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Thursday, March 29, 2007
Intel's "Nehalem" Processors Pack Graphics Core, Memory Controller

Intel will begin producing its next-generation Penryn family of processors in the second half of this year. The new chips code-named Nehalem will have new micro-architecture and will feature built-in memory controllers as well as graphics cores.

Focusing on high performance and energy efficiency, the new processors benefit from enhancements to the Intel Core microarchitecture and also Intel's 45nm Hi-k process technology with its hafnium-based high-K + metal gate transistor design.

Intel has more than 15 45nm Hi-k product designs in various stages of development, and will have two 45nm manufacturing fabs in production by the end of the year, with a total of four in production by the second half of 2008.

Penryn family microarchitecture

Six Penryn family processors, including dual and quad-core desktop processors and a dual core mobile processor are all under the Intel Core processor brand name as well as new dual and quad-core server processors under the Intel Xeon processor brand name. A processor for higher-end server multiprocessing systems is also under development.

The new 45nm next-generation Intel Core 2 quad-core processors will have 820 million transistors. The dual-core version has a die size of 107mm2, which is 25 percent smaller than Intel's current 65nm products and operate at the same or lower power than Intel's current dual core processors.

The mobile Penryn processor has a new advanced power management state called Deep Power Down Technology that reduces the power of the processor during idle periods such that internal transistor power leakage is no longer a factor. This helps extend battery life in laptops.

For the mobile Penryn processor, Intel has enhanced the Intel Dynamic Acceleration Technology available in current Intel Core 2 processors. This feature uses the power headroom freed up when a core is made inactive to boost the performance of another still active core.

Penryn includes Intel Streaming SIMD Extensions 4 (SSE4) instructions, the largest unique instruction set addition since the original SSE Instruction Set Architecture (ISA). This extends the Intel 64 instruction set architecture to expand the performance and capabilities of the Intel Architecture.

Other features include microarchitecture optimizations that deliver more instruction executions per clock cycle, Enhanced Intel virtualization Technology, as well as a higher frequencies. Penryn desktop and server products will introduce speeds at greater than 3GHz.

In addition, Penryn-based processors are expected to provide fast divider performance, roughly doubling the divider speed over previous generations for computations used in nearly all applications through the inclusion of a new, faster divide technique called Radix 16.

Penryn processors will also include up to a 50 percent larger L2 cache with a higher degree of associativity to further improve the hit rate and maximize its utilization. Dual-core Penryn processors will feature up to a 6MB L2 cache and quad-core processors up to a 12MB L2 cache. Cache is a memory reservoir where frequently accessed data can be stored for more rapid access. Larger and faster cache sizes speed a computer's performance and response time.

Nehalem microarchitecture

After Penryn and the 45nm Hi-k silicon technology introduction comes Intel's next-generation microarchitecture (Nehalem) slated for initial production in 2008.

Nehalem microarchitecture will feature the so-called dynamically scallable architecture, meaning that Intel will offer different designs according to the needs of each market segment.

The chips will have from one to eight cores, each of which will support simultaneous multi-threading capability, similar to Intel Hyper-threading technology. The cores will have shared caches controlled by Intel's Smart Cache technology.

Nehalem architecture will also add an on-chip memory controller, as well as "high performance integrated graphics". This will allow Intel to offer new cost-efficient and powerful microprocessors for mainstream markets.

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