Intel Meteor Lake Technical Deep Dive

Source: Tech Power Up added 20th Sep 2023

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Intel provided us with a close look at its upcoming “Meteor Lake” microarchitecture powering the next generation of Intel Core processors for PCs. “Meteor Lake” is Intel’s very first processor to fully realize Intel’s IDM 2.0 Strategy of redesigning its future processors such that it can maximize the utilization of its latest in-house semiconductor foundry capacity for the specific components on the processor that need it the most; and then carefully disaggregating the various components onto slightly older foundry nodes—some even from external foundries—and building an integrated device that’s greater than the sum of its parts.

Intel attaches great importance to the success of “Meteor Lake,” not just because it is Intel’s first disaggregated chiplet-based processor, but also because it powers Intel’s biggest push for consumer AI hardware acceleration, with Intel AI Boost. With this, Intel hopes to mainstream AI in the client space, and get the PC ecosystem to embrace on-device accelerated AI for consumer software applications spanning from everything between limited function apps to complex productivity suites. “Meteor Lake” is hardly the first device to accelerate AI for the client—GPUs with AI acceleration hardware have been around for close to 5 years now—but Intel still holds the reins to the PC ecosystem with an over 80% market-share in PC processors, and the fact that a majority of PCs don’t use discrete GPUs. With Intel taking the lead in consumer AI, software vendors would finally have the confidence to invest big in new AI-accelerated features since they know there’s a sizable userbase.

2023 is a very different point in time from 2008. Back then, Intel had just perfected its 45 nm HKMG foundry node, and had a credible path toward 14 nm, and could execute the famous “Tick-Tock” product development strategy, where the company would introduce a new foundry node every two years, and a new microarchitecture every intervening two years. Since the company had industrial leadership over foundry nodes, it could build processors on monolithic dies. The 1st Gen Core “Nehalem” was pivotal, in that it saw the first aggregation effort by Intel in a decade, with the PC’s northbridge being integrated with the processor package. Over subsequent generations, the aggregation trend would continue, driven by clear performance incentives—first the memory controller, followed by the integrated graphics, and then platform I/O. The company’s last monolithic processor die, “Raptor Lake,” integrates nearly every device of the modern PC onto a single die built on the Intel 7 process, except the platform I/O.

Fast forward to 2023, and Intel has just emerged from a very slow jump from 14 nm to Intel 7 (10 nm Enhanced SuperFin), the prices of wafers on the latest EUV-based nodes are significantly higher than what they used to be, and so Intel is incentivized to disaggregate—to identify the specific components on the processor that don’t benefit as much from being built on the latest foundry node, and spin them off into chiplets, or tiles as Intel likes to call them, on older foundry nodes. Alongside “Meteor Lake,” Intel is introducing the new Intel 4 node, the company’s first to utilize EUV lithography, and offer both transistor densities and energy efficiency rivaling 4 nm-class nodes by TSMC. Besides Intel 4, the company has its mature Intel 7 node, and even third party nodes for specific tiles.

The secret sauce here is the Foveros chip packaging technology, a combination of high-density inter-die and via-substrate electronic connections between the various tiles, which make them work as if they were a single monolithic die. The effort here is to provide both bandwidth and latencies close to those of on-die connections, or else the processor is essentially an MCM and disaggregated as things were before Nehalem.

In this article, we dive deep into the fascinating world of “Meteor Lake” and how Intel plans to make this chiplet-based processor greater than the sum of its parts and realize CEO Pat Gelsinger’s vision of IDM 2.0 manufacturing, which will redefine the way chips will be built for the foreseeable future. This is purely an architecture-focused article, Intel has not detailed any specific processor models based on “Meteor Lake,” nor what its next-gen Core lineup will look like; and so obviously we have no performance numbers in this review besides anything Intel would have claimed in its presentations to us.

Read the full article at Tech Power Up

media: Tech Power Up  

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