Intel's Core i7 goes mobile
Friday 25 September 2009
Today's big news from the Intel Developer Forum was new mobile CPUs designed for power users, gamers and multimedia enthusiasts.
The new CPUs aren't aimed at commuters seeking long battery life, but are really intended for gamers and power users. This said, Mobile Core i7 processors do include some clever power saving technologies, and with a 6 cell or better battery, they should deliver decent battery life.
Either way you cut it, the big news is that Mobile Core i7 CPUs pack enough raw grunt that any laptop packing one will leave many desktop PCs in their wake.
Intel's mobile Core i7 CPU range will initially consist of three CPUs, Intel's flagship CPU, the Mobile Core i7 Extreme Edition, the Core i7-820QM and Core i7-720QM. Both the 920XM and 820QM CPUs have 8MB of cache while the 720QM has slightly less at 6MB. All three Core i7 mobile CPUs have four processing cores with hyper-threading enabled.
Just as the saying goes that "two heads are better than one", four processing cores make for pretty amazing performance as tasks can be shared between all four cores.
Hyper-threading essentially allows each processor core to handle two tasks (or threads in geek parlance) each, effectively allowing laptops to keep the digital equivalent of 8 balls in the air at once.
This is great news for heavy multi-taskers as Mobile Core i7's won't break a sweat running oodles of apps simultaneously.
All three mobile Core i7's also pack Intel Turbo Boost Technology. Just like a turbo under the hood of a car, Turbo Boost can intelligently throttle up the each of the Mobile Core i7 processor cores to seamlessly provide a performance boost when needed.
Even cooler still, Turbo Boost can also slow individual processor cores down to save power, stretching out battery life.
Mobile Core i7 CPUs are also a two-chip design, whilst the memory controller (which used to be a separate chip) has been migrated onto the CPU.
According to Intel's mobile guru, Dadi Palmutter, this will result in a significant increase in performance compared to older three-chip mobile CPUs and should help Core i7 notebooks catch up with their desktop counterparts performance-wise.
Another side benefit of getting rid of a chip is the ability to make smaller motherboards and ultimately razor thin, high performance notebook designs.
On the memory front, Intel are only supporting faster DDR3 Memory. Whilst this costs slightly more than older (and slower) DDR2 memory, the Mobile Core i7's memory controller can support DDR3 memory speeds of up to 1333MHz, knocking a further chink out of yet another performance bottleneck.
Laptop makers can now add up to 4 memory slots on Mobile Core i7 notebooks, which should see Mobile Core i7 notebooks supporting up to 16Gb of DDR3 memory.
All told, Mobile Core i7 CPUs are great news for Gamers wanting grunt on the go. Notebook PCs packing Mobile Core i7's won't just be blindingly fast, but should also be affordable.
According to exhibitors I spoke to at Intel's Developer Forum tech showcase, Mobile Core i7 toting laptops should hit retailer shelves under the US$2,000 mark.
Last but by no means least, Mobile Core i7 gaming laptops should also support be able to dual graphic processors using either Nvidia SLI or ATI's CrossFire, making anaemic notebook graphics performance a thing of the past.
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