Intel’s manufacturing shortage has forced the company to get creative in how it approaches the problem — and take some unusual steps to address it. Historically, Intel’s tick-tock cadence saw the company move to a leading-edge node for its top-end CPUs, then, at a later date, transition its motherboard chipsets over to the new manufacturing standard as well. Exactly when this occurred has varied with product generations, but it hasn’t been unusual for Intel to shift chipsets to one node as it ramped up another. Under this schedule, chipsets should’ve moved to 14nm as 10nm ramped up.
But 10nm didn’t ramp and won’t until Q4 2019. And as a result, Intel is feeling the pinch from manufacturing shortages, at least in part. Paul Alcorn of Tom’s Hardware reports that the company has actually moved some chipset production back to 22nm in a highly unusual move. The new H310C chipset is built on 22nm technology rather than 14nm (THG has also confirmed that the hardware is being built by Intel, not TSMC).
The H310C chipset is new spin on existing silicon whose headline feature is its expected support for Windows 7. As Anandtech detailed in early August, the H310C (also branded as the H310 R2.0) will ship with Windows 7 drivers for key Intel technologies like the Intel Management Engine, Rapid Storage Technology, SATA, and USB 3.0 drivers — but not video card drivers, weirdly enough. The H310C is a budget chipset and doesn’t support capabilities like PCIe 3.0 or USB 3.1 Gen 2, limiting its appeal to enthusiasts.
The new H310C is physically larger than the old, with the 14nm chip measuring 8.5mm x 6.5mm and the 22nm variant measuring 10mm x 7mm. The new respin is expected to replace the older chip on the newer process (confusing, I know) eventually. It’s not clear how widespread this move is, or if Intel will take similar action with other chipsets that it builds. Intel has never stated how much of its factory floor is devoted to manufacturing specific hardware, but chipset manufacturing should be a relatively small percentage of the total compared with CPUs, particularly given the size of some of Intel’s largest CPU cores.
One thing to keep in mind is that these plans would have been put in place months ago. The news might be new, but the timeline isn’t — this has always been part of Intel’s plan to deal with its own 14nm capacity shortage given how long it takes to ramp a part on a different node. We’ve seen reports that the company’s 14nm issues could reduce overall PC shipments by 5-7 percent by the end of the year, wiping out any tentative gains the PC industry might have posted this year for the first time since 2011.
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