Intel gears up for for 45nm frenzy in 2008
Processor, platform and chipset roadmap
It's time to synchronise watches, check diaries and make sure we're all up to speed on Intel's 2008 processor launch plans.
First make a note on 7 January that the chip giant will be formally unveiling its 45nm 'Penryn' mobile processors, part of what it calls the 'Santa Rosa Refresh' - an update to the latest generation of its laptop platform, more of which later.
The line-up comprises five models. The T8100 and T8300 are clocked at 2.1GHz and 2.3GHz, respectively, and contain 3MB of L2 cache shared by both cores. The T9300 and T9500 up the cache to 6MB. They run, respectively, at 2.5GHz and 2.6GHz.
All four chips have a thermal envelope of 35W, which matches current Core 2 Duo processors, allowing notebook makers to slot the new chips in without having to redesign the machines' thermal characteristics.
The fifth chip, the Core 2 Extreme X9000, consumes up to 44W when it's running at full, 2.8GHz pelt. It too has 6MB of L2 cache. They'll appear in notebooks branded 'Centrino' and 'Centrino vPro', the latter the successor to 2007's Centrino Pro brand.
Thirteen days later - unlucky for some? - the first Core 2 Duo 'Penryns', aka 'Wolfdale' will debut. The date 20 January will see the arrival of the Core 2 Duo E8300, E8400 and E8500, clocked at 2.83GHz, 3.0GHz and 3.16GHz, respectively, all with 6MB of L2 and a thermal envelope of 65W.
Coming 2008: Intel's 45nm 'Silverthorne'
Alongside these will be the E8190, a version of the also arriving E8200 that doesn't support virtualisation or Intel's Trusted Execution Technology. The part will run at 2.66GHz, contain 6MB of L2 cache and sit on a 1333MHz frontside bus (FSB). Like the similarly specced E8200, it will consume up to 65W of power.
Specific dates disappear from the list at this point, but we can pencil in February-March for the arrival of 45nm Core 2 Quad processors, aka 'Yorkfield'. Expect the 2.5GHz Q9300, the 2.66GHz Q9450 and the 2.83GHz Q9550, all with four cores and 1333MHz FSBs. The Q9300 will have 6MB of L2 cache; the Q9450 and Q9550, 12MB. All three consume up to 95W.
Missing from the latest Intel launch update summary is the Core 2 Duo E5000 series, low-end desktop chips that succeed today's E4000 line-up and which are expected to arrive in April. They're likely to contain just 3MB of L2 and operate on a 1066MHz FSB, putting them under the current 4MB L2, 65nm Core 2 Duo E6000 range.
Business-oriented desktops will feature the 'Core 2 vPro' logo, while mainstream models will ship under the 'Core 2 Viiv' brand, as per Intel's realignment of Viiv . So no more 'Duo' and 'Quad', as forecast , at least not at the system level.
Branding is less certain when it comes to Intel's Ultra Mobile Platform (UMP), launched in April 2007 and due for a major upgrade in the April-May 2008 timeframe. It's introducing 'Menlow' and its key component, the 45nm 'Silverthorne' CPU. Menlow will consume half the power of the current version of UMP and a quarter of what older, Celeron M-based UMPCs consume.
May 2008 is earmarked for the debut of the 'Eaglelake' chipset family, comprising the P45, G45 and G43 and possibly the X48, if - as claimed - Intel's put it back.
The P45, G45 and G43 are the numerical successors of the P35, G35 and G33 chipsets, but Intel sees the G45 fitting into to a broader range of desktop systems than the G35 did, and the G43 reaching down into more budget segments of the PC market.
The G45 and G54 on-board GPU will be capable of supporting DirectX 10 and Shader Model 4.0, along with OpenGL 2.0, it's said. Both will power Windows Vista Premium and MPEG 2 decoding. But while the G45's GPU can also do AC1 and H.264 decoding, the G43's can't. They'll both support HDMI outputs - HDCP support is built in too - in addition to DVI. All three chipsets will be fabbed at 65nm and will incorporate the upcoming ICH10 southbridge I/O chip, which isn't a part of X48.
The P45 is expected to support AMD's CrossFire X  multi-GPU technology.
intel's 'Nehalem': due Q4 2008 as 'Bloomfield'
May will also play host to 'Montevina', the next generation of Centrino and Centrino vPro. Montevina will feature the 'Cantiga' chipset, with an updated LAN chip, 'Boaz', and 'Echo Peak' and 'Shiloh' providing wireless connectivity. Echo Peak combines Wi-Fi and WiMAX. Curiously, he didn't mention 'Dana Point', Intel's planned WiMAX-only module for notebooks. Shiloh, by the way, is an 802.11n-only module.
Cantiga ups the frontside bus (FSB) speed to 1,6066MHz and looks set to support 800MHz DDR 3 in preference to the less power-efficient 800MHz DDR 2. The chipset family will include an integrated GMA 3500 GPU.
Montevina will coincide with the introduction of 25W mobile Core 2 processors tuned to the platform's faster-than-present FSB. Come August, we'll see further mobile Core 2 processors: the first quad-core laptop chips. The 45nm, 840m-transistor chips will contain 12MB of L2 with each core pair sharing 6MB, they'll run on a 1066MHz frontside bus and consume up to 45W of power.
The same timeframe will see the arrival of 'McCreary' - essentially the addition of vPro technology to the Eaglelake chipset family.
Which just leaves us with the Q4 2008 introduction of the first 'Nehalem' processors, specifically 'Bloomfield', the basis for future Extreme chips for single-processor boxes and four-core Core x CPUs. It'll contain 8MB of L2, the new QuickPath Interconnect (QPI) bus and the ability to host three channels of DDR 3 memory.
Bloomfield will connect to 'Tylersburg', a chip that links the CPU's memory controller to PCI Express 2.0 slots and to the host system's southbridge I/O chip.