Intel PC Processors Move to Chiplets

Meteor Lake will introduce a multidie arrangement using Intel’s silicon-substrate and advanced packaging technologies. This chiplet approach will appear across all PC price tiers beginning late next year.
Linley Gwennap
Linley Gwennap

Intel is making a big move to chiplets, revealing that all versions of its next-generation Meteor Lake processor, as well as successive generations, will comprise multiple die. This approach fundamentally changes the design and manufacturing of the company’s PC processors, its highest-volume and highest-revenue product line. Meteor Lake, the first product built using Intel 4 technology, is already in the lab and is scheduled to achieve production next year.

The new approach, disclosed at the recent Hot Chips conference, enables CPU- and GPU-performance scaling simply by changing a chiplet rather than redesigning the entire processor. The company can also use different process nodes for each component to trade off cost and performance. It claims its latest packaging technology overcomes the performance and power penalties of other chiplet approaches, but it failed to address potential cost increases relative to current monolithic designs.

AMD has employed chiplets in all its server products since 2017 and all its desktop-PC processors since 2019. This approach allows it to scale core count by adding chiplets, ultimately exceeding the number of cores that Intel can fit on a single die. AMD uses low-cost multidie packaging on organic substrates, a technique Intel has used for years to combine the proces¬sor and south-bridge chips in certain laptop products. Meteor Lake instead places the chiplets on a silicon substrate. AMD deployed its first silicon-on-silicon products earlier this year in niche PC and server parts.

Intel has deployed advanced packaging technology in a few minor PC products, including a Kaby Lake version that integrated an AMD GPU and in the later Lakefield processor. These low-volume efforts yielded important data on the new manufacturing techniques and gave the company confidence to commit to the Meteor Lake strategy.

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