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Intel Upgrades Hardware

The Mile Markers of Moore's Law Are Meaningless 156

Posted by timothy
from the we-call-this-one-petite dept.
szotz writes "Keeping up the pace of Moore's Law is hard, but you wouldn't know it from the way chipmakers name their technology. The semiconductor industry's names for chip generations (Intel's 22nm, TSMC's 28nm, etc) have very little to do with actual physical sizes, says IEEE Spectrum. And the disconnect is only getting bigger. For the first time, the "pay us to make your chip" foundries are offering a new process (with a smaller-sounding name) that will produce chips that are no denser than their forbears. The move is not a popular one."
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The Mile Markers of Moore's Law Are Meaningless

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  • by globaljustin (574257) <justinglobal@gm a i l . com> on Thursday October 31, 2013 @06:01PM (#45295457) Homepage Journal

    You've got it switched...

    If TSMC isn't keeping up with Moore's Law, that's not a problem with Moore's Law. It's a problem with TSMC.

    see, when the data does not support the hypothesis, you **change the hypothesis** not how you interpret the data

    Moore's Law has never been a 'law'...it was a cool statistical novelty that seemed to predict processor advancements...it is NOT and HAS NEVER BEEN fit to predict anything invovling money or resources...it's 'for fun'

    I've seen Singularity/Kurzweil types in TED talks show some dumb graph of 'Moore's Law' and show how, according to the law, humans will have the processor speed to do XYZ by 2050....it's all bunk...

    Using Moore's Law to make important decisions is about like using a Slashdot Poll to do the same...I don't trust people professionally who take a concept like Moore's Law and build their understanding of an industry around it. It's a common mistake of perception.

    Maybe there is some sort of pattern to processor speed, but it's not helping us understand anything to be so reductive and irresponsible with how we use scientific concepts.

  • Re:bad example (Score:5, Interesting)

    by crgrace (220738) on Thursday October 31, 2013 @06:03PM (#45295477)

    The problem with the transitions to finFETs is now we have an apples-to-oranges comparison between finFET (or 3D gate or whatever you want to call it) processes and surface FET processes. GlobalFoundries feels they need to stretch the truth to get the point across that the process really is better objectively, even if the minimum feature size hasn't shrunk.

    It reminds me of 10 years ago when the microprocessor companies finally stopped the GHz war. For several years, clock speed was a poor proxy for microprocessor performance, and Mac fans used to scream loudly (and rightly) how the IBM chips beat Intel on real-world benchmarks while Intel touted their higher speed.

    Hopefully, this "node as minimum gate width" will go away and we'll move to more meaningful process figures-of-merit such as power density, power-delay product, gm/I, transit frequency, Ioff and the like.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 31, 2013 @06:09PM (#45295523)

    Intel is the King of liars. In going FinFET (Intel's biggest manufacturing disaster to date) , the 2D, top-down profile of Intel's transistor diminishes, meaning that Intel should have got a large density (transistors per mm2) boost from this fact alone. However, AMD's latest GPU, the 290X is VASTLY more dense (without FinFETs) at TSMC's 28nm process than ANY part (pure memory chips excluded) Intel makes at its so-called 22nm process (with FinFETs).

    In other words, it is an absolute LIE to state that Intel currently has a process advantage. Intel does have an advantage of having a MUCH faster mains-powered x86 architecture than AMD, and using much less power (again on mains-powered systems only) to achieve this. Sadly, these two advantages are becoming ever less important in the market-place. No-one cares about power-usage on high-end mains-powered PCs, and very few people indeed need the performance of the top Intel parts, especially since almost everything once done on the CPU is now processed on the GPU or dedicated hardware blocks. Worse, now games are finally supporting multiple CPU cores properly, AMD's AAA gaming performance on its much cheaper 6-core parts matches Intel's gaming performance on its TWICE as expensive 4-core parts.

    Moving from Intel's cheating, technology like FD-SOI makes the rush (the very, very, very expensive rush) to FinFET look extremely premature. FD-SOI can give better results on current generation fabrication plants than FinFET on next-gen ones, at the tiniest fraction of the cost. The industry was predicated on a shrink every couple of years, but now it is clear that finding new materials and geometries for semiconductor elements on current sizes makes far better sense.

    What FinFET promised in theory, it completely failed to deliver in practise for Intel, and Intel has tried twice, totally revamping its FinFET designs from the Ivybridge to the Haswell with no luck (hotter chips that clock less well and only offer real power saving at the useless 'mains-powered' part of the power curve). For those of you dumb enough to have been fooled by Intel's Haswell propaganda, let me EXPLAIN this fact. Haswell only APPEARS to use less power because Intel has optimised power consumption when the chip is doing nothing, or almost nothing. So, on a tablet, when browsing, Haswell effectively switches itself off when you are reading a mostly unchanging web-page. On the other hand, when Haswell is doing actual processing, it is no more power efficient than the last couple of generations of Intel designs, and often uses more power (this is mobile we are talking about here).

    In the near future, all fabs (including Intel and TSMC) are describing the minimum 2D geometric features of their FinFET transistors as the 'process'. So, Intel's new parts next year claim 14nm (or is that 16?) and yet AMD and TSMC are also claiming to offer 20nm AND 14nm next year as well (the size discrepancies like 32nm from Intel vs 28nm from TSMC are already down to so-called half-nodes that describe the minimum features of the smallest transistors, rather than the inherent geometry of the process itself).

    Anyway, Intel is claiming a new process shrink in 2014, and its competitors are claiming TWO (which is a bit of a clue about the cheating), bringing them 'equal' in process with Intel for the first time in very many years. This means informed people will IGNORE the so-called process, and focus on die size, transistor density per mm2, power dissipation per mm2, and clock speed.

  • by crgrace (220738) on Thursday October 31, 2013 @06:10PM (#45295533)

    Moore's Law has never been a 'law'...it was a cool statistical novelty that seemed to predict processor advancements...it is NOT and HAS NEVER BEEN fit to predict anything invovling money or resources...it's 'for fun'

    I disagree with you a bit here. Moore's Law is an observation, sure, but to engineers that understand the assumptions that go into Moore's Law it has been extremely useful for making predictions involving money and resources.

    At my last job I worked in an advanced development/product group working on CMOS wireless transceivers for basestations and handsets. We used Moore's Law explicitly in our planning. The IC business is brutal and you have very little room to miss your market windows. With multi-year development cycles this is tough. Therefore, like a duck hunter, you have to shoot where the technology is going to be, not where it is.

    Basically, we started the design using a CMOS process that wasn't on the market yet. We were confident that it *would be* by the time we were ready to go to market. We were confident because the availability of that process was predicted by Moore's Law and any number of foundries were spending billions to make it happen.

    If we hadn't used Moore's Law in our planning, we would have come out with products using two-year old technology, and our competition would have eaten our lunch.

  • by CODiNE (27417) on Thursday October 31, 2013 @07:07PM (#45296111) Homepage

    So what you're saying is that Moore's law became a self-fulfilling prophesy?

  • Re:bad example (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 31, 2013 @11:50PM (#45297469)

    I got my first Mac just over a year ago. Because of comments like yours, I was expecting quality hardware.

    It is the absolute worst computer I have ever owned. And all of my other computers were built from low-cost parts on the Internet. I've had the thousand-dollar monitor die twice (luckily under warranty) and now the video chip is flaking out whenever it displays videos. My other computers would develop issues over time, but I've never before had such serious problems in so short a time after purchase. I will never buy an Apple product again for its mythical "quality".

  • Re:bad example (Score:4, Interesting)

    by LordLimecat (1103839) on Friday November 01, 2013 @02:14AM (#45297885)

    While I'm not a fan of Steve or Apple, Apple PCs are still superior PCs. It's just not in "geeky" stuff like processor speed or 3D performance which Apple has no control over, it's in some tangibles like quality and some other things that I personally don't give a shit about ("Design", "Form Factor").

    Bull. Its noone elses problem that Mac fans insist on comparing $1200 Macs with $400 Dells. Compare a Mac with a laptop in the same price bracket, and you start to realize that there actually is competition out there. Check out the Samsung Ativ 9, or the last-year's Samsung Series 7s, or the Asus Zenbook prime.

Stinginess with privileges is kindness in disguise. -- Guide to VAX/VMS Security, Sep. 1984

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