Intel has started to produce samples of a quad-core processor called Penryn that offers faster clock speeds and larger cache sizes.

"Our first Penryn chips are being fabricated right now and we expect them to come out of the fabs very soon," said Rob Willoner, a technology analyst at Intel, during a conference call with reporters. Fabs, or semiconductor fabrication plants, are factories that produce chips.

Based on the same microarchitecture as the Core 2 Duo, Penryn is the first Intel processor to be made using a 45-nanometer process. The chip will be available in versions for notebooks, desktops and servers.

Currently, most Intel chips are made using a 65-nanometer process. Moving to the more advanced process means that the size of each transistor shrinks, allowing more of them to fit onto a piece of silicon. In addition, smaller transistors require less power and are generally faster.

Penryn chips will hit the market during the second half of 2007. In addition to faster clock speeds, the quad-core chips will consume less power than existing Intel products and will include new features, such as additional instructions for multimedia and high-performance computing applications, Willoner said. Intel plans to release more information about the chip next year, he said.

As part of Intel's move to the 45-nanometer process, the company's D1D fab in Hillsboro, Oregon, is moving from using the 65-nanometer process to the 45-nanometer process, Willoner said. That leaves three Intel plants - in Oregon, Arizona, and Ireland - using the 65-nanometer process to manufacture chips, he said.