The battle for the fastest, lowest power and cheapest chips has intensified, with plans to halve the smallest chip die size.
Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) and semiconductor-maker UMC are to jointly operate a fabrication (fab) facility with 0.65 micron (millionths of a metre) die sizes.
In general, the smaller the chip, the shorter the distance electrical signals travel, increasing chip-speed and reducing heat output. A smaller chip also uses less material, so reducing production costs.
But in the performance battle, chip design is also a big factor. "AMD's fastest Athlon chip is 128 square millimetres [sq mm]," said Patrick Moorhead, AMD's vice president of customer advocacy.
"That is smaller than [arch-rival] Intel's Pentium IV which is 144 sq mm, despite Athlon using a larger die size."
AMD recently introduced its true performance initiative (TPI) to try and move the performance debate away from raw chip cycle clock speed measured in megahertz (MHz).
Whereas Intel currently has the highest clock speed chips, Moorhead said that benchmarks showed systems using AMD consistently outperformed Intel.
Intel recently opened a 1.3 micron (millionths of a metre) die size fab in the US - the smallest so far - and AMD is about to start bringing its Dresden (Germany) 1.3 micron fab on-stream.
Moorhead said this would bring AMD's Athlon chip down to 80 sq mm, little more than half the surface area of Intel's chip.
AMD and UMC will form a joint company, AU Pte Ltd, to own and operate the Singapore plant which is currently under construction. Commercial production of chips with a tiny 0.65 microns die size is expected in mid-2005.
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