Processors 101

Intel pretty divulged all today to the media at IDF about the new Core architecture that is going to be the fuel in Conroe’s fire. Come read all about the new technology and how Intel’s says they’ll finally regain the performance crown.

Here at Spring 2006 IDF, there is really not much to do except sit around and talk about Merom, Conroe and Woodcrest, the codenames to the new mobile, desktop and server processors that are all based on Intel’s new ‘Core’ architecture.  I put ‘Core’ in quotations because the actual, official name of this architecture is the ‘Core Architecture’ so prepare to be confused for quite some time. 

Name schemes aside, Intel’s new offering past the NetBurst desktop core we have been used to for the past four years is really very impressive both technically and from the first benchmarks we have seen.  Today we got the full technical briefing that detailed all the new features that we outlined in our first IDF article yesterday. 

Quick Processor Architecture Brush Up

If you haven’t looked into processor architecture before, the information presented here can be a bit overwhelming though I can provide you with a quick ‘Processors 101’ course that Intel showed before hand.  If you just need a brush up on what makes one processor better than another, you really only need to know about one thing:

A Detailed Look at Intel's New Core Architecture - Processors 21

Processor design is based around two main factors.  One of them is performance the other is power.  Ideally you want a very powerful processor with very low power consumption, but we don’t always get what we want and sometimes end up with Presler.  All kidding aside, look at the performance bubble and you’ll see that total performance is generally summed as your clock rate times your IPC (instructions per clock).  The higher your IPC and clock rate, the faster the CPU will play your games and encode your MP3s.  But when you up the frequency, for design reasons, you nearly always have to turn the IPC down and vise versa.

Power is related to the frequency and voltage needed to run the processor at a particular IPC.  Deciding what is the right balance between all three of these components is where the difficulty lies, and not just in CPUs.  We see this same debate between the ATI and NVIDIA GPUs on a daily basis.

The overall goal of the new Core Architecture from Intel was to increase performance while lowering power.  Let’s take a more detailed look at how they are accomplishing this.

Page 2 – Core Architecture Details

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