More rumors ahead of Intel Arrandale arrival

As the end of 2009 approaches, more details about Intel's first 32nm processors are beginning to trickle out.
Written by John Morris, Contributor

[Update: DigiTimes is now reporting that there will be four Arrandale chips at launch: the Core i5-520M, Core i5-430M, Core i3-350M and Core i3-330M. Based on the Core i3 and Core i5, these seem more consistent with the mainstream audience that Intel is hoping to reach with these first 32nm mobile processors.]

As the end of 2009 approaches, more details about Intel's first 32nm Westmere processors are beginning to trickle out. Intel hasn't said exactly when it will announce the new chips, currently known as Arrandale for laptops and Clarkdale for desktops, but the Consumer Electronics Show in January seems a safe bet, and it could easily be sooner. Intel is already manufacturing these chips, and earlier today DigiTimes, a news organization based in Taiwan, reported that Intel will initially release three Arrandale processors in the first half of 2010: a 1.06GHz Core i5-520UM, 1.06GHz Core i7-620UM and 1.20GHz Core i7-640UM at prices ranging from $241 to $305.

The Westmere processors are notable not only because they will be the industry's first 32nm processors, but also because they combine a CPU and a graphics processor in a single package. That's not the same thing as AMD's Fusion, which combines the two on the same physical silicon chip. Rather Intel is merging a 32nm CPU and a 45nm GPU into a single package. From the perspective of a system designer there's probably little difference-either way you're dealing with a single part, rather than a CPU connected to a separate northbridge with graphics over a front side bus. But ultimately a single piece of silicon is more elegant and less expensive to manufacture, as long as it doesn't require big trade-offs in performance or power efficiency. AMD calls this an APU, or Accelerated Processing Unit, and yesterday they reiterated plans to ship the first ones--also manufactured at 32nm--in the first half of 2011. That means they are still at least a year behind Intel in terms of process technology. Intel also plans switch to a single-chip CPU-GPU, but the timing is unclear.

In the meantime, the first half of 2010 is shaping up to be very busy for Intel. At the low-end, Intel will release a new platform, Pine Trail, for netbooks and nettops. Some sites have reported that Intel will announce these new chips, including a single-core 1.66GHz Atom N450 for netbooks and a dual-core 1.66GHz Atom D510 for nettops, in late December. New netbooks using Pine Trail should show up at CES, and while the processor should be a bit faster, the big win here is likely to be graphics that can handle high-resolution video playback, which could take some of the wind out of the sails of Nvidia's Ion. One step up from there, Intel will continue to push its ultra low-voltage (ULV) processors for thin-and-lights priced from $600 to $800 such as the HP Pavilion dm3t, Lenovo IdeaPad U350 and Toshiba Satellite T135. The 45nm Core 2 Duo processors will be around for a while, but over time the new dual-core Arrandale chips will move into mainstream laptops with 14- and 15-inch displays currently priced at around $550 and up. At the high-end, Intel has the Clarksfield quad-core Core i7 processors in desktop replacements such as the Acer Aspire AS8940G, Alienware m15x, Dell Studio 15 and Studio XPS 16, HP Pavilion dv6t and dv8t Quad Editions, Lenovo IdeaPad Y550P and Toshiba Qosmio X505.

The Arrandale and Clarkdale processors include many of the same features--HyperThreading, Turbo Boost-that have made the 45nm Nehalem processors impressive performers. So it's no surprise that early test results, which Intel showed at Intel Developer Forum in September, look promising. The company also hinted that graphics in these new chips will be significantly better. If they deliver, expect to see some nice Arrandale-based mainstream laptops starting early next year.

Editorial standards