Recession pushes chip makers to move on 28nm chips

The need to lower costs while increasing performance is behind chip technology improvements

Xilinx, which makes a range of chips often used in communications gear, plans to release its first 28-nanometer chips by the fourth quarter of this year to lower costs and attract new customers as the world pulls out of recession.

Contract chip manufacturers will begin producing a range of chips with transistors and other components as small as 28nm around the middle of this year for Xilinx and other companies that have announced plans to make such advanced chips, including Altera and STMicroelectronics. A nanometer is a billionth of a meter, about the size of a few atoms combined.

Reducing the size of the parts on a chip lowers power use, raises performance and reduces the cost of chips, all important benefits at a time when people want ever smaller devices that can do more.

What holds some companies back from 28nm chips is the cost and intensive design work for the initial blueprints. Companies can spend months and tens of millions of dollars to tweak their designs for mass chip production.

But the rewards for big companies are worth it. Xilinx estimates its 28nm chips will reduce total power use by 50 percent compared to previous generations, while other enhancements can further drive down power consumption and lower system costs by 33 percent, the company said in a statement on Monday.

Xilinx's main rival in the programmable chip business, Altera, is also readying 28nm chips. Altera says the chips and some of its own innovations are needed for a range of new computing trends that require high bandwidth, such as high-definition video, cloud computing, online data storage and mobile video.

Equipment developers need to increase system bandwidth for these applications while remaining within strict power and cost budgets, Altera has said, and 28nm chips can help meet those requirements.

The company says it will embed 28Gbps (gigabit per second) transceivers on its upcoming 28nm chips, but it did not say when those chips would be available.

Xilinx plans to have its 28nm chips manufactured by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (TSMC) and Samsung Electronics' contract chip-making subsidiary, Samsung Semiconductor Foundry.

TSMC has said it will start mass producing 28nm chips aimed at computing, wirleless and networking gear for several customers later this year and plans to spend a company record high of US$4.8 billion in 2010 on new production lines.

Samsung is often a global leader in capital spending on chip factories due to its sprawling memory chip operations, as is Intel, the world's largest chip maker.

Intel and Micron have already unveiled new 25nm flash memory chips at their IM Flash Technologies joint venture, the first commercial chip products made using advanced 25nm manufacturing technology. Samsung is working on 30nm technology and plans to use it in most of its memory chip production lines by the end of 2010.

Making memory chips at such small sizes is easier than logic chips such as microprocessors or the communications chips designed by Xilinx and Altera. Logic chips are more complex. Intel, for example, has shown off microprocessors made using 32nm technology, while its IM Flash joint venture is using the smaller 25nm technology.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags 28nm chipsXilinxalterasamsungMicronintel

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Dan Nystedt

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Crucial Ballistix Elite 32GB Kit (4 x 8GB) DDR4-3000 UDIMM

Learn more >

Gadgets & Things

Lexar® Professional 1000x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

Family Friendly

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Plox Star Wars Death Star Levitating Bluetooth Speaker

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles


GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy


First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni


For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell


The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi


The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott


My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?