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Intel unveils next-generation PC processors

Core i3 and Core i5 PCs in shops early 2010

Intel yesterday introduced its next-generation of PC processors, including Core i3 and Core i5 chips, that it says could make laptops and desktops faster and more power efficient.

The new chips are already in mass production and shipping to PC makers, said Stephen Smith, director of PC client operations at Intel at a press event in San Francisco. The company is shipping 17 new CPUs to PC makers, and systems based on the new chips could reach stores "early" next year, Smith said.

Prices of laptops and desktops based on the new chips will depend on PC makers, though buyers can expect affordable price points, Smith said in an interview.

The upcoming chips offer improved application and graphics performance compared to the prior generation of Intel processors, which includes the Core 2 Duo processors that go into current laptops and desktops. The new chips integrate CPU and graphics processor in a single package, which could improve graphics performance while drawing less power.

"We are able to process two high-definition [video] streams at the same time," said Uday Marty, director of notebook marketing at Intel. Interest in high-definition video is growing, and the graphics chips inside the CPUs will also be able to decode Blu-ray movies. That frees the CPU to focus on processing other tasks, Marty said.

Better performance is also achieved on the new chips by running more threads on each core, Marty said. For example, a dual-core Core i5 chip will be able to run four threads simultaneously, compared to two threads on existing Core 2 Duo dual-core desktop and laptop chips.

A new technology called Turbo Boost technology will also enable faster processing and power savings. Depending on tasks, the processors can ratchet up the speed of a processor core, or even shut off a core when not needed to save power.

The performance and power benefits will be partly realised from an advanced manufacturing process Intel is using to make the chips. The new laptop and desktop processors are made using the 32-nm manufacturing process and are code-named Arrandale and Clarkdale respectively. Westmere chips should deliver performance and power benefits over existing Intel chips made using the 45-nm process, Intel officials said.

Westmere is based on the same micro-architecture underpinnings as Nehalem chips, which are made using the 45-nm process. The Nehalem chips include Core i5, Core i7 desktop and Xeon 5500 server chips. Nehalem integrates a memory controller with the CPU and provides a fast pipeline for processors and system components to communicate.

Company executives did not talk about specific clock speeds or pricing information, saying those figures would be released at the Consumer Electronics Show, which will be held in Las Vegas between January 7 and 10. However, Intel executives in the past have said that clock speeds on the chips could be similar to those in existing laptops, but offer better performance by running more threads on each core while drawing less power.

However, a Canadian retailer, A-Power, earlier listed the Core i3-530 chip running at 2.9GHz, which has been pulled off the website. The dual-core chip has 512KB and 4MB of L3 cache, and is priced at around $150.

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