to a 10nm lithography.

Cannonlake chips will essentially use the same architecture as their Skylake and Kaby Lake forebears – following Intel’s, now slightly stuttering, tick-tock-tock CPU release cadence – which means they will drop into the same LGA 1151 sockets the current strain of processors live in.

With the production shrink though we are hopeful for either a reduction in power use at the same performance, or an increase in CPU speeds using the same amount of energy as the Kaby Lake chips. There’s also the tantalising prospect that maybe, just maybe, Intel will finally start to give us more cores in the mainstream segment with the extra space having a much smaller CPU lithography could offer.

Will we see a 6-core chip where we currently see the i7 6700K? Or is it going to be the same situation where if you want more than a quad-core processor you’ve got to go for the high-end again, like the Core i7 6800K?