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The 10 Biggest Chip Stories Of 2010 | Dec 2, 2010

A Big Year For Chips

The semiconductor industry saw a number of significant product launches in 2010, from Nvidia’s Fermi graphics cards to AMD’s Fusion CPU-GPU platform and Intel’s 32nm chips. All the while, key acquisitions, major legal settlements, and a baffling episode involving fake processors have kept industry players and analysts on their toes. Here’s a closer look at the top chip stories of 2010.

1. 32(nm) Is The Magic Number

On January 7 at CES 2010, Intel launched its first 32-nm processors based on its Arrandale (mobile) and Clarkdale (desktop) platforms, which were the result of a huge multibillion R&D investment by the chip giant. All in all, Intel introduced four Core i3, eight i5, and five i7 chips at CES — all with Intel’s Hyper-Threading technology for multitasking. The i5 and i7 processors also come with Intel’s Turbo Boost technology for adaptive performance, which is designed to automatically accelerate performance by adjusting to the workload, providing an extra “boost” in performance when needed. The introduction of 32-nm chips was heralded by Intel as a major step forward in the evolution of microprocessor architecture.

2. Lions, Tegras And Bears, Oh My!

Another chip company made a splash at CES 2010 when Nvidia introduced its second-generation version of the Tegra mobile processor, which the company aimed squarely at the tablet market. During its CES press conference, Nvidia showed off a host of prototype and forthcoming tablet devices using its Tegra 2 platform from manufacturers such as Asus and MSI. The Tegra 2 processor, which features higher processing power but with lower energy consumption and less heat, can now be found in new tablet devices such as LG’s Star, Viewsonic’s G Tablet, and Toshiba’s Folio 100 among others.

As a result, Nvidia jumped out ahead of bigger rivals Intel and AMD this year in the tablet market, which exploded when Apple released the iPad last spring. Oh, and the company is also pushing Tegra at next-generation smartphones.

3. The Fake Intel Chip Fiasco

It all started last March when some unlucky NewEgg customers discovered they had purchased phony Intel Core i7 processors. Some of those customers took to the Internet and posted photos and videos showing non-functional chips packaged in fake Core i7-logoed boxes.

One tech blog falsely accused D&H Distributing as the source of the fake Intel chips. NewEgg eventually identified Ipex Infotech, a Fremont, Calif.-based technology distributor, as the source of fake Intel Core i7 processors.

Ipex Infotech first denied that it was the original supplier of the phony chips and issued a statement claiming it had acquired the chips in good faith from a supplier. Asked by CRN through e-mail to name the “original source” of the fake chips cited in its statement, Ipex said it had disclosed that information to Intel but could not comment on it publicly. Despite the denial, NewEgg severed ties with Ipex Infotech, and the “original source” has never been publicly revealed.