Sunday, June 17, 2012

Engadget Primed: why nanometers matter (and why they often don't)

Primed goes in-depth on the technobabble you hear on Engadget every day -- we dig deep into each topic's history and how it benefits our lives. You can follow the series here. Looking to suggest a piece of technology for us to break down? Drop us a line at primed *at* engadget *dawt* com.

Engadget Primed: why nanometers matter (and why they often don't)

Welcome to one of the most unnecessarily complicated questions in the world of silicon-controlled gadgets: should a savvy customer care about the underlying nature of the processor in their next purchase? Theoretically at least, the answer is obvious. Whether it's a CPU, graphics card, smartphone or tricorder, it'll always receive the Holy Grail combo of greater performance and reduced power consumption if it's built around a chip with a smaller fabrication process. That's because, as transistors get tinier and more tightly packed, electrons don't have to travel so far when moving between them -- saving both time and energy. In other words, a phone with a 28-nanometer (nm) processor ought to be fundamentally superior to one with a 45nm chip, and a PC running on silicon with features etched at 22nm should deliver more performance-per-watt than a 32nm rival.

But if that's true, isn't it equally sensible to focus on the end results? Instead of getting bogged down in semiconductor theory, we may as well let Moore's Law churn away in the background while we judge products based on their overall user experience. Wouldn't that make for an easier life? Well, maybe, but whichever way you look at it, it's hard to stop this subject descending into pure philosophy, on a par with other yawnsome puzzles like whether meat-eaters should visit an abattoir at least once, or whether it's better to medicate the ailment or the person. Bearing that in mind, we're going to look at how some key players in the silicon industry treat this topic, and we'll try to deliver some practical, offal-free information in the process.

Continue reading Engadget Primed: why nanometers matter (and why they often don't)

Engadget Primed: why nanometers matter (and why they often don't) originally appeared on Engadget on Fri, 15 Jun 2012 14:00:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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