Intel makes Westmere official, 32nm quad-core "not far away"

Summary:Since reviews posted earlier this week there wasn't much left to announce, but Intel held a press conference at CES early this morning (Jan. 7) to officially introduce its 32nmWestmere technology.

Since reviews posted earlier this week there wasn't much left to announce, but Intel held a press conference at CES early this morning (Jan. 7) to officially introduce its 32nmWestmere technology. In all there are 27 new processors (Core i3, Core i5 and Core i7) and seven supporting chipsets--all of which will be shipping within a few weeks. [See Intel press release.]

Intel executive VP Sean Maloney called Westmere the "world's most advanced processor technology" by a wide margin. To illustrate the point, he noted that since the introduction of the 4004 in 1971, Intel has shrunk transistors by a factor of about 100,000 times. And if it hadn't, he said, today's dual-ore chip with 460 million transistors would cover 70 percent of Manhattan and require the power of 26 nuclear power plans.

What do you do with all those new transistors? First, Intel integrated the graphics processor, which brings a number of benefits including, Maloney said, much better performance. He said the new processors are showing about a 2X performance improvement on 3D benchmarks such as 3DMark06. Intel showed demonstrations of playing two HD video streams simultaneously and playing some highly-rated games.

Intel also talked about how multi-threading improves performance on everyday tasks. In a side-by-side demonstration of desktops using a Core 2 Duo and a new dual-core Core i5, the company showed how the new system can sync a TV episode from an iPod to iTunes in about half the time. A second demonstration showed video transcoding side-by-side using Cyberlink's MediaShow Espresso, which supports multi-threading. Again, the Core i5 desktop was noticeably faster.

But some of the biggest benefits come from Intel's Turbo technology. "Turbo is something we're very proud of," Maloney said. "It's the first time in the mainstream computer industry that we're dynamically changing the frequency based on the workload." Intel showed how a Core i5 system pushed the clock speed above 3GHz as it uploaded a set of photos from a digital camera to Google's Picasa.

Intel also announced 12 new Core processors for the embedded market that will show up in about 200 different products from digital signage to surveillance. He said they've seen a lot of interest in using the new embedded chips both to enable new features, such as face recognition in ATMs, and to decrease power in systems like checkout counters at retail stores.

Though the PC market has lately been focused on netbooks and ultraportables using slower chips with longer battery life, Maloney argued there was "ample room" to convince consumers that they still need more powerful chips. In response to a question, Maloney said he couldn't say exactly when Intel would release 32nn quad-core processors, but he added "clearly it's not far away."

Maloney said there are now about 500 designs based on Westmere, which are all over the Intel booth and elsewhere at the show (more on those later). "So that's pretty much it. A big introduction," Maloney said. "As you'd expect from Intel we have a sharp, rapid product ramp."

He also promised that CEO Paul Otellini would have some other news at his keynote address later today.

Topics: Hardware, Intel, Processors


John Morris is a former executive editor at CNET Networks and senior editor at PC Magazine. He now works for a private investment firm, which may at any time invest in companies whose products are discussed in this blog, and no disclosure of securities transactions will be made. No investment advice is offered in this blog. All duties are... Full Bio

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