'Arrandale' chip will be an Intel laptop first

The upcoming processor, which puts two processor cores and a graphics function together in the same chip package, is the shape of things to come.

Updated at 1:30 p.m. PDT: adding information about Core i7, i5, and i3 branding.

Intel's upcoming "Arrandale" will be the first highly integrated chip of its kind from Intel and is expected to run the gamut of laptop designs, from ultrathin to mainstream.

Dell ultrathin Adamo: a category of laptops that will likely use a number of different Arrandale chips
Dell ultrathin Adamo: a category of laptops that will likely use a number of different Arrandale chips Dell

Due by the fourth quarter, it will be the first Intel product to put two processor cores and a graphics function together in the same chip package. Intel covered the underlying architecture in a presentation at the Hot Chips conference in Palo Alto, Calif., this week and in a recent blog described the design, saying it "will be the basis of all upcoming new Core chips (Core i3, i5, and 7) over the next few months."

Arrandale will come under the Core i3, Core i5, and Core i7 brands, using the chipmaker's most advanced 32-nanometer technology (Intel chips are currently built on a 45-nanometer process) and will populate consumer and business laptops.

The compact chip, however, is not without its challenges. "A high level of integration is always a compromise. There's never a free lunch," said Ashok Kumar, an analyst at investment bank Collins Stewart. "It's a question of how much performance you have to compromise to get that level of integration and low power consumption."

"There won't be a significant jump in performance, but price and power consumption will be lower," said Jon Peddie of president and founder of Jon Peddie Research.

Last month, Japanese-language technology Web site PC Watch published specifications for Arrandale and other upcoming Intel processors that were, PC Watch says, obtained from an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) computer manufacturer. It shows Arrandale coming in mainstream as well as low-voltage and ultra-low-voltage versions. The latter two classes of chips have typically gone into upscale svelte designs such as the Dell Adamo and Apple MacBook Air.

Arrandale-based chips, however, are expected to quickly go downmarket and bring Intel's new Core i "Nehalem" microarchitecture to the new category of laptops called ultrathins, which resemble the MacBook Air and Dell Adamo but are about half the cost.

A separate series of new chips for Netbooks, codenamed Pine Trail, will also appear by early 2010 and feature a high level of integration.

The first Core i7 mobile processors will arrive by September or October. This quad-core series, codenamed Clarksfield, will be for high-end gaming laptops and mobile workstations. (For the codename buffs who actually keep track of these things, Calpella is the platform for Clarksfield, Westmere is the platform for Arrandale.)

About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.


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