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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New high-end, mid-range, value Core 2 Duos

In conjunction with the release of the Centrino Pro platform in Q2 2007, Intel will release a number of new Core 2 Duo mobile processors with the faster 800-MHz front-side bus speed. The cream of this new crop will be the T7700, a 2.4-GHz dual-core CPU with a 4MB shared L2 cache. Also scheduled for release in the same general time frame are the T7500 (2.2 GHz), the T7300 (2 GHz) and the T7000 (1.8 GHz), which will also run on an 800-MHz FSB and sport 4MB of shared L2 cache.

Thankfully, Intel is not neglecting the old Centrino Duo platform in the meantime. High-end mobile processors planned for Q1 2007 include the top-line T7600 (2.33 GHz), T7400 (2.16 GHz) and T7200 (2 GHz). All four CPUs will run on the Centrino Duo platform's slower 667-MHz front-side bus, and each will feature 4MB of shared L2 cache.

At the midrange, Intel will ship three mobile processors in Q1. The T5600 and T5500 will run at 1.83 GHz and 1.66 GHz, respectively, on a 667-MHz front-side bus with 2MB of shared L2 cache. In Q2, Intel will ship the T5500P, an identical version of the T5500, but built on the Centrino Pro platform.

At the budget level, Intel will release several new mobile CPUs (currently code-named "Stealey") based on the Core architecture. Q1 should see the release of the Celeron M 520, a single-core 1.6-GHz CPU with a 512KB cache that operates on a 533-MHz front-side bus. Q2 should bring the Celeron M 530. Also single-core, this processor will run at 1.73 GHz and will also feature a 512KB cache and a 533-MHz bus speed.

Finally, a mobile CPU known by the code-name "Gilo" (pronounced GHEE-lo) has raised a considerable amount of intrigue. Nothing is known about Gilo except that it is a 65nm CPU, leading to widespread speculation that this will be Intel's quad-core mobile processor. Intel has refused to confirm this speculation.

Keep an eye out for Penryn

At the end of 2006, Intel announced that it was successfully producing prototypes of a new 45nm microprocessor line known by the code-name "Penryn." Intel has also announced that it will begin production of Penryn CPUs in the second half of 2007, leading to widespread speculation that the market will see the release of these new processors at the end of 2007.

Penryn is based on Intel's Core microprocessor architecture but shrinks the CPU die from 65nm to 45nm. Typically, a smaller fabrication process results in increased clock speeds as well as increased thermal efficiencies and decreased power consumption. Intel hopes that by rapidly moving to a 45nm fabrication process, the company will be able to secure a considerable competitive advantage. Rival chip maker AMD won't be able to produce 45nm parts until mid-2008 at the earliest.

A big factor in Intel's ability to rapidly move into 45nm production is the chip maker's recent announcement regarding the use of "high-k" metal technology to build more efficient transistors for its CPUs. (See "IBM, Intel separately reveal advances in microchips" for the full story.) These new high-k materials should result in increased power and thermal efficiencies across the new Penryn processors.

Much like Intel's Core architecture, Penryn will serve as the primary CPU architecture for all of Intel's processors -- mobile, desktop and server. Intel has released no details at all regarding specific Penryn mobile processors. In fact, it's entirely possible that the mobile market won't see this new architecture until early 2008.

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