Intel launches Penryn processors

update Chip maker officially unveils today the world's first family of processors based on the 45-nanometer manufacturing process.
Written by Lynn Tan @ Redhat, Contributor
updateIntel has officially launched its next-generation processors based on the 45-nanometer manufacturing process.

Codename Penryn, it consists of a family of chips for desktops, notebooks and servers, based on Intel's Core Microarchitecture, and is available in dual-core or quad-core configurations.

Adesh Gupta, regional platform architecture manager for the server platform group at Intel Asia-Pacific, told ZDNet Asia in a phone interview today that 15 server processors--including 12 quad-core chips and three dual-core chips--as well as one high-end PC processor have been launched. The mainstream versions of Penryn will be available in the first quarter of 2008.

The 12 new quad-core chips boast clock speeds ranging between 2GHz and 3.20GHz, with front-side bus speeds up to 1,600MHz, and cache sizes of 12MB. The three new dual-core chips feature clock speeds of up to 3.40GHz, and front-side bus frequency of up to 1,600MHz, and cache sizes of 6MB, according to Intel.

Intel first revealed details of Penryn a year ago, and showed off the 45-nanometer chips in January this year.

Essentially a shrink of its Core 2 Duo chips, Penryn is built with a 45-nanometer manufacturing process, which lets chipmakers cut out more processors from a piece of silicon wafer, while improving energy efficiency. In addition, the transistors within the Penryn chips are using Intel's Hafnium-based high-k metal gate (Hi-k) formula for the first time, according to the company.

Comparing Penryn to its predecessor, Gupta noted that the die size of the chip has been "significantly reduced" by approximately 25 percent to 30 percent. The die size has shrunk from 143 square millimeters to 107 square millimeters.

He said that while the die size of the processor has been reduced, the number of transistors within the processor has increased by about 30 percent. "We've gone up from 582 million transistors on a 65-nanometer die to 820 million transistors for a quad-core [processor] on a 45-nanometer die."

The cache size of the processor has also increased by about 50 percent, "from 8MB of level 2 cache to 12MB of level 2 cache", Gupta said, noting that on the server side, the 45-nanometer chips have given the front-side bus frequency a boost. Speeds have gone up from 1333MHz to 1600MHz.

"So overall, the smaller dies which are highly energy efficient deliver up to 61 percent improvement in performance for high-performance computing (HPC) applications," he said.

Penryn will come with new features, such as the SSE4 instructions--the fourth generation of Streaming SIMD (single instruction, multiple data) Extensions, which are "47 new instructions that speed up workloads including video encoding for high-definition and photo manipulation, as well as key HPC and enterprise applications", Intel said.

SIMD lets a chip take the same action with more than one data element, instead of requiring an instruction to be paired with each element--an approach that economizes many operations dealing with graphics, video and audio.

"We believe that as we look forward into the future, the 45-nanometer [processor] will give us the ability to enter into segments of markets like mobile Internet devices, consumer electronics or even low-cost computers, which really require processors which are highly integrated, dissipate significantly less amount of heat, but deliver exceptional performance," Gupta said.

"For Intel, the 45-nanometer [processor] is like a magic for us...giving us the ability to significantly leap forward, in terms of innovation, new opportunities, new segments [and] new markets," he added.

In the second half of 2008, Penryn will undergo a microarchitecture transition--codename Nehalem, which will "unlock the potential" of the 45-nanometer chip, Gupta said.

He added that Intel is on track to introduce its 32-nanometer manufacturing process in 2009.

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