Correctly Understanding the Intel 4 Scaling Value
Intel recently presented their Intel 4 process innovation at the 2022 VLSI Symposium. They shared quite a bit of information about the new process, as they have done with nodes previously before products were released.
Critical dimensions in Intel 4 are scaled at 0.75 ~ 0.93x when compared with Intel 7 – which still offers reasonable value considering the delayed pace of next-node availability. There was some discussion around standard track height; Intel offers high performance (HP) cell in Intel 4. It was confirmed that the high density (HD) cell library will be supported in Intel 3.
Library heights are compared in HP libraries, but Intel 7 has 4/4 fins, while Intel 4 has 3/3 fins. So "x0.59" scaling for intel 4 HP library is an overestimate. We need to understand the scaling value in a fair comparison.
Meanwhile, TSMC offers a 2/2 fin HD library for Apple. We cannot compare the Intel 4 HP cell with the TSMC N5 HD cell. We need to think of scaling benefits with a correct understanding of the effect of the fin numbers.
- We know that Intel 4 HP library height scaling of "x0.59" is overestimated. What is the fair value?
- Which technology comes out on top? Intel 4, TSMC N5 and/or Samsung 4LPE?
TechInsights had analyzed the last HiSilicon high end SoC "Kirin 9000," which was released at almost the same time as the Apple A14 N5. As you may recall, the Kirin 9000 has a 3/3 fin HP library. TechInsights also recently analyzed the 4LPE Samsung Exynos 2200, and it has 3/3 fin HP library.
I quickly summarized the relationships of standard cell height vs. number of fins for 7nm~4nm in 3 companies.
First, I highlighted Intel's claim of x0.59 standard cell height scaling.
We need to think of 3/3 fin lib speculation for Intel 7 and/or 3/2 fin lib for Intel 4. Through simple speculation done by adjusting one fin pitch, results are x0.77~0.78 scaling. The numbers make sense to me.
Then let's compare Intel 4 with others. This is the chart with flat highlights.
Intel 4 standard cell scaling is the world’s most advanced at this moment if we confirm in 3/3 design benchmark. Intel will add an HD library in Intel 3. We don't know if it will be 3/2, similarly to the Intel 7, or 2/2, but it can be expected as the top level of a high-density cell and the node label "4" is quite appropriate.
- Intel 4 HP library height scaling value is x0.78
- Intel 4 technology has denser cell in 3/3 fin libraries than TSMC N5 and Samsung 4LPE