Intel 3-D Tri-Gate Transistor Holds Promise For Lighter, Thinner Systems

With Intel's launch this week of Ivy Bridge, its ultra-thin, ultra-efficient processors for desktop and mobile devices, the company paves the way for smaller, more powerful and power-efficient application processors.

According to a report by system researcher and UBM Channel sister company UBM TechInsights, Intel's 3-D Tri-Gate technology and its ability to be mass produced using the 22nm process makes possible a further transition to 14nm and even 10nm nodes. Ivy Bridge chips can be soldered onto a motherboard without a socket to further reduce a system's profile.

The Ivy Bridge processor's Tri-Gate transistors provide triple the surface area for electrons to travel compared with conventional 2-D gates.

With early performance results showing significantly faster speeds, Ivy Bridge processors are off to a running start. In advance of the news, Intel sent the CRN Test Center an Intel Core i7 3770K processor and the brand new Desktop Board DZ77GA-70K with D77 chipset to match. The D77 is optimized for K-series processors that are unlocked and ready for overclocking.

The Intel Core i7 3770K is among the first processors available that incorporate Tri-Gate technology, which creates three-dimensional transistors that maximize current flow when in the on state and consume close to zero when off.

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Sometimes referred to as FinFET because the conductive channel is wrapped by a thin silicon "fin," the parts increase the surface area for electron flow without impacting size or power efficiency. Check out this Intel video for a corny yet succinct layman's explanation of how Tri-Gate works compared with planar gates.

A comparable image from Intel's previous-generation 32nm process shows traditional 2-D planar channel.

Also significant, Ivy Bridge is the first Intel processor series with direct support for DirectX 11, the latest version of Microsoft's graphics and multimedia APIs. On this score, Intel archrival AMD is no longer the only game in town. And as Intel promised, Ivy Bridge processors use the same sockets as Sandy Bridge parts.

When it announced last year its ability to mass produce the parts using a 22nm process, Intel estimated performance increases of as much as 37 percent compared with 32nm planar-transistor devices and power consumption at about half or less. Such parts would be highly desired for small handheld units such as smartphones and tablets, medical devices, media players, and portable gaming systems. In fact, anything that can benefit from the ability to switch between high performance and low power consumption would benefit. These days, that includes just about everything.