Intel Unveils First Penryn Mobile Processors

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LAS VEGAS -- Intel unveiled today the first Penryn laptop processors, a follow-up to the Penryn desktop processors that began to appear late last year. They mark a refresh to the fourth-generation (Santa Rosa) Centrino laptop platform and should begin to appear in new laptops next week.

The refreshed Centrino platform uses the Mobile Intel 965 Express Chipset, which supports the new Penryn processor, wireless components, and graphics subsystems.

Intel will introduce hardware support for Microsoft Vista's DirectX 10 graphics later in the first quarter of 2008. Intel will also introduce an upgraded Centrino platform (codenamed Montevina) later this year.

Greener Chips

The five new Penryn mobile processors --one Extreme and four mainstream--use Intel's new 45-nanometer microprocessor architecture, which is more energy efficient than the previous 65nm architecture. They still bear Intel's Core 2 Extreme and Duo branding with clock speeds ranging from 2.1-GHz to 2.8-GHz. Although clock speeds are not considerably greater than those of the current processors (codenamed Merom), Intel has increased the L2 cache size in three of the five processors to 6MB. That's up from 2MB and 4MB.

Penryn's new instruction set, called Streaming Single Instruction, Multiple Data Extensions 4 (SSE4), can greatly improve some application tasks. Adobe, for example, is updating the next version of its Premiere Pro video-editing application with SSE4 support.

Applications optimized for SSE4 will be the ones that enjoy Penryn's speed boost. "If you look at raw power from Merom to Penryn, the performance gain isn't going to be huge," says Intel spokesperson Connie Brown. "If it's something that relies on SSE4 instruction set, it's in the double digits."

The mobile Penryn processors also have more power-down states including energy-efficient "Deep Power Down." The 45nm architecture is currently lead free and will be halogen free later in 2008.

Coming Soon: Penryn Notebooks

Notebook manufacturers, such as Fujitsu, will begin releasing new mobile Penryn-based laptops as early as next week. Fujitsu's first three Penryn models will be the 15.4-inch A6120, the 15.4-inch-E8410, and the 17-inch N6470. Fujitsu's senior director of mobile product marketing, Fujitsu Computer Systems Paul Moore says that Penryn's larger cache will result in faster performance.

AMD announced earlier today that its new Puma platform, including the new Turion Ultra processor (codenamed Griffin), will become available in the second quarter of 2008. It will also have hardware support for DirectX 10. 

AMD will also launch ATI PowerXpress for the Puma platform, which allows users to switch between integrated and discrete graphics dynamically without rebooting their notebook.

However, Intel beats AMD with the availability of a 45nm architecture. AMD doesn't expect its 45nm components until later this year.

In addition to the five mobile Penryn processors, Intel announced four Xeon server processors, three quad-core desktop processors, and four dual-core desktop processors. No definitive word yet on whether Apple will announce Penryn-based Mac laptops at the upcoming Macworld Expo.

Agam Shah of the IDG News Service contributed to this report.

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