In an unusual turn of events, Intel just teased the future of its mainstream desktop and laptop processors, confirming that "Ice Lake" is its second chip architecture after Cannon Lake, both of which are under the 10-nanometer manufacturing process.
Intel Teases Ice Lake, Its '10nm+' Architecture
Cannon Lake was supposed to follow Skylake, going from the 14-nanometer to 10-nanometer process. Plans for a late 2016 release fell through, however. There were some unexpected hurdles in the manufacturing process. As a result, this is how things look now: Kaby Lake, the latest chips available, uses a second-generation "14nm+" process, while Coffee Lake, scheduled for the second half of 2017, uses a third-generation "14nm++" process. The "+" signs indicating that tweaks have been implemented.
So here comes Cannon Lake, the first chip under the 10-nanometer process from Intel, although 10-nm parts aren't due until 2018. Ice Lake, meanwhile, will use a second-generation "10nm+" process. How the two differ has yet to be determined.
Intel plans to divide desktop and laptop by chips. Desktops will stick with the 14-nanometer processors — Kaby Lake and Coffee Lake. Laptops, meanwhile, will pack in Coffee Lake and Cannon Lake parts. As AnandTech speculates, Intel might split the chips based on core size and power. Smaller 15 W parts might pack Cannon Lake because smaller chips will maximize the yields of the new 10-nanometer process.
What We Know About Intel Ice Lake
Ice Lake being the second chip under the 10-nanometer manufacturing process is literally the only thing we know so far, although speculation suggests that it may "re-unify" things. It may deliver better yields for larger chips and be a suitable architecture for a broader range of Intel processors.
For the record, this is how Intel describes Ice Lake:
"The Ice Lake processor family is a successor to the 8th generation Intel Core processor family. These processors utilize Intel's industry-leading 10 nm+ process technology." There's certainly not a lot to go on by reading this.
Another factor, timing, remains uncertain. Cannon Lake is expected to arrive sometime in 2018, as mentioned, meaning Ice Lake could arrive by late 2018 or 2019.
It's no wonder why Intel is beginning to drop some information, especially with Cannon Lake on the horizon. There's been previous speculation that the follow-up to Cannon Lake will also be manufactured under the 10-nanometer process, but with news of Ice Lake now confirmed, the conversation gains new traction.
So it's much clearer: we now have three official names for what's coming next — Coffee Lake, Cannon Lake, and Ice Lake. Is this all, though? Could Intel perhaps be planning to unveil more chip architectures? Maybe. But at least the conversation continues.