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Intel promises fast Penryn chips in 2007

By Ben Ames
March 29, 2007 12:00 PM ET

IDG News Service - Intel Corp. will begin producing its next-generation "Penryn" processors by the end of 2007, using greater power efficiency to push improved Core 2 and Xeon chips to speeds over 3 GHz, the company said Wednesday.

The new chip family marks a crucial step in Intel's "tick-tock" product strategy, the company's schedule for delivering either a new chip architecture or smaller chip design every year, said Pat Gelsinger, general manger of Intel's digital enterprise group, during a press conference in San Francisco.

On March 5, Intel CEO Paul Otellini apologized to investors for slacking off the development pace and pointed to the tick-tock model as Intel's method for regaining some of the market share it has lost to competitor Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD) in recent years. Now Intel plans to make a big splash in the market with the new product family as it begins production of six Penryn processors: dual-core and quad-core desktop chips, a dual-core notebook chip, dual-core and quad-core server chips, and a high-end server chip.

The Penryn design calls for shrinking Intel's current Core microarchitecture from chips using 65-nanometer feature sizes to 45 nm. To prevent electricity from leaking between transistors packed so closely together, the chip will use novel "high-k, metal gate" materials to provide better insulation. IBM has also announced plans to use a version of high-k, metal gate design, but has not announced plans to bring it to market as fast.

The Penryn chip will also have better power management than previous Intel processors, with deeper sleep states than Core 2 Duo chips. Thanks to that efficiency, Intel plans to run its new chips faster than 3 GHz for desktop and notebook versions, reversing an industry trend of scaling back the processor speed in order to add more cores without creating too much heat.

In other improvements, Intel will use 50% more on-chip memory in Penryn chips than Core 2 Duo, allowing them to hold more data on the chip instead of spending time and energy retrieving it from the PC's main memory bank. Dual-core Penryn chips will have 6MB of Level 2 cache, while quad-core versions have 12MB. Intel said it also will speed Penryn front-side bus speeds to 1,600 MHz, instead of the 1,066-MHz or 1,333-MHz options now available, granting up to a 45% improvement for high-performance computing applications such as computational fluid dynamics.

In addition, Intel is adding a feature that takes into account a drawback of multicore chips -- that they can't boost performance unless a user upgrades from standard software to multithreaded applications. Penryn chips will recognize single-threaded applications and switch off power to the inactive core, speeding up the busy one.

Reprinted with permission from IDG.net. Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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