Today, Intel is launching its next-generation Santa Rosa notebook platform, which it has been discussing ever since last year’s Spring Intel Developer Forum. Ever since the initial Centrino incarnation, which was such a massive departure from anything before it, Intel has made constant incremental improvements to its platform.
Last year, the Centrino platform made a massive step forwards with the introduction of Yonah, or Core Duo dual-core processors. Although there were some notable features omitted in Yonah, we actually found it to be Intel’s best CPU (on both notebook and desktop) when we tested it in an enthusiast desktop motherboard last May.
Yonah was a part of the Napa platform, which led to the rebranding of Centrino to Centrino Duo because of the introduction of dual-core processors. This was updated a couple of quarters later after the introduction of Intel’s Core 2 Duo product range and in particular the Merom processor, which was the designated mobile processor in the range.
Merom was a simple drop in replacement for Yonah, allowing notebook manufacturers to keep existing designs, but allow for improved performance with similar battery life. Santa Rosa follows on where the Napa refresh left off with the introduction of a whole host of new features and upgraded hardware to further improve overall system responsiveness and battery life.
Like the previous Merom processors, the processors at the heart of Intel’s Santa Rosa platform will come with up to 4MB of shared L2 cache. However, Intel has up-rated the front side bus to 800MHz from the previous 667MHz bus speed used on the Napa and Napa refresh platforms.
Being increasingly conscious about improving battery life, Intel has introduced a number of new power saving features. When the notebook is in a lower power state, the front side bus can be dynamically throttled back to reduce the core voltage, enabling the chip to enter a lower power active state known as Super LFM. It’s possible for each of the cores to independently enter Super LFM, meaning that if only one of the cores is active, the other can save power by running at a much lower frequency.
Along the same lines as this, Intel has also introduced a technology it is calling Dynamic Acceleration. This is basically Super LFM in reverse, as it overclocks one or other core to improve performance in single threaded applications. While the first core is overclocked, the second core is reduced into a deep sleep state (known as C3), meaning that the chip is actually still using no more power than it would with both cores running at ‘full’ speed.
Intel has also improved the power saving when the system is in an idle state. The company has introduced a new lower-power state known as Enhanced Intel Deeper Sleep. This powers down both CPU cores and the chipset without actually powering the system down completely, resulting in as little power draw as possible when the system is idle.