Intel has officially launched Ultra-Low Voltage (ULV) processors in the Core i3, Core i5, and Core i7 product families today. The company claims the chips offer up to 32% better performance than the comparable ULV processors in the Core 2 family, popular in many ultraportable PCs. At the same time, power usage is reduced by a promised 15%, again relative to the company's current ULV products.
The branding gets a little confusing at this point. The Core i5-520UM, for example, runs at 1.066 GHz and carries at TDP (thermal design power) of just 18 watts. The Core i7-640UM runs at 1.2GHz, and like many other mobile Core i7 processors, has two cores. It may be a little confusing for consumers to see Core i7 in the specs of one laptop which is significantly less powerful than a Core i5, simply because the Core i7 is the ULV version and the Core i5 is not (standard Core i5 mobile processors run up to 2.53GHz). Note that the ULV Core i3, i5, and i7 mobile processors only officially support DDR3 at speeds up to 800MHz, while the standard versions also support 1066MHz DDR3 memory, so there could be a significant difference in memory bandwidth as well.
Having said that, the new ULV Core i3, i5, and i7 processors should provide a significant boost in performance and even a modest improvement in battery life over the existing ULV Core 2 Duo processors. If you're in the market for a really thin and light ultraportable laptop, it behooves you to wait a month or two for the laptops using these chips to hit the market. We even hear rumors that the stellar Alienware M11x will get an upgrade to these new CPUs.
You can read the official press release here.
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