Meet the other new guy

A winter full of new Intel releases, the new Westmere architecture has been launched on both the desktop and mobile segments. In this review of the new Intel mobile platform we preview what the new processor will mean to notebook designs, performance and battery life going into 2010.
Mobility Westmere Unveiled

Today is a big day for Intel: not only are they releasing a new mobility platform but they also released a whole host of new desktop parts as well using the same architecture.  Clarkdale is the codename for the desktop variant of the Westmere architecture that you can get all of the details on in our separate article.  Arrandale is the codename for the product we are going to be looking at today for notebooks.

In almost every way, the new Arrandale processor is identical to that of the Clarkdale desktop component: 

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An extension of the Nehalem architecture, Westmere separates the memory controller and PCI Express lanes into another chip on the same package while adding in a newly developed graphics solution called Intel HD Graphics.  All of the Arrandale parts are going to be dual-core with HyperThreading support.  If you want all of gory details on the architecture and what technology has changed under the hood, check out the Clarkdale article also posted today.  Otherwise, suffice it to say these new CPUs are similar to other Nehalem parts with fewer cores and an integrated GPU. 

Turbo Graphics – but not that kind

While most of the features are the same, there is at least one feature unique to the mobile variant. 

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Even though the desktop Clarkdale parts did include the integrated graphics, they did not include support for what Intel is calling “Dynamic Frequency” that enables the chip to vary the clock speeds of the graphics portion of the chip as well as the clocks on the CPU cores.  Imagine an instance where GPU power is more necessary that CPU – say a dual-streaming Blu-ray on your notebook.  Since the Intel HD Graphics does hardware acceleration of that video decode process, it might be more pertinent for the processor to lean towards the GPU in terms of power dissipation. 

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This flexibility allows Intel to include higher performing parts in a system with very tight thermal envelopes than they would otherwise be able to.  Much like we complimented Turbo Mode on Nehalem for bringing the best of both many-core and high-frequency parts, Dynamic Frequency attempts to do the same for the CPU/GPU combination.

Of course, the standard Turbo Mode for CPU clock speeds continues to operate as you would expect, increasing clock speeds when work loads are single threaded.

Audio and Video Features

Another feature that deserves a note here is the dramatically improved media features including native Blu-ray dual-stream support and lossless 7.1 channel audio output that could turn any notebook that integrates these features into a killer mobile HTPC.

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