updated 11:50 am EDT, Mon May 24, 2010
Intel tackles CULV, MacBook Air class
Intel rounded out its mobile processors today with its first ULV Core i3, i5 and i7 processors. The chips share the same 32 nanometer process as their full size siblings but consume much less power, at 18W for both the CPU and chipset versus 25W or more for regular chips. They should be as much as a third faster than the ULV Core 2 Duos they replace but can be as much as 15 percent more power-efficient.
Like their full-size counterparts, each step up adds a new feature and not necessarily more clock speed. The Core i5 and i7 models both have Hyperthreading that lets them handle four program threads at once in ideal circumstances; they also have Turbo Boost to overclock one core and shut down the other when it's unneeded. Core i3 goes without either to save costs and is the most likely candidate for low-priced CULV notebooks.
Only a handful of chips are available from each processor family; the Core i3 line starts with the 1.2GHz i3 330UM, while the i5 includes 1.06GHz (520UM) and 1.2GHz (540UM) models with 3MB of Level 3 cache that can Turbo Boost up to 1.86GHz and 2.13GHz. Core i7 models primarily increase the cache to 4MB and keep the same speeds in the i7 620UM and i7 640UM.
As part of the launches, Intel has also slipped out two slightly lower-power . The i7 620LM and 640LM use a total 25W of power including their graphics cores but come in at 2GHz and 2.13GHz native speeds and scale up to 2.93GHz with a Turbo Boost. The i7 610E appears targeted at embedded systems and downclocks the usual 2.66GHz dual-core chip down to 2.53GHz without changing its 35W power draw.
Over 40 notebook manufacturers are expected to have systems using the hardware on shelves starting from June, including Acer, Alienware, ASUS, MSI and others. One of these may be Apple, as it's rumored the company is waiting for new processors to update the MacBook Air line. Early rumors had it using the ULV Core i5, although the Core i7 LM models are more likely to fit Apple's performance expectations.