Intel spills beans on Yonah, the next notebook chip

Chip will come with a number of enhancements over the current Pentium M line of notebook chips, exec says.

Michael Kanellos Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Michael Kanellos is editor at large at CNET News.com, where he covers hardware, research and development, start-ups and the tech industry overseas.
Michael Kanellos
3 min read
SAN FRANCISCO--Yonah, a notebook chip coming from Intel in the first part of next year, is going to be a lot different than its predecessors, company executives say.

The chip, which will be made on the 65-nanometer process, will come with a number of enhancements over the current Pentium M line of notebook chips, Mooly Eden, vice president of the mobility group, said at a briefing here.

For one thing, it will contain two cores, instead of the single core on current notebook chips. The two separate cores will also share a 2MB cache. Current dual-core desktop chips from Advanced Micro Devices and Intel come with similar sized caches, but each core accesses only 1MB of cache memory dedicated to it. Sharing the cache will significantly boost performance. (The chips communicate with the cache through a single bus embedded in the chip.)

"When I speak of dual cores, I am not talking about a 10 percent to 20 percent improvement in performance. I am speaking about something crazy," Eden said.

A single-core version of Yonah will also come out for budget notebooks.

Notebooks have become a significant profit center for Intel. In 1999, notebook processors accounted for about 17 percent of Intel's output. In the first quarter of this year, notebook chips accounted for 30 percent of the output, and the figure is expected to rise to about 33 percent next year. In the first quarter, notebook sales in U.S. retail, a small, yet significant subsegment of the overall PC market, passed sales of desktops for the first time.

Yonah will come with improved technology for curbing power consumption and heat dissipation. It will also sport features currently found on desktops to enhance security.

Partly because of reduced power consumption, the footprint on Yonah notebooks will be up to 31 percent smaller than those of existing notebooks. By 2008, Intel's goal is to reduce power consumption in notebooks overall to the point where machines can run for eight hours on a single battery charge.

One thing Yonah won't have, at least initially, is the ability to run 64-bit applications.

"We made a conscious decision not to include it" because of the impact on battery life, Eden said.

Intel said it will release a 64-bit chip for notebooks when the market "requires" it. What "requires" means is a source of debate. Longhorn, the next big OS release from Microsoft, is a 64-bit operating system. It comes out in late 2006. Rival AMD is making 64-bit notebook chips for that eventuality. Having a similar chip would allow Intel to blunt any gains by AMD.

On the other hand, Eden said that actual demand for 64-bit computing is actually sort of low. "It may take many years for enterprises to demand it," he said.

Yonah will also contain more transistors--151.6 million--than the current Pentium M, which has about 140 million transistors. Still, because it will be produced on the more advanced 65-nanometer process, Yonah will be smaller and therefore cost less to produce. "The margins will be great because it is a tiny product," Eden stated.

He further added that the Yonah chip has been in the works for years. "I believe we were designing it before anyone knew how to spell dual core," he said.

The chip will be paired with a chipset, called Calistoga, and a Wi-Fi module, called Golan, that will receive and send 802.11a, b and g. Later versions will come with 802.11n, the so-called MIMO technology. Wimax will start to be added in notebooks as an option around 2007, a spokesman said.