At this week's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas Intel is introducing five Core i7 mobile processors, eight Core i5 CPUs and four Core i3 chips. Accompanying the new desktop and mobile platforms are seven new chipsets. For the desktop Clarkdale (Core i5 and Core i3) chips, Intel is using the 32nm Westmere manufacturing process, which is a die-shrink of the 45nm Nehalem architecture. The special feature of both the Clarkdale desktop and Arrandale mobile chips is the integration of the graphics processing unit (GPU) into the processor package — although not the same piece of silicon. Dual-core Nehalem-based processors are therefore only available with integrated graphics.
The new integrated GPU, called Intel HD Graphics, supports DirectX 10.1. The new GPUs strengths lie in better video acceleration rather than 3D performance (although it also offers better 3D, the improvement is minimal for more demanding 3D games). AMD's existing 790GX chipset with integrated graphics, announced back in the summer of 2008, offers slightly better 3D performance than Intel's HD Graphics. The 800-series AMD chipsets, planned for April 2010, are likely to outperform Intel's technology by some margin and will exploit DirectX 11. In addition, Intel's HD Graphics does not support DirectCompute or other techniques, such as Nvidia's CUDA or ATI's Stream, designed to harness the GPU's computing power to accelerate 2D and non-graphical applications.
The new Intel platform offers benefits over previous Intel parts and current AMD competition when it comes to application performance versus power consumption. For example, with a standard clock speed of 3.33GHz, an Intel Core i5 661 can match AMD's fastest quad-core Phenom X4 965 chip running at 3.4GHz in most benchmarks. And so it should, because the new Intel chip will cost $196 (£122) in thousand-off prices, just a dollar more than the AMD processor. The Clarkdale chip is particularly powerful when running programs that use the CPU's six new commands for AES encryption. In such circumstances it can offer about 10 times the performance of comparable processors.
Although the AMD Phenom X4 965 can compete with the dual-core Clarkdale in terms of application performance, it's soundly beaten when it comes to power consumption. Intel's 3.33GHz dual-core Core i5 661 consumes only 45W at idle, which is considerably less than the Phenom X4 965's 74W. There are several reasons for that low figure. One is that Intel's Clarkdale chip uses a 32nm manufacturing process, while the AMD processor is still produced in 45nm. The remaining components in the new Intel platform (GPU, chipset) will be produced in 45nm, which still represents a vast improvement over the existing Intel G45 chipset, which uses 130nm and 65nm components.
The Clarkdale processor with its 32nm CPU and 45nm integrated GPU, plus the H57, H55 and Q57 chipsets, together form Intel's new desktop platform.