Intel ships samples of Westmere PC chips

Intel is preparing to ship the chip in volume starting in the fourth quarter

Intel's new Westmere microprocessors are being sampled by PC makers and will ship in volume later this year, the company's CEO said Tuesday.

The chips have shipped to about 30 laptop and desktop PC makers for testing, said Paul Otellini, Intel's CEO, during an earnings conference call. The chips could be on sale in PCs by early next year, he said.

Westmere is a shrink of Intel's Nehalem microarchitecture, which is used in the Core i7 desktop and Xeon 5500 server chips.

Nehalem integrates a memory controller with the CPU and provides a faster pipeline for communication with other system components. The laptop version of Westmere is code-named Arrandale, while the desktop chips are code-named Clarkdale.

Intel revamped its chip road map in February, saying it would move to a 32-nanometer process more quickly than it had originally planned. The new chips will be built with that process.

Arrandale is expected to improve graphics performance while drawing less power than existing Core 2 processors.

The chips will integrate the graphics processor and CPU on a single chip. Clock speeds could be similar to chips used in existing laptops, but are expected to offer better performance by running more threads on each core.

Otellini said earlier this year that Intel would spend US$7 billion over the next two years to revamp its manufacturing plants. It is prioritizing its move to the 32-nanometer process to lower chip-manufacturing costs and increase production.

The laptop chips will be manufactured using a 32-nm process, an upgrade over Intel's current 45-nm process. This should make them cheaper to manufacture, work faster and give better laptop battery life.

Before Arrandale, Intel is scheduled to release new chips this quarter as part of the Montevina Plus laptop platform. It will include new low-voltage chips for thin and small laptops that provide full PC functionality but are cheaper than existing ultraportable laptops.

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