Intel’s Yonah: Dual Core To Go

Intel wound up a week of multi-core processor madness at Computex in Taiwan, fittingly, outlining its newest mobile chip technology: the dual-core “Yonah” processor and accompanying chipset and wireless module.

In addition to the dual-core technology, which has put Computex in the spotlight this week with desktop offerings from both Intel and rival AMD, Yonah is created with a smaller, more efficient 65-nanometer process and represents advanced multi-core technology in the two cores’ ability to share integrated cache.

While the dual-core desktop chips announced and released this week represent increased performance and functionality for some applications and users, Yonah — an update to Intel’s Pentium M and Centrino mobile line — promises longer battery life and a significant boost in performance from the two, more integrated processor cores, Intel said.

“The main thing is it’s going to be the first dual-core for notebooks,” Mercury Research President Dean McCarron told TechNewsWorld. “It’s just one more indicator that the industry is changing in this direction [toward multi-core technology].”

Cores Get Closer

While both Intel and AMD have outlined their strategies and offerings for dual-core designs, Intel’s briefing on Yonah this week was the first discussion of dual-core in the mobile setting.

Intel, which will reportedly release the mobile chips early next year, said its dual-core design for notebooks and mini PCs consists of a more integrated, multi-core design, saving both space and power in the process.

The company, which opted to hold off on 64-bit capabilities in the new mobile chip technology, indicated the shared cache between the two cores of Yonah chips would significantly boost performance too, thanks to a single bus embedded in the chip and the resulting integrated cache. The chips will also be offered at a lower price with a single core design, according to Intel.

Smaller is Better

Mercury’s McCarron said the shared cache in Yonah and the fact that the chips will be made using smaller, more efficient 65-nanometer manufacturing was indicative of processor performance gains, as well as bigger chip-maker margins.

“Usually, we see fairly significant product improvements with process improvement,” McCarron said, adding that the smaller transistors of the new process helped make space available for two processor cores.

McCarron said power savings and a higher degree of scalability would be the biggest advantages of the Yonah notebook technology, adding while huge demand is not expected for the chips, they are nevertheless easier for Intel to produce.

More Performance, Less Power

Gartner research vice president Martin Reynolds told TechNewsWorld the “decent” performance boost from dual-core design will make Yonah compelling for notebook users of applications such as Acrobat, Photoshop, MP3 processing, DVD burning and compression, media editing, and soon, games.

A second core also means that systems will remain responsive even if processes such as virus scans or operating system activities take over the first core, according to Reynolds, who added traditional productivity applications such as PowerPoint, Excel or Word do not use enough power to matter.

Reynolds said while a dual-core processor can be clocked at a lower speed than a single-core processor and deliver better overall performance, it also does so with less power.

“The reduced power is very valuable,” he said. “Users will notice longer battery life when running compute-intensive tasks, and find that their notebooks can be more responsive.”

Reynolds said Intel is looking to make up for past difficulties in conserving power. He added the 65 nanometer process and integrated cache will bring performance gains that in a few, rare cases “could be substantial.”

“Key for Intel is gaining ground on power consumption,” he said. “They yielded some efficiencies with Dothan. We’ll be looking for Yonah and chipsets to recover some of that.”

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