INTEL HAS TAKEN the wraps off its upcoming series of Westmere processors, the 32nm version of the Nehalem architecture, with chips dubbed Clarkdale for the desktop version and Arrandale for mobile.
Hitting the 'Tock' on Intel's TickTock process schedule, these LGA1156 Core i3 and i5 dual core processors can have a graphics unit and DDR3 memory controller integrated in the package, lowering production costs and system footprint as well as opening up a host of enhanced power management features and minimising latency between the CPU, GPU and memory controller.
As well as scaling down the die size, Westmere offers a handful of new instructions, most of which centre around AES mathematical operations in order to boost data encryption and decryption speeds.
Based on the Nehalem architecture, Westmere supports both Hyperthreading and Turbo Boost, with the former providing two instruction threads per core and the latter allowing the system to dynamically shut down unused cores in order to divert power to overclock the active cores to boost performance when using lightly threaded applications.
The Turbo Boost feature is not available in the budget Core i3 chips.
As can be seen from the photo, the Intel GMA is a 45nm chip embedded alongside the 32nm CPU. It's almost inevitable that the GPU will eventually being scaled to 32nm as well, although there is nothing currently on Intel's roadmap depicting this move.
While Chipzilla admits that its integrated graphics processor isn't going to cope with high-end gaming, it insists that the new GMA offers solid HD performance and can happily handle light or casual gaming.
Amongst other improvements to the graphics chip, Intel reckons its HD GPU can handle Blu-ray with dual video decode, for picture in picture Blu-ray playback, full hardware decode acceleration for AVC, VC1, and MPEG-2 formats, HDMI 1.3a, dual simultaneous HDMI and DisplayPort 1.1 with audio support.
The memory controller offers two memory channels and supports DDR3 up to 1333MHz for the desktop version and up to 1066 MHz for mobile.
Along with bringing the integrated graphics onto the processor, Intel has made a number of other enhancements on the graphics front, with a completely revamped control panel and platform support for optional switchable graphics between discrete and embedded for higher end notebooks.
By embedding the GPU onto the chip, the system can now use Dynamic Frequency to intelligently boost graphics performance, provided thermal and power headroom exist. Effectively this works similarly to the cores' Turbo Boost function, but includes the GPU versus CPU workload demand into the equation.
According to Intel, a system running its Core i5-430M chip will perform about twice as well as one running an Intel Core Duo T2250 processor, while a Core i5-650 powered desktop machine will go twice as fast as a Core 2 Duo Processor E6400.
The desktop and mobile lineups for 2010 are as follows:
The first Arrandale and Clarkdale systems are due to hit the shelves on 7 January with more to come later in the year. µ