Smaller, faster, cooler, more efficient: The 2007 mobile CPU road map

AMD is pitting an innovative new CPU design against Intel's new Centrino platform and 45nm fabrication process. The mobile chip wars are hotter than ever.

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Welcome to Santa Rosa

In the second quarter of 2007 (rumors have indicated April will be the launch date), Intel will debut the fourth generation of its Centrino mobile platform, code-named "Santa Rosa."

Santa Rosa is a big deal for Intel. In addition to supporting Intel Core 2 processors (several new releases are planned; details below), Santa Rosa will offer the following improvements:

  • An 800-MHz front-side bus (FSB) -- the previous FSB speed was 667 MHz -- with "Dynamic Front-Side Bus Switching" technology that is capable of underclocking the FSB during low CPU utilization to save power
  • Intel's faster and more thermally efficient Mobile 965 Express chipset, with the GMA X3000 integrated mobile graphics part
  • A new CPU socket known as Socket P that will permit the aforementioned 800MHz front-side bus speed; this will replace the current Socket M
  • Much faster 802.11n Wi-Fi support (802.11a/b/g will also be supported) via a new wireless platform code-named "Kedron"
  • Support for DDR2 800 RAM
  • Support for flash hard drives (also known as NAND drives)
  • Support for 10 USB ports and 3 SATA ports
  • A new form of BIOS known as the Extensible Firmware Interface (EFI), which will allow for more efficient booting of software and drivers as well as numerous other enhancements (see more details)

When released, this new Santa Rosa variant of the Centrino platform will be named Centrino Pro.

New low-voltage Core 2 Duos

The first half of 2007 will bring the release of a number of new Core 2 Duo CPUs, including the debut of low-voltage and ultra-low-voltage CPUs. Based upon the astonishing performance-per-watt success of the Core 2 Duo mobile CPUs, it's likely that these processors will offer similarly high levels of performance-per-watt as well as unprecedented battery life.

In the first quarter of 2007, Intel will release the L7400 and the L7200, the chipmaker's first low-voltage Core 2 Duo CPUs. (The company has previously released low- and ultra-low-voltage CPUs, but they were based on older Core Duo and Pentium M architectures.) Suitable for inclusion in thin and light laptops, these processors will probably run at 1.5 GHz and 1.33 GHz respectively. Each will have 4MB of shared L2 cache spread across two processing cores and will run on a 667-MHz front-side bus. At the end of Q1 or the beginning of Q2 2007, Intel will likely release the L7500 (1.6 GHz) and the L7300 (1.4 GHz), which will also have 4MB of shared L2 cache. In contrast to the L7200 and L7400 however, these newer mobile processors will run on the new 800-MHz front-side bus.

In conjunction with the release of the Centrino Pro platform, Intel will release its first ultra-low-voltage processor, the U7500. Early reports indicate that this is a 1.06-GHz dual-core processor with 2MB of shared L2 cache that operates on a 533-MHz front-side bus. (While Centrino Pro processors are capable of running at a front-side bus speed of 800 MHz, the U7500 runs at only 533 MHz to conserve power and battery life.) The U7500 will likely make its debut in ultra-portable laptops weighing around 3 lb.

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