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[ The PC Guide | Systems and Components Reference Guide | The Processor | Processor Physical Characteristics | Physical Chip Characteristics ]

Process Technology

There are several different types of semiconductors, which vary in terms of how they make transistors out of silicon. The differences between them are highly technical so I won't go into it in detail. The process used to manufacture the chips has an impact on the following:

  • Minimum circuit or feature size, which refers to how much you can miniaturize the processor and how many transistors you can pack into a given space.
  • Maximum speed that you can run the chip at.
  • Voltage requirements.
  • Heat generation and power consumption, which are a function to some extent of the previous three.

Most processors today are created using what is called a CMOS process. CMOS stands for "complementary metal oxide semiconductor" and refers to a particular method of making transistors in silicon. Older processors used older technology; the original 8088s for example using NMOS. The Pentium processor uses BiCMOS which is "bipolar CMOS" and has certain advantages and disadvantages over CMOS. Intel has returned to CMOS as the standard today because it allows for faster processor speeds at low voltages, to keep power use down to a manageable level.

Next: Circuit Size

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