This morning, Intel's CEO, Paul Otellini, has been talking about the next generation of Intel hardware and what it's going to be doing to give users more performance over the next year.
One thing it's important to have is an understand of how Intel has reorganised
itself internally. Centrino has given them a great deal of success - for the first time, mobile processor shipments have exceeded desktop shipments in the US this year. What Intel has seen is that it is better to work on platforms as a whole rather than just the processors, and it is planning to take that approach on the desktop.
A new performance metric: performance per watt
It's clear that the way we measure performance on the desktop is different from how we measure it on mobiles. On desktop, it's all about raw processing power -
in the mobile, it's all about how much performance you can get whilst also keeping power drain down.
Intel believes that it's time to start measuring performance by the same metric - the amount of performance a chip has per watt of energy it produces. As an example - the Pentium M would be a high performance per watt product, whilst something like Prescott would be incredibly low.
It's this strategy that has led Intel to create brand new processors for the desktop based on multi-cores. These chips will sport an entirely new architecture.
Otellini shows off his platform vision
Conroe and Merom
The new desktop chip for 2006 is codenamed Conroe. It is a super-low-power chip that has dual cores. It has dropped the Pentium 4 microarchitecture, including NetBurst technology, and sports an all-new internal structure.
Previously, it has been thought that Intel's new architecture would be based on Pentium M. That is only true to a degree. The internal structure of the chips is different from Pentium M, but it's built along the same principles
of low power and high performance.
The chips are based on 65nm technology, the next evolution of chip making from the current 90nm chips. This helps to get more transistors on the die whilst also cutting down on power requirements.
The new chips and codenames for the next year
The new microarchitecture takes the existing good stuff from Pentium 4 and Pentium D and reworks the rest. From Pentium 4 there's the fast bus speeds, and the features like 64-bit support. From the Pentium M there's things like the power optimizations and the pipeline efficiency.
It then adds in a whole bunch of other features. This includes a new, higher performance out of order engine. This helps to process instructions across the two cores and then assembles the instructions again in the right order. There will be an enhanced cache system, and better memory access.
Driving up the amount of performance per watt is crucial, in Intel's mind. Conroe will offer 5x the performance per watt of Northwood, the original desktop Pentium 4.
Intel is planning that dual core will surpass single core in performance segments by next year. It plans to ship 60m dual core processors before the beginning of 2006. It is planning that Merom, the mobile part, will outship Conroe, the desktop part, in certain territories.
Spot the X-factors
What does all this mean for you?
Well, here's what this means. Intel knows that it can't continue to push GHz up and up, so performance has to come from the addition of more cores to increase the power across simultaneous tasks.
However, it has been constrained in this by the amount of heat that Prescott cores have been pumping out, and the fact that, in mobile, Pentium M has been so great.
What it's done, then, is take the best bits of Pentium M, combine them with the raw power of Pentium 4 (like the fast bus and memory speeds) and create a new chip, complete with 64-bit extensions, that should be a heck of a lot faster than what it has at the moment.
As of yet, we don't know what these processors will be officially called, and we also don't know the official name of this new microarchitecture. You can bet that speculation will be rife for the next few months, though.
The bottom line? Next year, Intel should have a kick ass chip that should be fantastic for gaming, whilst keeping power and heat to a minimum.
Can I get a 'w00t'?
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