Intel Corp. shared new technical details about Meteor Lake, an upcoming series of desktop and laptop processors featuring chiplet technology.
Intel detailed the processor series today ahead of its presentation at Hot Chips, a major semiconductor industry event.
Intel has historically implemented all of the transistors that make up a chip on a single piece of silicon. With the Meteor Lake series, the company will implement transistors not on a single piece of silicon, but rather on several smaller modules. This approach to chip design is known in the semiconductor industry as chip architecture.
Each Meteor Lake processor will feature five different modules, or chiplets. The main chiplet is a central processing unit that Intel will produce using its all-new Intel 4 manufacturing process, also known as the company’s seven-nanometer process. According to the company, Intel 4 makes it possible to produce processors that can operate at frequencies up to 21.5% higher than previous-generation silicon using the same amount of electricity.
In Meteor Lake processors, the main CPU chipset is integrated with three other chiplets which are not made by Intel but rather by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd. The three chipsets that TSMC will manufacture would have include a graphics processing unit, an I/O module for managing data input and output operations and a so-called SoC slab. Intel did not specify the functionality provided by the SoC tile.
With traditional semiconductor production techniques, it is not possible to combine processing modules made by different companies in a single processor. Chiplet technology facilitates such configurations, giving chipmakers like Intel more flexibility in designing their products.
Another benefit of the technology is that it can simplify manufacturing in some ways. When the chips that make up a processor are produced separately and bonded together after manufacture, hardware defects become easier to manage. If one of the chiplets contains a defect, the others can still be used.
Meteor Lake’s CPU, GPU, I/O module, and SoC tile are all placed on top of another fifth chiplet in a three-dimensional configuration. This fifth chiplet would not contain any logic circuit or circuit capable of performing calculations. It is manufactured by Intel using its low cost 22FFL chip manufacturing process.
Placing chips on top of each other in a multi-dimensional three-dimensional configuration major advantages. Two processors placed on top of each other have a smaller surface area than two processors placed next to each other, which is advantageous for compact devices such as laptops. Additionally, stacking the chips allows data to travel faster between transistors under certain conditions, which can speed up processing.
Intel is using an internally developed technology known as Foveros to place the four core Meteor Lake chips on the 22FFL-based fifth chip that serves as the foundation for the processor series. Intel has implemented Foveros once before in a line of chips called Lakefield which it discontinued in 2021. However, Meteor Lake is the first example of Intel using the technology to power a series of processors it will manufacture in large volumes. .
The first Meteor Lake chips are expected to debut next year.
In addition to using Foveros to power laptop and desktop processors, Intel plans to bring the technology to the data center market. The company last year made its debut a Foveros-powered chip called Ponte Vecchio, optimized for machine learning workloads. The chip includes 47 different chips manufactured using five different manufacturing processes.
Through its various components, Ponte Vecchio comprises a total of 100 billion transistors. That’s almost double the number of transistors in Nvidia Corp’s flagship A100 data center graphics card. According to Intel, early Ponte Vecchio prototypes demonstrated the ability to reach speeds of 45 teraflops, which is equivalent to 45 trillion computer operations per second.