Intel updates laptop, desktop chip plans

Intel will skip the 45-nanometer process and switch to 32-nm for dual-core desktop and laptop processors.

Intel this week accelerated plans to release two dual-core laptop and desktop processors, tweaking its road map as it juggles manufacturing efforts to cut costs.

The company will ship dual-core processors for mainstream laptops and desktops made using the 32-nanometer process, skipping plans to release similar chips manufactured using the 45-nm process. The chips will ship in the fourth quarter.

The road map update will quickly bring the latest technologies to laptop and desktop chips, company officials said during a press conference in San Francisco on Tuesday. Intel officials could not say when those chips would reach laptops and desktops.

The 32-nm-process chips will be an upgrade over existing 45-nanometer chips that go into current desktops and laptops. The chips will be cheaper to manufacture, work faster and draw less power.

The early shift to the 32-nm process will reduce Intel's manufacturing cost, said Jack Gold, principal analyst at J. Gold Associates.

The new chips could also bring excitement to a sore laptop market and provide users a reason to upgrade. For essentially the same cost, users will get a jump in performance with the latest technology Intel has to offer, Gold said.

The new dual-core laptop chips code-named Arrandale replace Nehalem-based Auburndale processors, Intel said. Intel will also ship 32-nm dual-core desktop chips code-named Clarkdale, which will replace Nehalem-based Havendale chips.

Arrandale will boost graphics performance while drawing less power than Core 2 processors, said Stephen Smith, vice president and director of group operations at Intel. The new chips will also be more energy-efficient, which could improve laptop battery life.

The clock speeds will be similar to chips used in existing laptops, but offer better performance at a similar power envelope by running more threads via each core.

The new chips will be part of Westmere microarchitecture, which is a shrink of Intel's existing Nehalem microarchitecture. Nehalem, which is used in Intel's Core i7 desktop, integrates a memory controller and provides a faster pipe for the CPU to communicate with system components. It is considered a significant upgrade over Intel's earlier microarchitectures, as it cuts bottlenecks to improve system speed and performance-per-watt. Intel earlier said it would ship dual-core laptops and desktops built around Nehalem in the second half of 2009.

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