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Intel has pretty big plans to shake up things in the coming years

Intel just dropped a new plan at its Intel Foundry Services (IFS) Direct event that stretches all the way to 2027. This is basically an update of the plan they shared about three years ago, right after Pat Gelsinger became the CEO.

While processor road maps are pretty common, Intel has actually stuck to the schedule it set a few years back. This new road map gives us a glimpse of what’s coming up as we near the end of Gelsinger’s initial plan. It’s worth noting that Intel’s main focus here is on improving the manufacturing process, not on specific processors.

More faster nodes than new processors

Let’s start with some context. Intel’s road map took a big turn in 2021 when they introduced Alder Lake and the Intel 7 node. The following year, they refined the Intel 7 node with Raptor Lake chips. And just recently, they launched the Intel 4 node with the Meteor Lake processors.

This is where things get interesting with Intel’s processor and node road maps. The node road map moves faster than the processor road map because Intel is letting external partners use their manufacturing process to design their own chips. So, while we might hear about a new node being finished, it could be months before we actually see it in a real Intel processor.

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How Intel’s processor and node road maps can differ?

Intel 3 is a prime example of how Intel’s processor and node road maps can be different. The node is ready to go from the foundry side, but we haven’t seen it in a processor yet. As far as we know, Intel 3 won’t be used in consumer processors. Instead, Intel has said that we’ll find Intel 3 in Xeon server chips.

The next big releases are Sierra Forest and Granite Rapids. Gelsinger mentioned that Sierra Forest is expected to hit the market in the first half of 2024, with Granite Rapids coming later in the year. Sierra Forest is significant because it will be Intel’s first Xeon processors to use only efficient cores, which will allow Intel to pack an impressive 288 cores into its flagship chip.

Granite Rapids will be powered by performance cores and is set to follow Emerald Rapids this year. Intel has labeled these two lines as the “lead vehicles for Intel 3.” While it’s possible that we might see consumer processors with Intel 3, there aren’t any specifics available at the moment.

Intel 3 is not only the foundation for new line extensions in Intel’s nodes, but it also marks a change in their release schedule. From now on, Intel plans to introduce a new node every two years, with a revision in between. These revisions will be identified with new suffixes, starting with Intel 3-T in 2024. This suffix indicates nodes compatible with Intel’s 3D Foveros packaging technology.

Arrow Lake processors with Intel 20A process incoming

One of the main reasons we’re not anticipating a consumer chip based on Intel 3 is because we’ve already heard about Intel’s 15th-gen CPUs. Intel has announced that Arrow Lake processors will be released in the latter part of 2024, showcasing the Intel 20A process. With Arrow Lake on the horizon for later this year, we already have a good idea of what to expect from these processors.

Intel has announced that they’ll be introducing a new LGA 1851 socket, which they plan to support until 2026. They’re also making a significant change by moving away from DDR4 compatibility, which they’ve stuck with for the past three generations, and moving to DDR5 support exclusively. Additionally, Arrow Lake will be available for both laptops and desktops, unlike Meteor Lake, which is designed specifically for mobile devices.

Arrow Lake will not only introduce a new node, but it will also be the first time we’ll see Intel’s Arc graphics architecture on desktop CPUs. While we’ve already seen Arc graphics in Meteor Lake chips, Arrow Lake will be the first time they’re integrated into a desktop processor.

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What to expect from Intel in 2025?

Looking ahead to 2025, things start to get a bit unclear. We’re aware of the nodes and processors that are set to arrive, but Intel hasn’t revealed how they’ll be linked. Regarding the CPUs, the first ones we can expect are Lunar Lake. These are supposedly aimed at laptops exclusively, much like Meteor Lake, and they’ll introduce both Intel’s Arc Battlemage graphics architecture and a completely new core architecture.

Lunar Lake is set to utilize Intel 18A, making it the first consumer processor to showcase this node. Intel has already given a demonstration of Lunar Lake running in a laptop, hinting that the processor might be available early in the year. There are even reports suggesting that Lunar Lake could potentially be released as early as late 2024. Regardless of the exact timing, we anticipate seeing it either in late 2024 or early 2025.

Panther Lake is a more conventional release, and Intel has verified that it will be available in 2025, utilizing the Intel 18A node. Intel 18A is intriguing because it marks the first time Intel will have a node advantage over major semiconductor companies like TSMC. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that Intel will have a performance advantage, as the company has fallen behind other chip makers in recent years, focusing more on refining existing nodes rather than transitioning to smaller ones.

Intel 20A appears to be the beginning of RibbonFET and PowerVia, both of which should be fully showcased with Intel 18A. It seems that Intel will be able to deliver 18A soon as well. The first chips to use this node will be the Clearwater Forest Xeon CPUs, which Intel claims are production-ready. External partners who are using 18A can start designing now, indicating that Intel is ready to begin chip production.

Vishal Kawadkar
About author

With over 8 years of experience in tech journalism, Vishal is someone with an innate passion for exploring and delivering fresh takes. Embracing curiosity and innovation, he strives to provide an informed and unique outlook on the ever-evolving world of technology.