While AMD prepares its next set of processors--a multicore design code-named Barcelona and due this summer--Intel has already demonstrated samples of its more-advanced Penryn chip. It's manufactured in a 45nm process that uses hafnium-based high-k dielectric and metal gates to decrease current leakage--and yield faster, more energy-efficient chips. The new materials help combat problems that manufacturers start to run into as chips shrink. Intel's 45nm manufacturing process should be the first to mass-produce CPUs using these innovations. Penryn slightly refreshes the Core 2 Duo design with additional cache memory and new SSE4 instructions, and should ship in the second half of the year. AMD and IBM plan to introduce a similar manufacturing process when they transition to 45nm chips next year.
Bottom Line: Intel has built a nice performance lead with its Core 2 Duo chips. With Penryn waiting in the wings and AMD's Athlon CPUs stuck for a while on a 65nm process, Barcelona had better be one heck of a chip.