Intel debuts Core Duo: dual-core processors come to laptops By Justin Jaffe
January 5, 2006
In a keynote speech today by CEO Paul Otellini at CES in Las Vegas, Intel officially unveiled its new Centrino Duo Mobile Technology. The centerpiece of the Duo Mobile chipset, previously code-named Napa, is Intel's Core Duo chip, which places two mobile processing cores on one chip. Two other components, Intel's Mobile 945 chipset and Pro/Wireless 3945a/b/g chip, are also part of the new chipset. A single-core version of the new technology is called Core Solo. In addition to powering the next generation of laptops, Duo will be at the center of Intel's new Viiv platform, which will seek to firmly place PCs at the center of home entertainment.
According to an Intel executive who briefed CNET in December 2005, the Core Duo chip is expected to deliver a 68 percent performance gain over Intel's current Sonoma single-core processors and reduce battery consumption by 28 percent. Such a gain would help to bridge the considerable performance gap between mobile and desktop PCs.
Sources at several major laptop manufacturers, however, have suggested privately that Yonah's performance gain will be more modest for the average user, closer to 30 percent. Still, even a boost of 30 percent would eclipse the gains derived from incremental bumps in clock speed that mobile processors have received over the past two years.
Among an array of expected benefits for consumers using dual-core-equipped laptops are improved gaming and multitasking performance. In a Quake 4 demo run by Intel executives, a dual-core laptop delivered approximately 50 percent more frames per second than a single-core laptop. Unlike Quake 4, which is multithreaded, most of today's software applications are not optimized to take advantage of dual-core processing.
Intel executives said that Core Duo's more efficient power consumption will mean that users can expect to get 5 hours of battery life from a standard battery and 10 hours from an extended cell. By comparison, on today's single-core laptops, CNET Labs sees an average of approximately 3 hours from a standard cell and 5 to 7 hours from an extended battery.
Dual-core architecture will also influence computer design, allowing for smaller, quieter laptops and desktop PCs. Intel expects Core Duo to make its way into 230 different notebook designs in the first half of 2006.
Intel also stated that the Core Duo platform will support the next version of Microsoft Windows, code-named Vista.
Intel is not the only one with big plans for 2006. AMD is expected to bring out a dual-core version of its mobile Turion chip in the first half of 2006. AMD's Athlon 64 X2 chip recently bested Intel's desktop dual-core chip in head-to-head testing by CNET Labs.
Clearly, dual core is a major milestone for laptops and will be a dominant force in mobile computing during 2006. To get you situated, we offer you a rundown of the first dual-core products you'll see and a brief overview of the technology.
The first dual-core laptops
Though Intel's first dual-core desktop processors debuted in high-end desktops, such as the Dell Dimension XPS Gen 5, we've already had a sneak peek at a variety of models--from desktop replacements to ultraportables--that incorporate the new chips.
Dell's first dual-core laptop, the e1705, inaugurates the company's new "entertainment" line of laptops, complementing its existing "premium" XPS line. The e1705 will replace the Inspiron 9300 and will raise the bar on the type of specs you can expect to see in desktop-replacement multimedia machines in 2006. In addition to Intel's Core Duo T2400 processor, which contains two 1.83GHz cores, the e1705 will be equipped with the Nvidia GeForce Go 7800 GPU, a Serial ATA hard drive, and faster RAM and frontside bus (667MHz, compared to the previous generation's 533MHz speed). A high-end configuration of the e1705 will start shipping on January 16 for $2,299.
HP will be updating its flagship thin-and-light Pavilion dv1000 with dual-core technology. The new dv1000 will also receive a new remote, which fits in the system's new PCI Express card slot, along with an optional built-in Webcam and an enhanced version of QuickPlay, the company's homegrown media player, which can play CDs and DVDs with or without first booting the Windows OS. Pricing and availability for the new dv1000 is not yet known.
HP gives its Pavilion dv1000 the dual-core treatment.
A day ahead of Intel's Core Duo announcement, Sony debuted two new dual-core systems. With the VAIO FE series, Sony offers a higher-end alternative to its FS series. In addition to an Intel dual-core processor, the FE will have a new chassis with a 15.4-inch wide-screen Xbrite display, an integrated Webcam and microphone (for VoIP), Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005, and an optional integrated TV tuner. The total package will weigh slightly more than 6 pounds. The Sony FE series will be available in February 2006, starting at $1,700.
Sony's other dual-core system, the thin-and-light SZ series, features a 13.3-inch wide-screen display and a host of business-focused features, including biometric security, hard drive protection, optional WWAN, a built-in Webcam, and Bluetooth. The SZ series will replace the CNET editors' favorite VAIO S series and will also come in an even higher-end, carbon-fiber configuration that weighs only 3.5 pounds. The basic configuration starts at $1,999, and the carbon-fiber version starts at $2,200. Both are expected to hit store shelves in February 2006.
Sony packs two cores into its ultraportable SZ series.
What is dual core?
Simply put, dual-core technology places two independent execution units onto the same processor die--think of it as two processors in one. This idea differs from Intel's Hyper-Threading technology, which uses a single (physical) execution unit but allows the processor to run two separate (logical) execution threads.
Yonah: Intel's dual-core mobile processor
In order to use dual-core technology to its best advantage, the operating system and the applications need to support thread-level parallelism--which basically means running multiple execution threads simultaneously. Microsoft Windows XP and more than 200 applications, such as Adobe Photoshop CS and Roxio VideoWave 7, are multithreaded. Most of today's multithreaded applications are of the content-creation ilk, which tend to perform many operations in parallel.
As dual-core technology becomes more prevalent, you can expect to see more multithreaded apps become commonplace--for example, 3D-intensive games can take advantage of dual-core technology by using more robust physics and AI engines for more realistic effects and gameplay. But since Windows XP itself is multithreaded, you don't necessarily have to be running multithreaded apps to see a performance gain. Windows is a multitasking environment, and as such, there are usually applications running in both the foreground, such as the browser you are using to read this, and the background, such as real-time virus scanning. A dual-core processor should execute the multiple threads of these applications more efficiently.
CNET Labs has already begun testing and benchmarking Yonah-fueled laptops from Dell, HP, Sony, and WidowPC. We look forward to bringing you our results and reviews during the next few weeks.