The New Intel Mobile Processors


Intel has been in the mobile CPU market for over 13 years, and in that time they have released over 300 variations. This year marks the release of 11 new mobile processors based around Intel's "Core-i" family of CPU's, which have been available on desktops since last year. Eventually these new models will replace most of the Core 2 Duo and Core Quad processors, but not the Mobile Pentium and Celeron families. The numerous advantages of this new line of mobile CPU's is what we will discuss here.

One improvement with this new series of mobile CPUs is Intel's introduction in the 32 nanometer manufacturing process. The new processors are based on Intel's Arrandale platform, shrinking the chips circuitry to one-billionth of a meter.

These chips run faster and more efficiently, decreasing the energy needed to power the laptop, thus extending the system's activity on regular battery life. The Thermal Design Power (TDP) brings the power consumption down to 35 watts, an improvement on battery life from the 45 watts needed in the previous line of mobile CPUs. Increasing speed and decreasing power consumption are two features everybody can love. You can't introduce new technologies without a new acronym. HUGI is what Intel calls "hurry up and get idle:" it lets users preserve battery life and enables the processor to complete tasks more quickly and efficiently.

Arrandale's architecture includes the critical Northbridge components: the memory controller, PCI Express for external graphics and integrated graphics. The processor itself contains two cores, one for the CPU which is the 32nm processor and the other is for the integrated graphics controller, which is based on the 45nm processor. With the chip's Turbo Boost Technology, you can increase the clock speed of each core individually. When power is not being consumed by one core, you can redirect it over to an active core for faster processing speeds. This shouldn't be confused with earlier versions of over-clocking when users would manually adjust the CPU settings. Turbo Boost limits the maximum speeds to its specific design specifications.

By integrating the graphics into the main processor, high-definition video playback is much smoother and 3D intense gaming can be achieved without the addition of an add-in video card. Intel is adding a hybrid technology to enable switchable graphics, combining the integrated graphics chipset and a separate GPU. With this feature, the add-in board would switch off and access Intel's integrated chipset, saving considerable battery life. This is only implemented in the Arrandale Core-i chipset and is not available in the Clarksfield Quad-Cores. Intel is also the first company to include multi-channel Dolby TrueHD and DTS Premium Suite home theater audio, so attaching the new line of "Core-i" laptops via an HDMI cable to your existing home theater setup should be simple.

Intel's Flexible Display Interface (FDI) connects resources like HDMI and DVI to the graphics core, while Direct Media Interface (DMI) advances serial connections to the CPU by including SATA, USB, LAN, audio chip and PCI Express. These new processors now have 16 lanes of PCI Express Gen 2 for easier switching between 3rd party GPU's for enhanced support for Blu Ray and High-Definition Graphics.

Intel has also rebranded the Centrino to represent all of their wireless products. The three new Centrino Wireless adapters include 802.11n and dual-band support for WiFi, essentially turning your laptop into a virtual hotspot. Intel also offers a several WiMAX/WiFi adapters, with support for 2.3, 2.5 and 3.5GHz WiMAX bands for up to 20Mbps.

The Intel Core-i series is divided into three separate groups: Core i3, Corei5 and Core i7. The entry level chip is the Core i3, featuring 3MB Cache and DDD3 1066Mhz Memory support, but does not include the Turbo Boost Technology for independently switching between the two cores for clock speed adjustments. As of this writing, there are two mobile Intel Core i3 CPU's; the Intel Core i3-330M at 2.13GHz and the Intel Core i3-350M at 2.26 GHz.

Intel "Core-i" Mobile CPU Family
Processor Clock Speed Maximum Turbo Frequency Cores / Threads L3 Cache TDP DDR3 Memory Support Hyperthreading Code name
Intel Core i7-920XM 2GHz 3.2GHz 4/8 8MB 55W 1066/1333 Yes Clarksfield
Intel Core i7-820QM 1.73GHz 3.06GHz 4/8 8MB 45W 1066/1333 Yes Clarksfield
Intel Core i7-720QM 1.6GHz 2.8GHz 4/8 6MB 45W 1066/1333 Yes Clarksfield
Intel Core i7-620M 2.66GHz 3.33GHz 2/4 4MB 35W 1066 Yes Arrandale
Intel Core i7-640LM 2.13GHz 2.93GHz 2/4 4MB 25W 1066 Yes Arrandale
Intel Core i7-620LM 2GHz 2.8GHz 2/4 4MB 25W 1066 Yes Arrandale
Intel Core i7-640UM 1.2GHz 2.26GHz 2/4 4MB 18W 800 Yes Arrandale
Intel Core i7-620UM 1.06GHz 2.13GHz 2/4 4MB 18W 800 Yes Arrandale
Intel Core i5 540M 2.53GHz 3.06GHz 2/4 3MB 35W 1066 Yes Arrandale
Intel Core i5 520M 2.4GHz 2.93GHz 2/4 3MB 35W 1066 Yes Arrandale
Intel Core i5 520UM 1.06GHz 1.86GHz 2/4 3MB 18W 800 Yes Arrandale
Intel Core i5 430M 2.26GHz 2.53GHz 2/4 3MB 35W 1066 Yes Arrandale
Intel Core i3 350M 2.26GHz N/A 2/4 3MB 35W 1066 N/A Arrandale
Intel Core i3 330M 2.13GHz N/A 2/4 3MB 35W 1066 N/A Arrandale

The Hewlett-Packard Pavilion dv6-2150us has an Intel Core i3-330M CPU, 4GB of memory (upgradeable to 8GB), 320GB SATA hard drive, 15.6" backlit widescreen display, SuperMulti DVD burner with Ligthtscribe, Bluetooth and weighs 6.3lbs. If you are looking for a more compact laptop with similar specs, the 14" Sony VAIO CW VPCCW21FX/B weighs 1lb less than the 15.6" models, but carries the same power.

The 15.6" Hewlett Packard Pavilion dv6-2150us

In the middle of the Intel Core-i pack is the Core i5, the replacement for the earlier Core 2 Duo chips. The Core i5 includes Turbo Boost as well as Hyper Threading technologies, previously only found in Intel's powerful Xeon, Pentium 4 and Atom CPU's. Hyper Threading was created by Intel to parallel process multiple applications at once. Today the ability to multitask between programs is a standard feature in computers. Hyper Threading improves upon this by taking advantage of an operating system's support for multi-threaded code by improving response time between programs. Most of the Core i5 laptops available today have the Intel Core i5-430M CPU installed. The 2.66GHz units also include 4GB of memory (upgradeable to 8GB), 500GB SATA hard drive (320GB on 14" models), Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium and Bluetooth.

Hewlett Packard has two different screen sizes available; the 14" Pavilion dv4-2160us and the 15.6" Pavilion dv6-2170us and Asus also has a 15.6" model, the K52JR-A1. Toshiba beats all in terms of size with the extra large 18.4" Qosmio X505-Q860, incorporating the nVIDIA GeForce GTS 360M 1GB for graphics display.

Hewlett Packard's Pavilion dv4-2160us comes with a 14" display and the new Intel Core i5-430M CPU

Intel began rolling out their Core-i7 mobile CPU's back in the autumn 2009 with the Quad-Core chips designed on Intel's Clarksfield platform, which will replace the older Core 2 Quad processors. Although these Quad-Core's are available at lower clocked speeds, they have a built-in higher over-clock option for faster processing. This initial batch of i7's are the first native Quad-Core CPU's developed for notebooks, by redesigning the earlier desktop i5 and i7 processors.

Running at 1.6GHz, the Intel Core i7-720QM Quad-Core CPU laptops are available with 6GB of memory (upgradeable to 8GB), Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit, Blu-ray Disc ROM with SuperMulti DVD Burner and Bluetooth. There are larger display's to choose from with these top of the line Intel mobile CPU's. The 17.3" Hewlett-Packard Pavilion dv7-3180us includes a nVIDIA GeForce GT 230M Graphics Display; and the 16.4" Sony VAIO F VPCF113FX/B has a nVIDIA GeForce 310M Graphics Display. Both include external Firewire and eSATA ports, making these laptops ideal for video editing.

The HP Pavilion dv7-3180us boasts a Quad-Core i7 CPU and 17.3" display

Of course these Quad-Core CPUs can easily be confused with Intel's new Dual Core i7 CPUs announced in January 2009, which are based on their Arrandale platform. The new collection of Core i7 processors are dual cores starting at 1.06GHz (Turbo-Boost to 2.13GHz) to 2.66GHz (Turbo-Boost to 3.33GHz). The big difference between the Clarksfield i7s and the just introduced Arrandale CPUs will be power consumption. The Quad-Core processors will run between 45w-55w, so if battery life is an issue and you intend to run some high definition graphics or Blu-ray Disc movies, the newer Dual-Core i7's will only run between 18w-35w and in some case lower depending on the application. The other deciding factor that should be noted is that the Quad-Cores do not have a built-in graphics chip, and they will need a separate graphics chipset from a 3rd party.

Intel has made a giant leap forward with the new Core-i processors. Hyper-Threading, Turbo-Boost and the shift to 32nm manufacturing are just a few of the features that give these mobile CPU's the closest equivalent to a desktop computer while giving users convenient mobility. Add the fact that Blu-ray Disc video playback and multi-channel audio can make these laptops the centerpiece of any home theater system, and you'll agree that the new generation of Intel's mobile line features well rounded powerhouses.