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Intel Stops The Tick-Tock Clock

Intel has apparently killed off its well known “tick-tock” design cadence known in favor of a new extended development scheme.

Although Intel has been producing chips based on the tick-tock pace for roughly a decade now, the last several ticks and tocks have not gone quite according to plan. The system began to break down after the Ivy Bridge tick. Ivy Bridge went off the beaten path a bit by bringing out a significantly improved iGPU architecture and a moderate improvement to CPU performance over the Sandy Bridge tock, which Intel referred to as a “tick+.”

Ivy Bridge was followed by the Haswell tock. Haswell featured a new architecture, but the performance enhancements were rather mediocre. Intel ran into difficulties with its Broadwell tick as well, which lead to Intel releasing an updated Haswell chip, breaking from the traditional tick-tock cadence.

The new three-stage design scheme closely resembles the transition from Ivy Bridge through the Haswell refresh. It begins with a new transistor process node (22 nm Ivy Bridge or 14 nm Broadwell), followed by a new architecture similar to tick-tock (Haswell or Skylake), and ends with an optimized refresh of that architecture on the same process.

This change in design scheme is likely due to the increased difficulty of developing smaller transistor technology. The move to 14 nm transistors delayed the Broadwell desktop release, and Broadwell never really showed up in force outside of the mobile world. The next major advancement in transistor technology will likely be even more difficult, so we are unlikely to see sub-14 nm chips in the near future.

What we can expect to see next, then, is an optimized Skylake architecture. Of course, this is speculation, and it isn’t clear if Intel will even call it "Skylake," but for now we could call it "Skylake+" for simplicity’s sake until Intel says otherwise. We also don’t know when these Skylake+ chips will come to the market, but they will apparently use 14 nm transistors and will almost certainly use the same chipsets and socket.

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  • salgado18
    Which means the next Intel CPU will be on 14nm, just like AMD's Zen. Maaaybe there's a chance to catch up? I can hope, right? :D

    I know, they will be on a mature node, with experience and refinement, and faster even without improvements. But the gap will close faster if Intel can't keep its improvement rate.
    Reply
  • Snipergod87
    Which means the next Intel CPU will be on 14nm, just like AMD's Zen. Maaaybe there's a chance to catch up? I can hope, right? :D

    I know, they will be on a mature node, with experience and refinement, and faster even without improvements. But the gap will close faster if Intel can't keep its improvement rate.

    Not to be a downer but if Intel is struggling at this point what makes you think AMD will be able to close the gap considering they will run into the same problems. After the Athlon 64 days AMD has always been behind. I want them to succeed and put pressure on Intel, but I don't think they will be able to close a big gap like that.
    Reply
  • dstarr3
    Transistor technology is going to get more and more difficult to improve as time goes on. The technology just can't support getting much smaller. At what point are we really going to start focusing closely on the emerging alternatives?
    Reply
  • eltoro
    Intel is allowing itself to run into difficulties, as it makes no sense to invest so much into the performance race, with its competitor now pretty much ineffective in the high-end class. So to all Intel fanboys - this is the result of having world domination. I was never a fanboy, but I had my beliefs in who I prefer. Now that I've matured I understand that my best interests are to have a strong AMD too.
    The result of this lack of real improvement is the fact that there's no real justification for me to upgrade my 3.5yeras old i7-3770K CPU (with its motherboard and RAM) for a Skylake. The 20% (max) gain in gaming performance is not enough to justify an upgrade.
    Reply
  • thezooloomaster
    Well, following the ridiculous news that Kaby Lake will only support Windows 10, I'd be quite happy to see a further generation of CPUs that can still work on Windows 7.
    Reply
  • blackbit75
    There is no competition (AMD can't compete), and the market in x86 has been slowing down, and adding more transistors didn't make any notably benefit, so. People won't see their computer obsolete, as often. Why bother?
    Cheers
    Reply
  • eklipz330
    Intel is allowing itself to run into difficulties, as it makes no sense to invest so much into the performance race, with its competitor now pretty much ineffective in the high-end class. So to all Intel fanboys - this is the result of having world domination. I was never a fanboy, but I had my beliefs in who I prefer. Now that I've matured I understand that my best interests are to have a strong AMD too.
    The result of this lack of real improvement is the fact that there's no real justification for me to upgrade my 3.5yeras old i7-3770K CPU (with its motherboard and RAM) for a Skylake. The 20% (max) gain in gaming performance is not enough to justify an upgrade.
    i wouldn't say they're allowing themselves to run into difficulties, but they certainly are becoming lazy or are purposely doing this. they have no reason to continue releasing faster chips because year after year, their chips are the fastest. all they need are marginal optimizations.

    AMD is needed more than ever. this being said, if ZEN performs as good as even Haswell, I will jump ship. Even if it is at a small premium. Last time I built a computer, it was between ivy bridge and bulldozer. wasn't much of a choice.
    Reply
  • InvalidError
    17707199 said:
    Intel is allowing itself to run into difficulties, as it makes no sense to invest so much into the performance race, with its competitor now pretty much ineffective in the high-end class.
    Intel is not immune to the laws of physics and the increasing difficulties that come along with going smaller.

    If going forward was so easy, the other chip designers and makers would have no trouble catching up with Intel. But they are all struggling just as much. Like it or not, that's what happens when you get close to physical limits.

    The only practical way to increase performance much beyond the current state of things is to add more CPU cores but there is too little mainstream software capable of leveraging multi-core CPUs in a meaningful and efficient way for heavily multi-core/multi-thread mainstream CPUs to make sense.
    Reply
  • Solandri
    17706997 said:
    Not to be a downer but if Intel is struggling at this point what makes you think AMD will be able to close the gap considering they will run into the same problems. After the Athlon 64 days AMD has always been behind. I want them to succeed and put pressure on Intel, but I don't think they will be able to close a big gap like that.
    AMD is fabless. They spun off and sold their fabrication factories years ago. They now just design the CPU (or GPU) and contract with a fab to manufacture it for them. The fab factories are the ones closing in on Intel. Samsung and GlobalFoundries already have 14nm working. Toshiba has 15nm. TSMC is the big one which is still stuck at 20nm.
    Reply
  • RedJaron
    17707231 said:
    Well, following the ridiculous news that Kaby Lake will only support Windows 10, I'd be quite happy to see a further generation of CPUs that can still work on Windows 7.
    Why do people keep repeating and believing this misconception? Microsoft is not locking down Windows to only run on certain CPUs, they're just not going to add support to older OS's for newer technologies and ISAs. As an x86 CPU, you can install and run older Windows on Kaby just fine, it simply may not take advantage of newer features Kaby offers. You're also going to be at the mercy of getting drivers for the new hardware on the older OS. Take a look at MSI and ASRock's sites. Notice at Z87 they stopped offering WinXP drivers? You can't even get Win8 drivers for current mboards ( Win7 and 8.1, but not 8, and yes, it makes a difference ). So why all the outrage at MS doing something that hardware mfrs have done for years?

    As for the tick-tock change, I think this also reflects how powerful CPUs have become lately. Years ago, having 5+ yr-old CPU meant a computer that was completely inadequate. Now we still have people rocking away with Nehalem, Sandy Bridge, and AMD Stars without a worry. If consumers don't have a need to upgrade as often, why not extend the R&D to try and wring as much optimization out of what we have now?
    Reply