Intel's plan for Penryn

Intel says its Penryn processor offers a host of performance improvements.

Intel wants everyone to know that Penryn, its forthcoming family of 45nm processors, is more than just a shrink or adaptation of its Core Microarchitecture. Today the company unveiled some additional the details behind the new processor family, which will populate desktops, notebooks and servers during 2008.

While Penryn is indeed a version of the Core family adapted to work with its 45nm manufacturing process—and Intel has stated as much—the chipmaker has mixed in several new features. Intel’s Pat Gelsinger, GM of Intel's Digital Enterprise Group, said today that the sum of its additional features will allow Penryn-family processors to outperform Intel’s current Core 2 Duo and Xeon 5100/5300 chips in clock-for-clock comparisons and show significant gains when running at higher speeds. The higher speeds will translate double-digit gains, according to AnandTech's overview. The site says that Intel, in comparing a 3.2GHz Penryn to a 3.0GHz Core 2 Duo, found Penryn offered a 20% increase in gaming performance and 40% on video encoding applications, if Penryn's new multimedia instructions are utilized.

That's where Intel's not-just-a-shrink statment comes from. While many of Penryn's features, including as higher clock speeds and larger caches, are direct results of the chipmaker's move to 45nm, Intel has also equipped Penryn with a new set of SSE4 multimedia instructions, which include enhancements for multimedia and number-crunching. It also added a new lower-power sleep state, dubbed Deep Power Down, which allows Penryn notebook processors to be more energy efficient.

So the bottom line, says Intel, is the chipmaker will offer higher-performing processors during 2008, while keeping their energy consumption in-line with today’s standards. That is server and desktop chips that range from about 50-watts to about 130-watts with the bulk of those chips hitting the 65-watt to 85-watt range. Intel has not yet said how much power its notebook chips will consume, but expect them to be around 30-watts as before. Intel will release 15 different Penryn products, some of which the company has already begun sampling to customers.

How will Intel distribute those 15 products? I think they will come as follows: Intel will likely offer six server processors, including dual-core and quad core Xeon DP processors for rack-mount and pedestal servers. It will also offer dual and quad-core Xeon MP processors for four-processor and above servers. Among those, it will also continue offering lower-power dual-core and quad-core Xeons for blade servers, for example. Top-end Xeons will run at 3GHz or more, have a 1600MHz bus and pack 6MB of onboard cache. Make that 12MB in quad core configurations. (Intel will continue to deliver its quad-core chips by pairing two dual-core chips in a package, by the way.) Expect Intel continue offering its Core Extreme processors in quad-core configurations using Penryn. It will also deliver both dual and quad-core Penryn-family processors as replacements for today’s Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Quad. Those two will match or beat the 3GHz mark and offer 6MB or more of cache. That makes nine total chips.

On the notebook side, Intel will continue to offer a several dual-core processors. Penryn will provide it with a successor to its mobile Core 2 Duo. It has also indicated it will offer a 45-nanometer processor for ultramobile PCs. That makes two more processors for a total of 11. What of the others? Intel is also likely deliver quad-core notebook chips at some point, according to published reports.

(Remember CEO Paul Otellini said that quad-core would not enter the mainstream of the PC market until it was available in notebooks?)

The remaining two are likely to be delivered as single or dual-core Celeron-brand chips for lower-priced systems.