Intel finally reveals 10nm Cannon Lake processors

Intel has revealed its 10nm Cannon Lake processors are now available on the Lenovo IdeaPad 330, 12 months after they were first announced and two years after they were originally supposed to launch.

The Core i3-8121U is a low-spec chip, for use in mid-range notebooks according to Intel's Ark catalogue, which details all of its component's specifications.

It's a dual-core processor with four threads and clocked at 2.2GHz, with an upgrade to 3.2GHz in Turbo Boost mode.

Intel's Core i3-8121U supports LPDDR4 and LPDDR4X memory, both low-power versions of DDR4 RAM. This means less power is used even alongside high memory configurations, making it a more efficient option for low-end devices.

There doesn't appear to be any graphics support as per the listing, although this isn't unusual for Intel's low-end chips. It also offers 4MB of level 3 cache and the theoretical memory bandwidth figure has also been upgraded to 41.6GB/s, up from 34.1GB/s.

It's a low-end chip, hence the i3 in its name and the U tagged on the end tells us it's a 15W chip. The 8 stands for eighth generation, lining it up alongside the Kaby Lake-R, Kaby Lake-G, and Coffee Lake processors, built upon the 14nm architecture.

Intel originally said its 10nm processors would be available at the end of 2015, but production was pushed back until 2019 in the company's latest financial results. Citing problems with producing the chips at scale, CEO Brian Krzanich said the company had "bit off too much" when it came to promising delivery targets for the technology.

However, this latest news suggests the company has finally been able to manufacture them on a large enough scale to power Lenovo's IdeaPad 330.

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27/04/2018: Intel says it 'bit off too much' amid 10nm chip delays

Intel has faced a grilling from investors over production delays of the company's new 10 nanometer processors as concerns mount over its ability to remain competitive.

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said that the full-scale release of the 10nm chips would be delayed until sometime in 2019, despite initially releasing in limited numbers as far back as 2017.

"We think we bit off a little too much in this case," said Krzanich, during an earnings call with investors, transcribed by Seeking Alpha. "It may not seem like a lot, but 10% can make a lot of difference in this kind of world," he added, referring to the scaling process.

The company faced repeated questions over its ability to deliver the chips, including a suggestion that the company's base technology may be flawed.

"There is nothing wrong with the design library," said Krzanich. "If there were basic functionality issues, you wouldn't be able to ship a product."

"We know the performance is in line. So it's really just about getting the defects and the costs in line to where we want," added Krzanich.

Intel said low production yield was due to a problem with the manufacturing of the components, which has now been identified and will soon be fixed.

Intel has been keen to advertise the power improvements and efficiency gains of the 10nm chips, but has yet to fully replace its existing 14nm range; chips such as its eighth-generation Coffee Lake processors are built on the 14nm process.

The issue is compounded further due to stiff competition from the likes of Qualcomm, which is already mass producing 10nm chips in the form of the Snapdragon 835 and 845 mobile processors.

In an attempt to allay concerns, Krzanich said the company was committed to the process and remained optimistic it would be able to keep ahead of its rivals.

"We're not going to skip 10, there's a lot of learning there that we can carry into 7nm production," he said. "Also, around 80 per cent of our 14nm capital equipment is movable to 10nm production and the same thing will happen between 10 and 7nm processes."

Intel reported record revenues for the first quarter of 2018, posting a 9% year-over-year to $16.1bn, just over $5.2bn of which coming from the company's high-performing Data Center Group.

While it's likely that Intel has yet to feel the full effect of the recent Spectre and Meltdown debacle, the company said its next quarter is likely to be even stronger.

While the wait continues for a full-scale 10nm processor rollout, Intel confirmed that it would be delivering a new data centre chip based on the process, code-named Cascade Lake, at some point later in the year.

Intel also said it would be introducing a Whiskey Lake processor that would "continue to take advantage of 14-nanometer" technology, also expected in late 2018.

Clare Hopping
Freelance writer

Clare is the founder of Blue Cactus Digital, a digital marketing company that helps ethical and sustainability-focused businesses grow their customer base.

Prior to becoming a marketer, Clare was a journalist, working at a range of mobile device-focused outlets including Know Your Mobile before moving into freelance life.

As a freelance writer, she drew on her expertise in mobility to write features and guides for ITPro, as well as regularly writing news stories on a wide range of topics.