Intel expects systems with 10nm Cannon Lake CPUs to finally arrive in late 2019

(Image: © Intel)

Intel offered up some clarification on where things stand with its 10-nanometer 'Cannon Lake' processors, and specifically when we will finally see them in volume. As it stands, consumer systems with 10nm chips inside will hit store shelves during the holiday season next year.

We still don't have a precise launch date, but at least now we have a smaller window to set our expectations. Previously, Intel would only say that Cannon Lake was on track to ship in volume sometime in 2019, but there was no indication if that meant early next year, around the middle of 2019, or at the tail end. Turns out it's the latter.

This is the launch we have been waiting for, as opposed to the low volume roll out of 10nm Core i3 chips that have appeared in some OEM laptops in Asia. Intel has reportedly struggled with its yields, hence why it has taken so long for Cannon Lake to reach mass shipment status.

Getting to 10nm production has proven more challenging than Intel might have anticipated. The chip maker has never gone into specifics, though one of the rumors floating around is that it has to do with getting integrated graphics to work on 10nm silicon. It's notable that Intel's Core i3-8121U, its first and so far only 10nm processor, does not have integrated graphics.

During the Q&A portion of Intel's second quarter earnings call yesterday, Venkata (Murthy) Renduchintala, the company's president of Technology, Systems Architecture, and Client Group, touched on the difficulty of transitioning from 14nm to 10nm.

"Really, the challenges that we're facing on 10nm are delivering on all the revolutionary modules that ultimately deliver on that program," Renduchintala said. "And while there's risk and a degree of delay in our timeline on that, we're very pleased with the resiliency of our 14nm roadmap, where in the last few years we've delivered in excess of 70 percent product performance improvement as we've moved through our 14nm generation of products."

Renduchintala also said that Intel continues to make progress on 10nm and that "yields are improving." He pointed to holiday 2019 as when consumer systems with 10nm chips will arrive, followed by data center products shortly after.

What this means, and what Renduchintala stated plainly, is that 14nm will remain relevant for at least the next 18 months. Even though Intel has been building 14nm CPUs since 2014, the company anticipates 14nm driving what it calls "product leadership" through the rest of this year, and all of 2019.

It also means that 2020 is likely to be when 10nm processors replace 14nm parts in earnest, as it relates to market adoption.