Intel to release Nehalem laptop chips next year

By , IDG News Service |  Hardware, CPUs, IDF

Consumer laptops and desktops could get faster and more power-efficient when Intel releases chips built around its new Nehalem microarchitecture in the second half of 2009.

Further details about the new chips are set to be revealed at Intel Developer Forum, which will be held in San Francisco's Moscone Center between August 19 and 21.

[ Related reading: Intel's Nehalem desktop chips to be called Core i7 ]

The chips will first be targeted at high-end desktops and servers but later scaled down for consumer desktops and laptops. It will be an upgrade from Intel's Core 2 chips, which are currently used in notebooks and desktops. Nehalem cuts bottlenecks of Intel's earlier Core microarchitecture to improve system speed and performance-per-watt.

"Nehalem is going to be about more performance and people always want more performance," said Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst at Insight 64.

Down the line, Intel is integrating graphics capabilities in the CPU, which should bring more power-efficiency to laptops. There will be no need for an integrated graphics chipset as a result, which will reduce power consumption. However, gamers might need a discrete graphics card for the highest graphics performance.

"If you look at what Intel is doing towards desktops and laptops chips by integrating graphics, that could very well reduce power consumption," Brookwood said.

The first Nehalem chips, to be called Core i7, will be for high-end desktops and go into production in the fourth quarter this year. The company will also release Nehalem chips for servers, though the company didn't talk about specific release dates.

Nehalem chips will continue to carry the Core brand-name, but Intel will drop the numeric reference to 2 for its mainstream desktops and laptops. "The Core i7 brand is the first of several new identifiers," said George Alfs, an Intel spokesman.

Packing between two and eight processors cores, the first Nehalem chips will include QuickPath Interconnect (QPI) technology, which integrates a memory controller and provides a faster pipe for the CPU to communicate with system components like a graphics card and other chips. Each core will be able to execute two software threads simultaneously, so a desktop with four processor cores could run eight threads simultaneously for quicker application performance.

At IDF, Intel will also talk about its system-on-chip (SOC) products, which integrates a CPU, graphics processor, video and a memory controller into a single chip. An SOC under development at Intel is Moorestown, which will succeed the Atom processor, used mainly in low-cost laptops called netbooks and mobile Internet devices. Moorestown is due for release in either 2009 or 2010, Intel said.

Other hardware, like set-top boxes and in-car entertainment systems also use system-in-chips, and Intel recently announced specific chips for those devices. As the entertainment experience becomes richer and the demand for higher-bandwidth connections to the Internet increases, chips will need to reduce power consumption while delivering improved performance. The company will reveal further information about more such system-on-chips at IDF.

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