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Intel debuts 16 Penryn processors

Posted: 09 Jan 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:quad-core server CPUs? Penryn? CES 2008?

At the Consumer Electronics Show on Monday (Jan. 7), Intel Corp. has launched 16 new Penryn PC processors made in its 45nm process technology. Although the chips span everything from quad-core server CPUs to desktop and notebook chips, Intel CEO Paul Otellini has focused his comments in a CES keynote on the mobile world of the personal Internet.

Intel's 45nm ramp is proceeding "beautifully," said Shmuel Eden, general manager of Intel's mobile products group. "The fact we are launching 16 new products in 45nm indicates the technology is very healthy," he said.

Fresh solutions
Five of the new chips will refresh Intel's existing Santa Rosa notebook platform, cranking CPU speeds up to 2.6GHz while lowering power consumption to about 29W. High-end notebook chips coming later this year will pull power consumption down to 25W maximum from 35W on some of the notebook chips today.

"This will accelerate the roll out of new [smaller] form factor designs," said Eden.

Indeed notebooks have been on a tear thanks to their built-in wireless capabilities, falling prices and the hunger for mobility. A recent Wall Street Journal report suggested notebooks will outsell desktops in 2009.

In some areas, Intel is still behind archrival Advanced Micro Devices, which currently offers a notebook chip set supporting 5GHz PCIe, H.264 decode in hardware and Microsoft's DX10 graphics. However, an Intel 965 notebook chipset slated for later this year will provide the DX10 and H.264 support. In the meantime, Intel's latest CPUs support a new level of instruction set extensions for media acceleration, including an instruction to assist H.264 decode that Otellini has demonstrated at CES.

Separately, Eden said Intel has no plans to support in notebooks hybrid hard disk drives promoted by Microsoft. Intel's competing Turbo Flash modules are getting market traction. "We just exceeded our targets" for the flash modules, Eden said.

'New class of mobile'
In his CES keynote, Otellini will focus on a new class of pocket-sized systems Intel will enable late this year when it rolls out its Menlow platform. Menlow is based on the Silverthorne processor, Intel's first handheld CPU to have access to its 45nm technology. Otellini will show prototype Menlow devices from a variety of Asian OEMs including Aigo, Asustek, BenQ, Compal, Inventec, Lenovo and Quanta.

Taiwan's computer makers have tried for a decade to establish a palm-sized PC category to no avail, because the devices had low performance and high prices. However, the current effort will be different, Eden said, because the usage model is now based on Internet access in a handheld device. Apple helped establish this model with the ARM-based iPhone, and Intel now wants to pave the way for its CPUs in the new category.

"With this [Menlow] architecture you will have a full experience of the Internet," Eden said. "In the past, the size of the screen was not good enough so these devices will mainly use six- or seven-inch screens. Based on our research, we think this category will ramp quickly," he added.

In another effort to give mobile systems a boost, Intel is rolling out a tiny solid-state drive (SSD). The Intel Z-P140 comes in 2- and 4Gbyte densities and uses the parallel ATA interface. The tiny device will eventually come in densities up to 16Gbytes and is already a part of the Menlow platform.

"I believe [SSDs are] the right technology for notebooks too for several reasons including its reliability," Eden said. "This is a promising technology," he said adding more notebooks will adopt it in 2008 in an effort to define smaller form factor systems.

Other plans
Otellini will also stump at CES for WiMAX, Intel's preferred 4G wireless technology. Intel and spectrum-owner Comstar recently announced they would build a citywide WiMax network in Moscow slated for launch in late 2008.

Surprisingly, Otellini will have little to say about Canmore, a new SoC for STBs and other consumer systems that use AC power. The chip will use two x86 cores and an upgraded media-processing block based on the CE 2110 GHz-speed chip Intel rolled out in April. Canmore is one of a handful of X86-based SoCs now in design at Intel.

Observers expect Intel's move into SoCs designs such as Silverthorne and Canmore will be a slow one. The PC processor giant will find it must compete less with AMD and more with a wide range of embedded chipmakers ranging from ARM and Broadcom to Texas Instruments.

Otellini may also be cautious about coming on too strong about the consumer chip plans. In his last major CES address, he said Intel would drive the shift to microdisplays based on new chip technology the company had in development. But that effort never panned out, and was later killed.

In a sign Intel remains a PC company at heart nearly half of the 16 new processors announced this week are for desktop systems. They include dual-core parts with data rates up to 3.16GHz that cost $266 and a 2.83GHz quad-core CPU with 12Mbytes L2 cache that will sell for $530.

- Rick Merritt
EE TImes

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